"It costs a lot to build bad products." Norman Augustine�"Augustine's 12th Law"
In America we salute quantity and pay lip service to quality. When manufacturers
want to brag, they cite numbers of units produced, tons of ore mined,
miles of cable laid, or millions of books sold. People involved in high
production get gold-plated plaques, vacations in Las Vegas and outrageous
bonuses. Where is quality management while this is happening? Fighting
with production supervisors to maintain standards, trying to get budget
to buy inspection tools, trying to get people to attend manufacturing
and process improvement classes. The quality supervisor buys quality award
certificates from Office Depot and fills them in himself.
Quantity has high sociological value. Producing lots of anything shows
you have the "right corporate stuff". We give high production
admiration and handsomely reward those who deliver the goods.
Quality is acknowledged as a good thing, but we expect to pay dearly for
it, and management is secretly willing to sacrifice quality to get better
production numbers. We sneered at German manufacturing and their devotion
to quality. And why not, in a long war we proved decisively that quantity
could defeat quality. We out-produced them at every turn and won a great
victory. When a person or group succeeds in a great endeavor, that event
can become a measuring stick for all similar future activities. It is,
of course, poor reasoning at best. Yesterday's solution is seldom
appropriate for today's problems.
In years gone by, if you were successful in life, made some money, you
bought a quality German automobile. You told all your pals how well it
was put together, how long it lasted. It isn't true any more. J. D.
Power and Associates rates Mercedes automobiles as a little below average
compared to other automobiles. Something changed. Quality is what changed.
Quantity: Hail to thee, yardstick of real success in America and the world.
What is quality? Go to your bookstore and check the section on quality.
It's big. A lot of smart people have had a lot to say about it. And
still it plays second fiddle to quantity. It seems so simple. Here's
an absolute truism.
It's very expensive to build defective products. We ought to say this again.
It's very expensive to build defective products. We could also say, it's very expensive to produce a
lemon vehicle. But it's not enough to say it. Those who are involved in the world
of production have to learn it, absorb it; have it become as much a part
of their lives as knowing how to drive their car.
"Like the frog that will sit in a pot of water and let itself be slowly
boiled to death, we are very good at reacting to immediate danger to our
survival, but we are very poor at recognizing gradual threats." --
Downplaying the value of rigorous quality programs has gradual but inevitable
effects. How long did it taken Mercedes to go from a premier automobile
manufacturer to just average? Roughly ten years. It's expensive to
ignore or downplay quality. Figure 1 shows a few of the costs associated
with manufacturing a defective automobile.
Figure 1. The Costs of Manufacturing a Lemon Vehicle
Here's another verse on the theme of this article.
Defects are not free. Somebody makes them & gets paid for making them.
Figure 2. A modern Manufacturing Catch-22
Lest you think it is all bad, it isn't. Some manufacturers make real
efforts to create quality products and services. But there is a Catch-22
waiting in the weeds, and it is a tough one. As we stated in an earlier
article, talking about the complexity of the modern automobile, what can
one do when the average vehicle has 10,000 to 15,000 parts? The chances
that something will go wrong, that lemon vehicles in large numbers will
be produced, increases exponentially. But Lexus and Infinity seem to have
solved the quality problem, so manufacturers are not really stuck in this
In the war between quality and the bottom line, the bottom line always
wins out. Promotions aren't passed out when people improve quality
and sustain these improvements. The young executive fresh from Wharton
or Harvard has a plan, and that plan is promotion. He or she has been
taught shortsightedness in school and by our peculiar marketplace. There
is no incentive to plan for quality on a long-term basis of years. But,
there is every incentive to increase production and sales.
One of the results of this battle is more and more lemon vehicles on our
highways. Until manufacturers become convinced that it's cheaper to
build quality vehicles than it is to build more vehicles, and hide the
defects, the current situation is not likely to change. So far the accountants
have the upper hand, just as they did in the 60's when Ford Pintos
were exploding all over the roads of America.