I am sorry. I cannot answer for your spiritual condition. If you are in
bad graces with God, that is your problem. I really don’t know,
generally, why it was you and not your neighbor, who may or may not have
deserved it more than you. That it would happen to someone, I knew with
One of the more prevalent buzzwords (phrases) floating around the business
world these days is 6-Sigma. Sigma is a Greek letter and a mathematical
symbol. As a mathematical symbol, it has considerable significance in
statistics. Without getting into too many details, statistics is the mathematics
of prediction. You flip a coin fifty times, how many times will it come
up heads and how many times will it come up tails, that sort of stuff.
Or to continue with the gambling example, what’s the chance that
you will draw successfully to an inside straight at the poker table. (it
As a buzzword, six-sigma is a method of improving quality in production
and in other processes. The easiest way to get a grip on it is imagine
you have just manufactured a million bricks. If the quality of processes
and quality of materials were held to the six-sigma standard, 3.4 bricks
out of the million would be certain to be defective and the rest would
be good. That’s not too shabby. In fact it is one of the holy grails
of modern manufacturing.
There are several very large American manufacturers who espouse this methodology
and claim to have been very successful with it. Motorola and GE are two
such. It should be noted that not one American automobile manufacturer
has taken to these techniques to improve their manufacturing quality.
It’s a mystery. In the 80’s, during the great wake up, when
American manufacturers realized belatedly that Japanese manufacturers
were kicking their collective butts, several of the auto manufacturers
turned to W. Edwards Deming, an American who taught the Japanese about
quality. He did as well here as he could in an environment that was inherently
flawed. There were in place problems that doomed the very excellent ideas
and teachings of Mr. Deming.
I said two problems. There are probably a dozen others, but two stand out
in my mind: Unions and the quarterly report. Other observers of the quality
scene probably have other ideas. The old-line unions in Detroit and other
automobile manufacturing centers are so enthralled with figuring out how
to avoid work, or get paid for not working, they have little time to learn
how to improve what they do. They simply cannot shake of the idea that
if they improve their products there will be more work, not less. The
great Japanese manufacturers are proof that quality does produce more jobs.
As for the quarterly report, it works this way. To improve anything takes
time. You have to have a plan that exceeds three months. (a business quarter)
Young business people coming out of American universities are taught quite
carefully that if they want to succeed they must time their efforts to
the quarterly report, the three-month cycle of our business world. In
those schools they also acquire the ethical standards of an alley cat.
The Japanese plan on 1-year, 5-year, 10-year and even 50-year cycles.
You will often hear the various leading lights of the American business
world paying lip service to quality improvement programs, but finding
those who will commit to long-term efforts that exceed a year is very rare.
The proof of the efficacy of real quality improvement shows up in many
ways. The one most familiar here in thislemon law office is in the number of
lemon cases produced by each of the automobile manufacturers for equal periods of
time. So far in 2006 Toyota, who produces nearly as many vehicles as GMC,
has less than one third as many lemon law cases as GMC. The same thing
goes for Honda. The figures are startling. And lest you statisticians
at the auto manufacturers want to argue the numbers, our statistical sample
is indeed large enough to be valid.
Finally, let’s go back to 6-Sigma. If anyone reading this thinks
that modern American machining processes, that is, methods to shape, grind
and finish metal and plastic parts is being performed to a 6-sigma standard,
I would suggest to hop a plane to Las Vegas and have a try at that inside
straight. If they are maintaining 3-sigma for all of the manufacturing
processes (1000 defects in a million parts produced), I would be astonished.
So, that was a lot of talk just to get to, why you? What did you do to
deserve this? The why is there and it is quite clear. Your automobile
has between 10,000 and 15,000 components. Instead of throwing away the
bad parts, they put them in your car so as not to upset the quarterly
report. Bad parts wear many times faster than good ones. Bad parts cause
other parts, even good ones, to malfunction. As far as deserving to be
in a vehicle that stops on the freeway and scares the hell out of you
and your family, perhaps you don’t deserve it. But to be totally
honest, and where your family’s life is at stake, you should be,
you could have researched which vehicles were made with the best, highest
quality processes and purchased one.
I truly wish I could buy a vehicle from Ford or GMC or any other American
manufacturer, and have confidence that it would last for three or four
years and not die unexpectedly on the freeway. The idea of becoming junk
food sliced and diced on the grill of some long-haul crazed Peterbilt