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Manufacturing-quality: How exactly do you hit the mark?

“Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.” It is presumed that Henry Ford made that insightful statement, but I doubt it. Ford’s take on quality was entirely strategic—he was an industrialist after all. Sure, he knew integrity was important but I believe he had a different idea for quality as it relates to the manufacturing floor. I think it’s a definition worthy enough to kick around your floor.

Ford optimized mass production with the assembly line though he did not invent either one. Focused on consumerism, his goal was to produce “a car for everyone” and, at a dependably low price point. He became one of the richest men in the world by revolutionizing transportation and American industry as a result. However, I think he deserves more credit for revolutionizing quality. For large and small shops alike, I think there remains plenty of opportunity in “Quality” to increase both effectiveness and your profits.

How Quality defines you

Manufacturing-quality isn’t about perfection or integrity or even how nicely something is made. Quality is about design and meeting specifications. Specifically, it drives tolerances to a point where variation is accepted and the part is deemed “perfect”. The design dictates that any more effort to create perfection is everybody’s waste. How exactly you meet the specifications each time you ship defines your “quality” and insures your continued relevance to the supply chain.

In a way, Henry Ford defined manufacturing-quality by the sticker price of his Model-Ts. His “design” included 1) a customer profile 2) a detailed list of product specifications and 3) an assembly line to scale it. “Quality” has since become the metric where manufacturing dominates. How many “Q-type” programs can you name?

“Doing it right”

I think “doing-it-right” is a better description than quality. You make stuff happen by conforming to and, accommodating [set] expectations—theirs and yours. Doing anything more, anything less or anything “unquality” is too costly. You cannot sustain your business profitably and without damage to your relationships, your machines and, for that matter, company morale if you’re not “doing it right.”

In the book Quality Is Free: The Art Of Making Quality Certain, Phillip B. Crosby believes you have to make quality a leading part of your operations, at least “a part equal in importance to every other part.” He asserts, “Quality is free … What costs money are all the unquality things—all the actions that involve not doing jobs right the first time.” Ford proved and Crosby reinforces “Quality is not only free, it is an honest-to-everything profit maker.”

How to do it wrong

The airline industry offers a stark contrast to the model of quality that manufacturing has successfully cultivated to a near art form.

If you’ve purchased airline tickets recently you know the ticket price is artificially low until you include all the “extras” you have to have. And, even IF your plane is on time, you know the extra fees DID NOT go to improve the service. Not that the airlines don’t make improvements, did you know they do have a new seatback design? Apparently, by raising the magazine pouch up to eye level, they found enough space to squeeze in another row of seats. Next up? Windowless airliners, seriously.

For the airlines, quality is clearly a subjective attribute. The only objective is protecting the status quo with price gouging and they do it on an as-needed basis. Their metric? Butts-in-seats. And the only tolerance they seem to push is that of their customers’. But hey, they write the rules.

HIT the mark every time

The general perception that higher quality requires higher costs, either by buying better materials or machines or by hiring more labor is false in my opinion. I said that Ford “focused on consumerism”. Today we call it “customer-focused” which has finally become a paradigm shift for most of industry.

Manufacturers are learning that customer-focus is the best policy. Not because it helps you meet and exceed expectations. Not because customer-focus is a wise place to center your marketing efforts either. No. The more customer-focused you are the better you understand what their “right” means so you can “do it” more profitably. It’s a policy that Henry Ford figured out long ago. It allows you to hone in, hit the mark and deliver quality, day in and day out.

HIT Solutions understands that quality is a moving target. That’s why HIT Solutions representatives are more “thinker” than talker. They’ll have more questions, more curiosity. And they are willing to collaborate with you because they know, the right solution IS a moving target. They can help you hit the mark and achieve quality every day.

HIT Solutions believes the more your business keeps up with important trends, the more you will improve your product, and improve your bottom line.

Leave me your comments below; share your thoughts.