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Quality Comes and Goes

Posted March 07, 2010 8:16 AM

Product quality, or the lack thereof, has dominated the news lately, with Toyota as exhibit one. But quality seems to go in cycles — companies that were once derided for poor quality later became synonymous with the best, only to fall again. And it's not just true in the auto industry. What causes these cycles, and where does your company or industry stand in the quality cycle?

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#1

Re: Quality Comes and Goes

03/08/2010 3:33 AM

You don't need to read the article to know that...
The moment you get smug and think your quality is really good...the phones will start ringing with a flood of problems.
Del

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#3
In reply to #1

Re: Quality Comes and Goes

03/08/2010 10:14 AM

Toyota hit a stumbling block.

They enjoyed a long history of success.

They are still one of the top automotive companies for all other companies to benchmark their practices after.

The strength that allowed Toyota to achieve their success will be the same strength that will allow them to identify their faults and fix them and get back on track with lessons learned.

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#2

Re: Quality Comes and Goes

03/08/2010 8:21 AM

I think that you looking at a trend that is happening all over.

I find that there are no real craftsmen in the industry anymore just a lot of button pushers. At some point manufacturers say enough is enough and begin the retraining process. After some time those freshly retrained people realize that the pay is better somewhere else.

In most cases, to replace them companies rush the training process and it gradually goes downhill from there until its time to do another retraining. the cycles are usually about 10 to 15 years depending on the company.

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#4

Re: Quality Comes and Goes

03/08/2010 5:36 PM

Hello,

Every big step has its difficulties. A man try to make a huge step and his pant is cracked. A chemical industry work hard to grow bigger and bigger they leave "Love Canal" behind. When Wall Street pushes Banks to grow we get economic downturn. When we create something new we cannot see the end. It can be low or very high. Everyone is working hard to get somewhere higher or richer but the limit is not yet or never established. Every organization goes and arrive to a non-predictable somewhere. Toyota is the same. They started and established the production standards and at a certain limit they are limited. They will pass through and stay at the leading position for longtime, Gil.

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#5

Re: Quality Comes and Goes

03/08/2010 9:36 PM

Short answer: feed back loops ; http://www.schuelers.com/ChaosPsyche/part_1_10.htm Longer answer: diversion of resources to immediate need/crisis nucleates weakness in other areas by creating latent organizational vulnerabilities. These surface later, especially as organization over fixates resources and attention on last problem encountered instead of continuous improvement globally with all processes. Compounding this is "satisficing" as management gives up fighting for optimum and maximization in order to eke out any profit possiblein light of competition and environmental (market not necessarily GAIA) factors. My 2 cents. 2 sense? milo

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#6
In reply to #5

Re: Quality Comes and Goes

03/08/2010 10:19 PM

Hi Milo,

what's that say in english??

"nucleates weakness" I dunno what that means?

"over fixates resources" ??

satisficing? interesting.

I know you are a super advanced being.. please have pity on me.. I'm almost getting it, but not quite...

Chris

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#7
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Re: Quality Comes and Goes

03/08/2010 10:36 PM

Nucleates weakness= Seeds weakness, creates weakness,point of flaw in organization like a hernia. Latent means not yet developed, but present none the less. over fixates resources. From now on, toyota is going to devote ten times more engineering resources and testing on accelerator systems than necessary. Forever and ever amen. I've seen it happen in automotive. One 'imperfection' gets through and they build in over inspection forever and ever and ever despite the imposition of permanent root cause corrective actions. Satisficing= hybrid of satisfy and sacrifice. Basically means compromise; partially satisfy demand for profits in one goal area by sacrificing demand for perfection in another goal area. Think girl friend vs wife vs career and you begin to get a picture...<grins> A call center may want a 4 minute max phone call, but they also want 100 % satisfied callers. Some complaints take more than 4 minutes to resolve satisficing is where management tolerates 5 minute average call time to get 95% satisfaction score, vs 4 minute average call time and 65 % satisfaction score. Hope that helps. milo I've read your responses Chrisg288, you're no dummy

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#8
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Re: Quality Comes and Goes

03/08/2010 10:56 PM

excellent response, thank you !!

cheers,

Chris

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#11
In reply to #7

Re: Quality Comes and Goes

03/09/2010 9:18 AM

Hi Milo,

Please, stop! Why you don't put everything in simple words to make an easy to digest sentences? When we read what you put on the screen, I guarrantee that no one understands what you want to say, create, do, and what will be the realization.

An error is an error. Nobody is perfect! Workers are simple people and they are not catching complex explanations. Most of the time, this is the error producer. They want to work in simple and stupid conditions. Imagine you present this comment to a unionized worker in the automotive industry. The union will eliminate you to be in contact with the unionized workers.

So, the next time you want to teach us what and how to do to improve processes and operations, please calm down and be simple. You know, we are not genious, we are simple people to. We are educated in ordinary schools and the books are lean in explanations as some businesses but simple. Keep it that way and we will admire you fully, Gil.

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#14
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Re: Quality Comes and Goes

03/09/2010 9:40 AM

Thanks for your feedback Gil.

I do not agree that workers want to work in simple and stupid conditions.

I worked as a union steelworker for the first 11 years of my career. My union brothers were clever, proud, and wanted to do a good job.

Supervised lab, quality and plant manger the next 20.

Your advice on choice of words is well taken. Writing for engineers on an engineering forum, at the reading level of 'Stupid union members' is probably better than writing at a college graduate level, considering that this is an open forum.

I do appreciate the insight as to how my responses are percieved.

Thanks for your genuine feedback.

milo

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#10
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Re: Quality Comes and Goes

03/09/2010 9:06 AM

Hi Chris,

You are absolutely right. What kind of language is used by these managers who talk like all politicians do. I am sure, they talk and realize nothing or very little. They have no knowledge or idea about organization of work, processes and operations. They don't know where to start and what to do after. I was in those meetings with excellent talkers but without consistance and value. Today, the company still never made a cent of profit, the production is archaic and disorganized, was sold out by one of the world biggest group to another big boy who wants to sell it again.

Chris, what does mean "super advanced"? I cannot catch it. They are super talkers and companies want to obtain from these guys some results. Amazing, isn't it? When you put down some elementary actions, feasible and giving results, no one responds. Have a nice day, Gil.

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#17
In reply to #10

Re: Quality Comes and Goes

03/09/2010 1:16 PM

Hi Gil,

First off, I knew that Milo was one of our most respected members on CR4, so I was trying to be friendly with him. He certainly doesn't fall under any umbrella of typical. Around here, he is generally talked about in hushed tones... He was the first on CR4 to reach 100 GA, for what it is worth. (controversial subject, but stellar performance) If you read a few of his other posts, you will see brilliance. He is the real deal. your paint brush might be too wide..

That being said, I tend to agree with you about 'other' managers... (although the worst ones I met had the ability to keep their mouth shut at meetings, and do their dirty work behind closed doors.) There are many with little insight into improvement, and sometimes even less caring. That coupled with higher than normal political instincts makes them less than fun to work with. (I guess I have developed trust issues where none existed before)

Super advanced was a tongue-in-cheek reference to a supreme intelligence, like an alien race, coming down to earth, and bestowing knowledge... but simple tribesman doesn't understand.. (and builds straw airplanes after he leaves, to represent his craft)

Cheers,

Chris

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#19
In reply to #5

Re: Quality Comes and Goes

03/09/2010 1:29 PM

Hi Milo,

so... feedback loops. Are you talking about Customer Feedback or something internal that minimizes the long cycle rise and fall (of empires and quality cultures in large corporations)?

Cheers,

Chris

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#21
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Re: Quality Comes and Goes

03/09/2010 2:09 PM

Hi Chrisg288,

The feedback loop works like this.

The organization has an orthodoxy. It achieves an equilibrium with that orthodoxy.

A significant emotional event arises that challenges that orthodoxy.

The entire organization refocuses on the new threat, and applies those lessons learned as the new orthodoxy, to the exclusion of other relevant ideas/ practices etc.

(I learned early in my career that once a customer learns a root cause in one situation, he thinks that happens each and every time a New problem ocurrs. "The last parts had seams, do you think that these are seams too?" even though the issue is in fact a shrinkage cavity in the ID, and seams are on the OD...

So we become locked in to our new painful lesson at the expense of other possible learnings. New pseudo equilibrium... until the next major faux pas.

The military folks are always training and equipped to fight the last war...

Treacy and Wiersema talk about an organization's unique value discipline: Operational Excellence, Product Leadership, and Customer Intimacy. There are only three, and Their point is that companies truly only master one of these. So they 'satisfice' on the others but rule with their best value discipline.

When a company changes its game from, say "Operational Excellence" into "Product Leadership," as Toyota did, they find that the systems that worked so well for the one are insufficient for the second.

Clearly Toyota 'owned' Operational excellence. But as they became the new "Product Leaders," they lacked the cultural and systemic tools to adapt to the new challenges that come with the territory of "Product Leadership". So the pendulum will swing to over compensate for this failure-and their new initiatives will all center on the last failure, and set them down yet another path for another fall. That is the loop until the next significant emotional event.

Its funny because every assy line employee at Toyota is authorised to pull the Andon cord (to stop the line) but culturally, noone in the organization had the authority to tell the chairman that there were problems down below.To pull the Andon cord for the entire company. Their cultural penchant for consensus and deference to authority was the perfect latent defect in their enterprise. In many ways they failed because of their "Japanese culture. " The same Japanese culture that enabled them to build consensus and standardize work and eliminate waste as a team of operational excellents, became the fatal flaw in their execution of product leadership.

They weren't even on the scale for customer intimacy... denial and blame are never part of a customer intimate organizations behaviors.

milo

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#22
In reply to #21

Re: Quality Comes and Goes

03/09/2010 2:51 PM

Well said Milo; a twelve page Harvard Business Review treatise in a few succinct, and very well-written paragraphs. Having once toiled in aerospace and mil-spec environments, I judge your assessment to be 'dead-on-balls' accurate (to quote Marisa Tomei).

'Failing to pull the Andon cord for the whole company' is endemic to all large, hierarchal organizations within which one's own place and progress is usually the outcome of a delicate, and oftentimes politically flavored ballet. Few employees possess the temerity to 'pull that cord' which is why God made retired consultants; to tell executives what no one else will because they can afford to not give a damn.

Again, nice job.

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#23
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Re: Quality Comes and Goes

03/09/2010 10:11 PM

Thank you, Doobster, and a tip of the hat to Ms Tomei. :-) Your retired consultant insight is worth repeating. milo

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#9

Re: Quality Comes and Goes

03/09/2010 6:40 AM

It goes without saying that problems such as this are borne of engineering decisions. There's no denying that Toyota have impeccable quality systems but there's no substitute for experience, i.e. time-served engineers who have "been there, worn the teeshirt" so to speak. In other words, good product quality is designed in by good engineering practices, not inspected in by class-leading quality control.

Quality systems can only establish that a product is made to the engineering standard, they do not normally dictate what that standard shall be. The design standard is a combination of several factors, but an experienced engineer will (should) pick up on things that are not "the norm" and could be missed by the less-experienced.

Most automotive and top manufacturing companies were started out by highly-experienced or top-notch engineers who could see further than their peers. This type of engineer is diminishing (I wouldn't go so far as to say non-existant-yet!) and so product quality will suffer as a result. In my opinion this is the major reason for the cyclic effect of a company's product quality. There's no denying that companies that commit to their own training programs (e.g. Rolls Royce) don't experience an up-and-down quality cycle because they strive to maintain the same design and manufacturing standards (almost) regardless of cost.

Moral: don't let your experienced engineers leave (or retire!), make the most of them - preferably with the remuneration commensurate with their knowledge.

As a 63 year old Technical Consultant with over 47 years experience in various branches of engineering I've seen companies with both good and bad quality ideals. The "good quality" ones are still around - usually with the same guys they started with!

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#13
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Re: Quality Comes and Goes

03/09/2010 9:35 AM

Hi M,

Thanks for your words! Finally we have something we can digest and understand easily after a few complicated.

Yes, I believe that in the new era of growth, Toyota don't have the right people at every needed location. A smaller organization maintain model numbers and options at minimum, and everything is easy or easier to make without error and without control. When design is good, execution of parts are good, and the assamly has experience what and how to do, everything is falling in place, and the results are good. Over-diversification is the first step to confusion and error. They will adjust and go well in the near future.

In the coating industry, I fought to modify the production of paint but no one listen or make some changes. Thanks for your invigorating comment, Gil.

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#12

Re: Quality Comes and Goes

03/09/2010 9:33 AM

The naked, ugly(?) truth of all for-profit businesses is that they exist to make money. Period.

It is the absolute paramount concern and overrides all other considerations. 'Quality' is something which is pursued only to the extent that it is aligned with corporate goals (or at least doesn't conflict with them) and/or is necessary to remain competitive. If, for example, an entire industry is characterized by 'poor' quality, few if any competitors in it will seek to improve theirs unless they believe it will result in more profits. Despite what many of us would like to believe in the twenty-first century 'quality', in and of itself, is not a 'given' in the industrial world; it is very much tied to the expected, demonstrated and especially the accepted level of quality practiced in a particular industry, and it will rise only to the the level required for a firm to remain competitive.

The Toyota story illuminates this unhappy truth. The company had once sought to buck this cynical perspective by taking 'the long look' into the future. Long ago it decided to build a quality-infrastructure that would be the best in the world so that the ensuing products, free of 'normal' defects and boasting time-proven reliability, would build a loyal and growing customer base. And they succeeded. They built their reputation, quite literally for decades, on the 'Toyota Manufacturing System', once-upon-a-time the envy of the world not just because of the results it produced but because it defined the company's very culture, a company-wide mindset that drove daily awareness and pursuit of 'continuous improvement'. It became the stuff of legends, viewed by many as an unstoppable juggernaut, unachievable by the West who's grasping, greedy, self-centric culture would never match the more centered, selfless, and balanced character that is the East. It defined Toyota.

Well apparently, not so much anymore.

The unhappy truth now made most clear by Toyota's ultimate failure is that top-management actions and attitudes drive a company's culture, East or West, as demonstrated through their commitment, attitudes and especially actions. When Toyota's executives decided that global automotive dominance was their new paramount objective, Quality moved to a distant second place. Any conflicts between the two were obviously reconciled in favor of ever higher volume and expansion, and this soon spread throughout, and ultimately perverted (if not replaced), 'the TMS culture'. What had taken twenty+ years to build has evidently taken only a couple to destroy.

Personally, I file this under 'no big surprise'. Some years back a colleague of mine helped a young man revive his father's failed family business. 'Service' and 'Quality' were to be the new company's hallmarks. But the early going was very tough and cash management (meeting payroll!) became the paramount objective during their first start-up year. One afternoon they stood on the shipping dock looking at a skid of discrepant parts that had to be shipped. Throughout their small new company heroic efforts had already been expended to meet their delivery requirement and visibility was virtually company-wide. Everyone knew the parts were discrepant however and, by the letter of the blueprint law, should be reworked. They also knew only too well that this customer had a reputation for being completely unforgiving about late shipments as well as discrepant parts and that a long, vital backlog of orders hung in the balance.

"Bill" he said (not his real name), "this is a defining moment. Everyone in our small company knows about this shipment and what we choose to do next will set the tone for our company's culture and future. I say we should call the customer, take our beating and hope for the best".

Instead, the parts were shipped 'as was'. The company's young president chose to gamble that the discrepancy was a) not vital to the part's performance and b) probably wouldn't be detected by their own inspection. In the short run he turned out to be right. But he also set an irreversible tone for the long run in that very defining moment. All pretentions (even authentically good intentions) to the contrary, he would never again be able to convince his workforce that 'quality' would come first. And I believe this same scenario has now been played out repeatedly at Toyota.

Toyota has, like Bill, now re-taught it's workforce that further improvements to quality, having already reached a pinnacle in the industry, are now evidently a luxury to be pursued only when other loftier goals were not in conflict. And so Toyota have squandered twenty+ years of developing a company culture and reputation that will be exceedingly hard to get back and will forever be regarded as tenuous. They have now become the Japanese version of GM, a process they completed yesterday when they tried to deflect the ongoing concern over sudden acceleration. They tried to embarrass a university professor by 'exposing' that his tests are not 'real world', while simultaneously pointing their finger at every other manufacturer of similar systems. It is a sad and pathetic punctuation to a once great company who have squandered the hard-won loyalty and trust of its customers by 'cheating' on its own culture and then trying to shift blame. In an internet enabled world where news (good, bad, accurate or not) travels instantly, these actions do not bode well.

Mighty Toyota may be no more. The short-term 'cost' of improving quality (or even sustaining it) gave way to the needs of expansion; becoming the biggest became more important than being the best.

Unfortunately, that's business!. East has met West; welcome to the real world.

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#16
In reply to #12

Re: Quality Comes and Goes

03/09/2010 12:05 PM

Profit is was keep our job , but with good quality.

There are still companies, that believes that quality is the most valuable characteristic of a corporation .Several times, searching for improving quality, we decided to switch to higher costs suppliers , also knowing that will reduced our profit, in benefit of our automotive customers.

Meaning we should not loose hope in Quality despite of what happens .

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#18
In reply to #12

Re: Quality Comes and Goes

03/09/2010 1:21 PM

Well Doobster6,

You have not earned your name today, because that is one of the most eloquent bits of writing I've ever read. It should be friggin framed.

GA.

Chris

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#20
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Re: Quality Comes and Goes

03/09/2010 1:43 PM

I like the story of 'Bill' but don't these people ever consider the alternative of actually asking the customer? He could have found out if the discepancy was critical, or if the deliver could wait.
My old boss would rather send it out wrong today than right tomorrow.
I've occaisionally got into trouble from the boss for telling the customer the truth...I've never got in trouble for it from the customer though, and it has helped re-build our customer base.
Del

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#15

Re: Quality Comes and Goes

03/09/2010 10:04 AM

Or the faults may have been borne of simple engineering errors!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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#27
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Re: Quality Comes and Goes

03/12/2010 3:39 PM

Hi Daniel,

Absolutely not! Engineers are good or bad, we get the same % error or fault. No one is perfect in this WORLD! Perfection is a word used by bosses and CEOs to separate themselves from ordinary people like we are.

The American car industry is at the end. We, the rest of the world, wait for other big products created by them. Just to mention; Telephone, Portland cement, fast-food, TV, Nylon, and I forget thousand at least. Let them do the next, we will buy many of it, Gil.

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#24

Re: Quality Comes and Goes

03/12/2010 2:55 PM

It is called "punctated evolution". see toyota discussion here.

Chris

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#26
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Re: Quality Comes and Goes

03/12/2010 3:30 PM

Hi Chris,

Very interesting and thanks for it!

The Toyota problem is not a Toyota car problem. It's the American car industry's problem. They are losing the leadership, and will lose the car business completely like they lost the TV and other products production. They did not listen to their genious people like Deming, Crosby, and others. They went to teach what and how to do to others, to the listeners. This is the consequence of the refusal of doing things the way must be done. Today, the "big three" realised, but mainly GM that this is the end and again they refuse to accept facts. It costs the Americans and us billions but people's money cannot help. They will die in rapidly or little bit later but the time is here!

Everything is written about quality, what to do, how to do but most CEOs don't want to listen, mostly they want to tell everyone their desires to realization.

It's the same as the Vietnam war. The French tasted what's ideology versus guns. The Americans said that the French soldiers are dolls with a revolver in the pocket. We know the final results.

Imagine, we have two (2) cars with accident (I have questions!) on a few hunred-thousands the same model. Let cry the woman in front of the senate and TVs. Was a show!!! How many hamburger is thrown in the garbage because of defect, in a day? Please, let me laugh, Gil.

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#25

Re: Quality Comes and Goes

03/12/2010 3:21 PM

I was wondering if these problems with Toyota cars already existed in all previous cars designs, and someone find or complained for the first time and suddenly everybody look deeply on it ?

Related Problems accepted by Toyota

floor mat entrapment of accelerator pedal / weak pedal (need reinforcement )

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