Writing a new book on quality

Bob Vavra comments on Toyota crisis and the impact on manufacturers



They literally wrote the book on quality management - and more than 50 other books have been written about their quality system. Toyota and quality have been synonymous for three decades around the world - and it's been a sore subject for American-based automakers.
Then stories began to emerge in January and February about millions of recalled Toyota cars and trucks after problems with a gas pedal design flaw. Then there were the problems with the world's top-selling hybrid, the Toyota Prius. There were a few folks who probably took some small bit of pleasure in seeing an automaker who had become so identified with quality suffer from what, by any estimation, is a massive failure of quality control.
Let's be clear about a few things at the outset. First, this was a product design flaw, not a manufacturing flaw. The accelerator pedals were poorly installed, they were poorly designed. Yet it is the manufacturing plant that will bear a large weight from this issue, since most people wouldn't make that distinction.
Second, and perhaps most important to this discussion, is that the impact of the recalls and repairs will stretch far beyond Toyota in Tokyo. The recalls shut down Toyota plants in Indiana and Kentucky, idling American workers in the process. These are people who take justifiable pride in the quality of their work. These are American workers who lost wages and benefits through this work stoppage. No one ought to take any comfort in that.
A new book of quality needs to be written, and Toyota is going to be Chapter 1 in how quickly a culture of quality can crack. It ought to be required reading for everyone, because quality of products is by far the most important thing to your customers, according to findings in the 2010 Changing World of the Plant Engineer study we've been conducting for the past two months.
We asked readers around the world what was most important to their customers about the product they make. In the preliminary findings (the full study will be released next month in Plant Engineering) 74% of U.S. plant managers said quality was their customer's top priority. Only 23% said price and just 3% said where it was made mattered. The numbers from international manufacturers were almost identical - 80% cited quality, just 15% said price.
What the numbers tell us is that quality should always be at the forefront of any plant's operation. Quality design, quality manufacturing, quality maintenance and quality-inspired management produce quality products. They also produce products at a lower cost to the company, and it produces those products with a lower energy usage and less waste. All of those production costs are today considered intrinsic parts of quality.
That's because however you measure and manage those production costs, if your end product isn't a quality product, you have in effect wasted the time, materials and energy it took to make that product. From children's toys to pharmaceuticals to food, we have seen many examples product recalls that have followed illness, injury and death. Some cases were criminal; many were the results of poor design. Many were the result of poor quality management practices on the plant floor. The victims of those product failures don't much care why. Their lives were altered as a result - sometimes permanently.
The deaths and injuries being attributed to the Toyota recall put a more human face on this business of quality - both its importance when it is followed and its cost when it is not. The issues still to be sorted out will drag out for years as courts and legislators have their say.
But for those in America who manufacture the world's products and those around the world who manufacture products for us, the question we are faced with is more immediate. What did we learn this time?
The cynic might find that Toyota, for all its posturing about quality and "The Toyota Way," was, in the end, no better at quality than anyone else.
That is what ought to really scare us.


No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2013 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
A cool solution: Collaboration, chemistry leads to foundry coat product development; See the 2015 Product of the Year Finalists
Raising the standard: What's new with NFPA 70E; A global view of manufacturing; Maintenance data; Fit bearings properly
Sister act: Building on their father's legacy, a new generation moves Bales Metal Surface Solutions forward; Meet the 2015 Engineering Leaders Under 40
Cyber security cost-efficient for industrial control systems; Extracting full value from operational data; Managing cyber security risks
Drilling for Big Data: Managing the flow of information; Big data drilldown series: Challenge and opportunity; OT to IT: Creating a circle of improvement; Industry loses best workers, again
Pipeline vulnerabilities? Securing hydrocarbon transit; Predictive analytics hit the mainstream; Dirty pipelines decrease flow, production—pig your line; Ensuring pipeline physical and cyber security
Upgrading secondary control systems; Keeping enclosures conditioned; Diagnostics increase equipment uptime; Mechatronics simplifies machine design
Designing positive-energy buildings; Ensuring power quality; Complying with NFPA 110; Minimizing arc flash hazards
Building high availability into industrial computers; Of key metrics and myth busting; The truth about five common VFD myths

Annual Salary Survey

After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.

The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.

Read more: 2014 Salary Survey: Confidence rises amid the challenges

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.