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The quest for quality: sixth-inning scorecard.

Here we are, two thirds of the way from the 70s, when we first discovered the need for improving quality, and the year 2000, when those manufacturers with poor quality will be history. Where do we as a country stand? Where do you as a company stand, rated against these norms and those of your competition?

To answer those questions, SPSS Inc, a Chicago supplier of statistical and management software, commissioned a study of 2000 manufacturing management, engineering, and quality-control professionals. The picture that data painted was one of uncertainty: in management attitudes, program content, sophistication, and implementation. A common thread was not knowing how best to put statistical quality control into practice. Some typical laments: Quality was far too costly, until our competition took business away. Then, we found out the true cost of quality." "The cold-turkey issue that companies fail to face is not shipping when the product is not right. Buzzwords sound great until you consider their cost."

Some small comfort: quality is no longer perceived as a fad. One fourth of surveyed companies have Total Quality Management (TQM) programs in place. Quality is a wa of life for all facets of their business from sales to shipping, and open to review and improvement. In contrast, many more firms gather SPC data from a few scattered areas, and, instead of using it to modify operations, use it to produce fancy graphs to show off to customers.

In an era of computerized data everywhere we turn, the report concludes, it is surprising to find limited, disorganized, and inconsistent quality activities still prevalent. "Two frequently cited reasons for this lack of well-organized and fully supported quality programs are a lack of top-management commitment and uncertainty about the most appropriate system to implement."

In addition to the one fourth with TQM in place, half have a formal QC program, 15% have an informal program, and the remaining 10% are either just getting started or nonresponsive. Surprisingly, two thirds of all respondents did not feel their industry suffered from an image of bad quality relative to foreign goods, and thus, this was not their reason for instituting quality programs.

For the one third suffering from a bad quality image, the multiple-choice reasons checked were: limited management foresight, 61%; quality seen as not vital to sales, 52%; caught by surprise by competition, 50%; QC costs too much, 34%; and technology unavailable, 14%. Some of this group feel their negative image is unfair, citing foreign-government retooling assistance and imports' superior job of achieving a quality perception through advertising.

Pressures

Why do you need QC programs? Asked to evaluate the pressures they sense to either institute or expand QC programs, the survey group chose these key factors: instill product pride, 85%; management commitment, 78%; get feedback on out-of-control processes, 73%; win back lost customers, 60%; improve on poor customer ratings, 59%; overcome a cost disadvantage, 53%; comply with new government regulations, 38%; reduce idle time, 33%; and reduce liability threat, 28%.

Supplementary remarks on this issue touched on the need for top management to reverse the priorities of first schedule, then cost, and then quality to place quality first. Also, the nation's annual quality contest was cited for its negative influence; "The quest by firms to win the Malcolm Baldrige award is diverting quality funds from useful product-quality improvement to paperwork improvement."

Benefits

In looking at potential benefits of QC programs, the ability to evaluate suppliers was noted by 79% of respondents, after cost reduction (86%) and customer satisfaction (91%). On the flip side of the vendor-relations issue, 61% said they intended to pass their own quality data on to their customers.

In pinpointing potential savings from QC programs, the leading vote getter was reduced rework, 31%; followed by reduced scrap, 24%; reduced user complaints, 20%; fewer field returns, 8%; and reduced warranty claims, 5%.

Actual experiences so far, however, were another story. One fifth admitted that QC training rarely occurs at all levels, and the same percentage said that reports are not timely, charting does not help reduce waste, and they cannot detect bad processes. One third said that they are not getting the technical support needed, and that not all the required reports can be generated from the data produced. Worker resistance to QC was reported by 38%, and 62% said they are forced to integrate disparate data into their reports.

Complains one respondent,

Quality programs tend to control and complicate processes, rather than guarantee quality. Over-exuberant QC personnel have overstepped their bounds into design areas."

What's quality worth?

Spending on quality programs continues to increase. Most companies plan to spend as much this year as they spent the last two years combined. However, the dollar numbers are not large.

In the groups with formal or informal programs in place, 70% will spend less than $50,000, and only 7% will spend over $200,000, whereas two thirds of the more serious TQM group plans to spend over $50,000 and one fourth, over $200,000. Only 14% of the just-starting group plans to spend more than $50,000.

Among big-spending industries, 45% of chemical-industry companies plan to spend more than $200,000, versus 38% of the machinery/auto industries, 29% of the instrument/medical device industries, and 19% of the electrical/electronic industries.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:importance of quality in production for industry
Publication:Tooling & Production
Date:Aug 1, 1991
Words:882
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