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Welcome to my blog for all things related to business quality (processes, systems and ways of working), products and product quality, manufacturing and operations management.

This blog is a mixture of real-world experience, ideas, comments and observations that I hope you'll find interesting.

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Hong Kong and Shenzhen

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I’ve just returned from a very interesting visit to a Contract Electronics Manufacturer in Shenzhen, China. Many of the things I have blogged about recently were clearly demonstrated including rigorous application of the 5S methodology along with good SPC and TQM, and we were made very welcome.

We had an interesting demonstration of Hawthorne and Heisenberg in practice, though – we were investigating the root cause for some settings of some products occasionally having errors. Product configuration is a manual process, and the instructions up on the wall next to the test station were flawed – there was a minor error in the document which the operators knew about and corrected as they entered the data. However, we have occasionally seen products with that specific parameter set incorrectly; unsurprisingly, despite their thoroughness a small number or errors do occur.

However, a different error appeared when the final tests were done; one product exhibited a new type of fault. When we pushed for the root cause, the operator admitted that he was nervous because of our presence and made a mistake.

It was fascinating to see Hawthorne and Heisenberg demonstrated so clearly; as ‘experimenters’ we were directly affecting the experiment; had we not been there he would not have been nervous and the results would have been different.

The fix for both types of error was to correct the instructions then automate the process so the operator was taken out of the loop; the configuration settings are now made via software so it doesn’t matter if operators are nervous in the presence of visitors or not!

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