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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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July 2017
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The winds of change…

In a recent blog I wrote about Deviations and Concessions, temporary changes that allow you – when necessary and under control – to not do things the way you normally do them. But what happens when the change is permanent; how do you manage change? This is a well-established part of quality management and you […]

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Being devious about Deviations

If quality is doing “exactly what it says on the tin” (courtesy of Ronseal), what happens if you really don’t want to? What happens if you knowingly choose to do something else? Presumably that isn’t allowed? Well, yes it is. Quality management shouldn’t be a straightjacket. Of course, if you’re dealing with safety-critical applications or […]

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Control your cosmetics – “because you’re worth it”!

No, I’m not talking about lipstick and blusher despite the tongue-in-cheek introduction. Cosmetic Inspection refers to the quality of the surfaces of products or equipment, especially those surfaces that are visible to the customer. Nothing is perfect; no material is entirely defect-free (especially if you look hard enough), so what scratches or blemishes or discolouration […]

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The real meaning of MTBF

Ignore some of the more disparaging descriptions of what ‘M.T.B.F.’ means; it actually stands for Mean Time Between Failures (or, for products that can’t be repaired, the term Mean Time To Failure is often used instead). It’s the inverse of the annual failure rate if the failure rate is constant. And it isn’t quite what […]

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The secrets of Poka Yoke

Poka Yoke (“poh-ka yoh-kay”), translated as mistake-proofing, was developed by Toyota manufacturing engineer Shigeo Shingo in the 1960s. (Its original name, ‘fool-proofing’ was changed because some people were offended by its implications.) It’s another preventive technique that I recently promised to explain in more detail. Poka Yoke is a simple but effective approach to reducing […]

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In praise of Design Reviews

I worked in one of the large Cambridge-based technology consultancies for many years and was privileged to have clients from small, inexperienced start-ups to large, established mature enterprises. Sometimes we developed products from scratch but sometimes we were brought in late in the day to sort out a client’s project that had gone wrong. One […]

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Hong Kong and Shenzhen

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 […]

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Is the Hawthorne Effect really just Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle for the common man?

The Hawthorne Effect was first described by psychology researcher Henry Landsberger in the fifties when he analysed work done decades earlier at Western Electric’s Hawthorn Works near Chicago. Western Electric ran a study to see if its workers would become more productive if the light levels were raised. This did indeed happen, there was a […]

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5S is more than just spring cleaning

5S stands for Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu, and Shitsuke. And, by the way, despite being called 5S many people say there’s a 6th – Safety. Well, I’m glad to have cleared that up! Perhaps I had better explain… You have probably deduced that 5S is another Japanese-inspired approach to quality improvement; in this case it’s […]

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An Inspector Calls

The quality guru W. Edwards Deming once said “you can not inspect quality into the product; it is already there.” There is a great deal of emphasis within the quality management profession on Quality Assurance (preventive techniques) rather than Quality Control (corrective techniques). Inspection, in most cases, is seen as Quality Control; in other words […]

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