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.



Toyota – how the mighty fall

I’m not going to join the ‘let’s knock Toyota’ brigade, don’t worry. Enough people are filling that role already. In fact, I drive a Toyota (an older model) and I’ve been very happy with it, and one of my clients has got one too and is equally happy. My point is how easy it is […]

Why does production suddenly stop dead? Non-random ‘random’ events

There is an assumption, held dear by many people, that apparently random events really are random. If you’re manufacturing 800 widgets a day, and 1 in 100 is faulty when you test it, then every hour you get a test failure and the production line klaxons go off like in Stephen Fry’s ‘QI’ programme. It […]

The secrets of Lean

‘Lean’ means fat-free or thin or containing little waste, doesn’t it? (Appropriate for just after Christmas…) The answer is yes, and it’s one of the most recent trends in quality and management that started on the factory floor with Lean Manufacturing and has spread to other areas such as Lean Six Sigma and Lean Software […]

How do sampling plans and AQLs work?

If you are buying two or three complex assemblies per month from a contract manufacturer it would be reasonable to check every one carefully; there’s a lot that could go wrong. However, if you are buying 100,000 simple subassemblies per month it makes no sense for you to 100% check them and probably isn’t practical […]

When you launch a new product, what haven’t you thought about?

Quality is all about meeting requirements, even the ones that you don’t know about yet. Recently I have been working with some entrepreneurs and start-ups who have tremendous drive and enthusiasm and some great product ideas but are not very experienced in placing products on the market. They asked for help with what I call […]

How does Statistical Process Control work?

Compared with many quality management techniques, Statistical Process Control is self-evident. It’s all about controlling processes. Using statistics. “Simples!” as the meerkat in the advert says… Well, no, statistics are rarely that simple. Underpinning SPC’s apparent straightforwardness is mathematical detail that can be quite difficult to get your head around. SPC is one of the key […]

My top ten fixes for ‘the loose screw problem’

My favourite interview question for manufacturing and design engineers goes like this: “If your customer complains there are loose screws rattling round in the bottom of the equipment you have just delivered, what are you going to do to make sure it doesn’t happen again?” After they have answered, I say “suppose you do all […]

Made by monkeys

This is a really good website brought to us by the Electronics Weekly team – http://www.electronicsweekly.com/blogs/engineering-design-problems/ It’s a combination of some weird and wacky product ideas with other products that have a perfectly sound concept but have been implemented really badly. It’s a great reference point and a cautionary tale for entrepreneurs who have just […]

Taking the HASSle out of reliability

In a recent blog I explained how Highly Accelerated Life Testing can improve a product’s design and make it inherently more reliable. This time I’d like to look at it’s production-line partner, Highly Accelerated Stress Screening or ‘HASS’ (also invented by Gregg Hobbs) which improves reliability by eliminating manufacturing defects. As with HALT, HASS works […]

In praise of Part Numbers

By the way, this is only for those who don’t currently have a company-wide part numbering scheme: If you have never given a moment’s thought to having company-wide part numbers, (standard, across-your-company numbers for all the components and parts that you use as opposed to just re-using the manufacturer’s own part numbers) let me encourage […]