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.



A reliable microwave oven

My microwave oven is falling to pieces. It still works, but all the plastic trim round the door has become brittle and bits are falling off every time we open it. So all praise to Sharp for their ‘Carousel II’, circa 1986 – yes, it’s nearly 24 years old (it’s even coloured beige and brown, […]

Eddie Mair rattles my speakers

Intermittent problems are a real pain. They never show themselves when you are in a position to do anything about it. I have been disappointed by the Bose sound system in my Mazda; it under-uses its sub-woofer, fails to automatically adjust to changes in ambient noise (one of its key selling points) and, for several […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Quality is a strategic issue

I’d like to take an overview of what quality is… and why it’s strategically important to your business. What is Quality? Quality means meeting requirements. It isn’t about providing more features, or complexity, or performance that increases cost, takes longer to provide or makes it more difficult to use and may not be required. A […]

Prevention is better than cure

Many moons ago I was blogging about Corrective Actions and said that, whilst they were invaluable, taking Preventive Actions was even better, as it should stop the problems occurring in the first place, but is considerably more difficult! I thought I should elaborate… It is obviously more difficult to say whether it will rain tomorrow […]

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 […]