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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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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 […]

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 pros and cons of ‘Zero Defects’

Zero Defects is the approach to quality that was developed and promoted by the guru Philip B. Crosby in his book ‘Quality Is Free’. Forget Six Sigma – this is ‘Infinite Sigma’! It’s a way of thinking about quality that doesn’t tolerate errors or defects and continually strives to improve processes and prevent errors so […]

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 […]

Consumer rights

Here’s a terrific little piece from the BBC about consumer rights and how to get redress for poor quality goods and services: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8253915.stm

A ‘helicopter view’ of Six Sigma

I have been asked about this several times in the last couple of weeks, so here is my very high-level view of Six Sigma: Six Sigma is a business management strategy, developed by Motorola in the mid 1980s, that aims to improve quality by identifying and removing the causes of errors and variability in manufacturing […]

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 […]