built-in quality

ThreeDontsWhat do you think of when you hear the term, “Built-in Quality”?

Well, perhaps it helps if you think about what is a built-in cabinet, or a built-in grill.  When something is “built-in”, it has become part of whatever else you built it into.  It follows, then, that Built-in Quality means to make Quality part of something, and that something is your process; your product.

Built-in Quality means not relying on inspection to catch defects, or accepting the fact that there is rework and scrap in your process and there is nothing you can do about it.  Built-in Quality means that Quality is part of your DNA; it is the way you do business.  There are three requirements that must be met for you to have Built-in Quality:

  1. Build Quality right at the source.  Enable the process to produce a defect-free product every time.
  2. Allow the process to be stopped when defects are identified midstream.
  3. Do NOT rely on inspection to catch defects. Actually, if you are successful at Built-in Quality, you may not even need inspection!

To help you understand what is needed to meet those three requirements, here are what I call “The three Don’ts of Built-in Quality”:

Don’t make a defect.  What this means is you, as the leader, must define quality accurately so that the person carrying out the operation in question knows exactly what is expected out of that step and is equipped with the necessary equipment, tools and training to make a defect-free product/process every time.  I want to caution my audience that “Don’t make a defect” does not happen just by telling someone, “Don’t make a defect”.  That is why I specified above the requirements for this step.  The process should be designed so that it is always possible to make a defect-free product.  You need to ensure that every step is armed with some basic characteristics to make “Don’t make a defect” a reality:

  • Equipment
  • Tools
  • Training

Don’t accept a defect.  If you are performing steps in the middle of a process, or even at the end of a process and you receive nonconforming product and you have the option and the know-how to fix it yourself, do you just go ahead and do it because “it’s no problem”?  NOOOOO!!!!  If you do, you are accepting a defect and, in doing so, you are allowing that defect to continue to occur undetected and unfixed.  You may think that “it’s no problem” for you to just go ahead and fix it so you can keep going with your chores, but think about something.  What will happen when you are not in that spot?  What will happen if you move on or if someone else is filling in for you, but they don’t have your expertise to detect and correct the defect?  That defect will continue downstream undetected and very likely a defective product or process will reach the customer.  That could be a defective widget, a defective braking system or steering system in a car, a defective guidance system on an airplane or a wrong-site procedure on a patient!  Do you see how, by accepting the defect, you are enabling a low-quality process?  It is up to everyone to know what is expected of every step and be empowered to stop the process and send defective product upstream to be corrected and alert the upstream steps of their nonconformance.

Don’t pass a defect.  Whether you know you made a defect or you recognize a defect from an upstream step and you let that product/process continue because “it will be caught at inspection” or somewhere else, you do not comprehend what quality is or you are just plain lazy.  Neither one is acceptable.  When you don’t fill out the necessary information on an OR procedure schedule request because “oh, they will catch that at the scheduling desk”, not only do you cause my blood pressure to reach unhealthy levels, you are, again, enabling a low-quality process.  And, please, note that by violating this requirement of Built-in Quality, you have violated at least one of the other previous two, because passing a defect means that you already either made a defect or accepted one.

In summary, to ensure a defect-free process, you must arm your workforce with a very accurate definition of what quality is.  You, then, must provide them with the equipment, tools and training required for them to achieve that quality.  They must feel empowered to stop the process and send defective product upstream when they receive nonconforming product.  Finally they should never feel like a defect is ok at any stage of the process because it will be caught further downstream.  If it helps, let them remember the three don’ts of Built-in Quality:

  1. Don’t make a defect
  2. Don’t accept a defect
  3. Don’t pass a defect

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