Monthly Archives: May 2012

Achieving Zero Defects

Achieving Zero Defects

There are numerous names for it throughout the Engineering and Quality communities. Sometimes the names and meanings of these different chosen names become blurred.

When it comes down to it however, the intent and details of these methodologies transcend any chosen names for them. This blog will discuss the “basic” approaches to preventing defects from getting to your customer, regardless of whether the “customer” is the end user or the next step in your internal process.


In very simple terms a defect is typically the result of making an error during the process.

ERROR = DEFECT in this example.



If we can eliminate or greatly reduce the possibility of making an error we reduce or eliminate the chance of producing or passing on a defect to our customer.


There are a number of tools/ techniques available to eliminate or reduce the possibility of making an error. Examples are plentiful in numerous books on the topic. Here is a small sample of some of these:

  • Assembly fixtures with pins in the holes that do not get items placed into them to prevent the Technician from placing components in the wrong locations.
  • Modifications of tooling so it does not fit into or onto a part if it is not oriented correctly.
  • Modification of part geometry so that it does not fit into a mating part improperly (example would be the old floppy disks with the beveled corner that prevent reversed insertion)
  • Amplification of human senses to reduce the chance of making an error such as larger dial faces, lights, alarms, etc…  



If a process cannot be made to completely prevent an error (resulting in a defect) we have a number of other approaches that can prevent these from getting to our customers.


a)      Control Technique – (at the time it is produced)

–         Examples of “control type” approaches would be once a defect was produced the device/ machine/  jig would lock the part in place so that it cannot be processed further (preventing downstream customer contamination).

–         Another example of a “control type” device would be once a defect is produced a “lockbox or containment box” would require a part to be placed into it before processing could resume. There are many great sensor and vision machine applications for this.


b)      Warning Technique – (at the time it is produced)

–         Examples of “warning type” approaches would be when a defect is produced and a light or alarm is sounded that requires someone to capture and remove it from downstream contamination.


c)      Another approach though not as effective as there is some waste that takes place and risk which is “downstream detection technique” utilizing the same above techniques of “control” and “warning”.

–         Examples of this type of approach might be an assembly line track or feeder mechanism that inspects a characteristic (example – outside diameter of a bushing/ shaft/ etc… or presence of a welded component) through contact or non-contact techniques and vision systems.


Again, the intent of this blog article is not to give examples of all types of devices on the market (there are many), but to illustrate the different “basic” approaches”.


Obviously prevention is much better than detection as with detection we have already produced a defect which means we now have risk of contamination (downstream or at the end user) and costs associated with it (rework, scrap, repair). Both of these are forms of waste.


Here is to prevention and keeping our customers happy and us in business.




Deming’s Point No. 5 – Improve Constantly and Forever The System of Production & Service

Deming’s Point No. 5 – Improve Constantly and Forever The System of Production & Service


W. Edwards Deming’s 5th point is the key to staying in business in these competitive times. This is relevant more than ever in this globally, competitive manufacturing environment. If we are staying the same, we are falling behind the competition and could eventually find ourselves out of business.


Continual improvement is by no means a new topic and neither are many of the tools and techniques that many organizations are using to try to stay competitive. Some of these tools and techniques are six sigma, lean manufacturing, kaizen events, and the list goes on.


Unfortunately many organizations treat corrective actions and unrelated improvement projects as their continual improvement methodology. Corrective action is important as are small improvement projects, but these in themselves do not make a solid continual improvement program that will make and keep them competitive in the long term. Improvement projects should be contributing to an overall strategy or goal that the organization has set.


There are a number of principles or strategies that an organization can and should follow to achieve this objective. I will briefly discuss each below:


a)      Gather data on your core/ critical processes. This is not merely your manufacturing processes, but you business processes as well. If we are not improving our business processes as well we are not completing the mission. A Japanese term – “Gemba Kaizen” focuses on going to where the work or process is done vs. sitting in a meeting room discussing what might be going on.    

b)      Focus on employee involvement, employee empowerment and employee development. The only way to truly improve is to involve all areas and levels of the organization. To do otherwise is like only using ½ of the travel of your gas pedal during a race. Having said that, in order to get the maximum value out of our workforce we have to develop them and train them to bring out that knowledge with the use of statistical tools, team building methods, quality tools and we need to be wiling to step back as managers to empower them to make and act on their decisions. This also means that middle management needs to be involved and onboard with this or we will be doomed to failure. Turing loose on some of our authority can sometimes be the biggest challenge (it is human nature to want to be in control).

c)      Change the reward systems to support the new way. As long as we celebrate the “rise to the challenge” to “get the order out of the door at all costs” we will continue to focus on fire fighting and corrective action instead of true improvement. Many organizations are guilty of this.Toyotahit the nail on the head with the “stop and fix” mentality – at least as long as we are focusing on the system and it’s improvement vs. the immediate “problem” that occurred (or worse yet – whose fault was it?)  


This list is not all inclusive but it is a start to get us in the right direction.


Here is to improvement.

Good Luck!