Category Archives: Uncategorized

Deming’s Point No. 12 – Remove Barriers to Pride of Workmanship

Deming’s Point No. 12 – Remove Barriers to Pride of Workmanship


W. Edwards Deming’s 12th point is a problem that haunts many organizations.


We hear it all of the time in the news and news articles – “Businesses are finding it hard to recruit talent”. It is difficult enough for an organization to find qualified workers that believe in giving an honest days work for an honest days pay and want to grow with and learn the business to help it grow. Organizations cannot afford to stifle the attitudes and creativity of the workforce as it does in many cases.  


What are some of the symptoms that are felt when this problem exists?

a)      Lack of enthusiasm for the job (“I just want to put in the hours and go home to do something I enjoy”)

b)      The feeling that goals, objectives or expectations cannot be realistically achieved.

c)      The feeling that management does not know or care about their problems.


What are some of the causes of this (List is not all inclusive)

a)      Constantly changing goals. Not able to focus on completing any. (“Busy work mentality”)

b)      Lack of feedback, reviews, etc.. (“How are we doing and do we need to do it differently?”)

c)      Not given the resources (equipment, training, personnel, etc..) to adequately perform the task or objective.


 No conversation would be fit or complete without some discussion on some methods that will correct some of these causes? In my opinion there are some approaches that can help:


Making Work a More Enjoyable Place To Be

  • Work cannot always be “all fun and games” but we can try to make work a more enjoyable place to spend your time at by simply reducing these “hassles” as Phil Crosby referred to them as. Many organizations offer “employee outings” such as baseball games, picnics, softball leagues, etc… This can also bring about a more team friendly and cooperative workforce.
  • Work based games
  • Teambuilding sessions (outdoors for example – not in a stuffy meeting room)  


Giving Clear Goals and Objectives

  • Many organizations and supervisors do not give adequate direction, goals and measureable objectives.
  • Goals should be achievable and have some manner of being measured and tracked for progress.
  • The “annual review” trap – organizations that only give feedback to their employees once per year at the review are essentially losing out on the employees maximal talents because they have no idea that they are not performing as well as you would like. Waiting an entre year to give feedback is second on the “naughty list’ only to not giving them at all.
  • We also have to be careful not to “over manage” employees where the measures become the only focus and as much time is spent preparing for and being in meetings as is time spent working. This can also lead to “adjusting the numbers” which is almost as bad as not reviewing performance.  
  • Lastly, conflicting goals between personnel or departments is a problem.


Provide Resources And Tools To Perform the Task:

  • Another discouragement factor is assigning a task, job, and goal. Etc… and not giving the time to complete it. As Managers, Supervisors, “bosses”, we have to accurately plan out how long a task should realistically take. I like to “try it myself” first when possible to make sure it is feasible.
  • We have to ensure that we give our employees the equipment and tools to do the job properly. Equipment that is “band-aided” or breaks down regularly can show that we do not value the task to be completed. This will definitely have an effect on moral as well.


Here is to improvement.



Deming’s Point No. 9 – Break Down Barriers Between Staff Areas

Deming’s Point No. 9 – Break Down Barriers Between Staff Areas


W. Edwards Deming’s 9th point is what organization leadership is all about.

To quote Deming himself – “Management Creates the System” which simply means that the culture, focus and goals of the company start at the top.


I want to begin this blog topic with a few quotes that are very relevant:

a) “Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision, even if that vision becomes extremely blurry” (author unknown).


b) “Talent wins a game, but teamwork wins championships” (Michael Jordan).


This topic is near and dear to my heart, as I truly believe that we achieve more as an organization working in teams than individuals. Teamwork has a strange effect called “synergy” in which the whole becomes greater than the sum of the individuals. I do not believe that any initiative can be effectively and permanently implemented if it is not supported by the other staff or departments. In many instances organizations develop goals that are not supported by all staff areas and can actually result in conflicting departmental goals. This can be devastating to the organization and can lead to moral issues, departmental rifts and outright battles that can tear apart the very fabric of an organization.


Having worked in quality for over 20 years I have been part of different initiatives from developing procedures, processes, systems, etc… and in my experience when this can be done in a non-adversarial way the result is much more effective.


At times and in many companies there is an antagonistic relationship between quality and production. This can be a result of a perceived difference in objectives or goals. Quality may feel that production is trying to ship product that is not to standards and production may feel that quality is only a roadblock that creates problems of rigid standards that are not needed. This “gap” between the staff areas can be made worse when a clear goal or stance by Upper Management is not communicated and adhered to. If organizational goals are not made clear, then each may feel that they are right and the other wrong which is usually not the case in reality. Sometimes personalities can come into the equation. If the personality issues are not dealt with, these types of problems will persist.


An example related to quality is the development of a new process or even a quality system. If the process or quality system involves inter-departmental linkages (which most do) there needs to be involvement and “buy-in” by all involved areas. To create these processes in a vacuum will not result in an optimal implementation usually.                


Bottom line is that as Deming stated – “Management Creates the System” and thus the organizational goals as well. Fuzzy goals equal an ineffective organization.    


Here is to improvement.



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!


Deming – Point no. 3 – Cease Dependence on Mass Inspection

Deming Point No. 3 – Cease Dependence on Mass Inspection

Continuing on with Deming’s point no. 3 (one of my favorites) is “Cease Dependence on Mass Inspection”. Unfortunately many organizations have this problem. 

There are many problems with this approach:

* Adds cost to your process

* Is only a method of detecting the problem and does nothing to keep it from happening again.

* In addition to potential costs of scrap, you may incur costs for rework, repair, and sorting.

* If the defect that was not detected it could also get out to your customer which has even worse repercussions.

* These costs are coming right from your company bottom line, which also hurts the potential for employee bonus, raises, profit sharing, stock dividend payouts as well as makes the company staying open less attractive to the shareholders and less competitive to customers.

Basically, a detect vs. prevent mentality is a losing situation for all stockholders. Many companies perform inspection in all phases of product handling (Receiving of materials, setup, in-process by production, in-process by QC, final inspection of all containers after production, final batch inspection) and  dock audits to make sure packaging and labeling was also done correctly. Some of these are necessary depending on the maturity of your quality system, manufacturing process and even your employee skill levels but in the end they are “band-aids” to being totally effective. Many times the inspection becomes so ingrained in the process that it continues on throughout the life of the product because the customer is not complaining and because leadership is lacking to drive process improvement (also know as complacency). 

So what should we be doing? There are a number of effective and proactive strategies that many companies use.

a) Production Process Planning (sometimes referred to APQP, or product realization planning). This is in my opinion the greatest tool in our arsenal as it forces and allows us to thoroughly review and put in place the necessary actions to operate a defect free process. Production Process Planning (if done properly) allows us to look at the design of the product so that it is feasible for manufacture and sometimes more  feasible for the end user who at times does not know your product as well as you. Production Process Planning is many times done to checklisats, planning sheets, and allows us to review the entire process from design to shipment (and sometimes post delivery).

b) Error-proofing, mistake-proofing, poka-yoke, etc… is the use of different methods to prevent defects or prevent the quantity of defects with the use of fixture design, product design, sensors, etc… Error proofing can be done to where an error cannot be made (remember error leads to a defect) through product and process design. No error can mean – no defect. This is also an ongoing process throughout the product lifecycle as processes will always find new creative ways to producing an error.

One of my favorite Production Process Planning tools is the Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA). There are a number of different types of FMEA (Design, Process, System, Machine, etc..). A great text on some of these FMEA types is the AIAG FMEA manual in my experience.

Needless to say that not focusing on proactive/ preventive activities will always lead to additional costs and in most cases the detection activities are not value-added. The definition of value-added that I like to look at is – “Is your customer willing to pay for the activity?”. If no,t it is not truly a value added activity. Having said that however I try to be realistic and admit that there can be activities that are non-value added but necessary.

Here’s to good planning.

Mark .

Process Stability – it all starts here.

Many of us have used the common statistical tools of ppk and cpk for determining how capable our processes are. Many times we blindly input our raw variable data into a statistical software such as Minitab and admire our statistical genius without first making sure our process producing the data is stable. Some of the Minitab tools (capability 6 pack) will tell us if our data is stable via the probability plot and the control chart functions, but many do not take this step first of actually looking at the data with these tools. In a nutshell unless your process is stable the statistical probability behind the ppk and cpk formulas are not valid with non stable data.

Lean implementation has some similarities with this example in that we should first install a stable, repeatable process before we can begin to realize the true benefits that Lean or the Toyota production System (TPS) offer us with other tools in the toolbox like kaizen. The “House of Lean” is built upon the premise of “stability”. If we do not first install and develop a process that is done the same way every time, using the same repeated steps and same tools we cannot truly expect to reap the benefits. If our process being studied is not stable and repeatable how can we expect to analyze it to find the areas for improvement. That is why a true Lean initiative (in my opinion) should be started with standardization, 5S and value stream mapping (current state). Only once we have a stable process can we move onto the other tools available such as Just-in time (kanban), quality at the source, poka-yoke (mistake proofing), etc… Once these are installed the kaizen process can be repeated again and again to bring our process to higher and higher levels.

Stability (as is the case in many areas in life) is the key. If your day (work or home) is a chaotic frenzy then you cannot hope to focus on the proactive areas.         

Organizational change

Organizational change

In many instances (actually most or all) this involves “culture change”. We have all heard the saying – “change is hard” and it can be if we do not introduce a strong enough reason as to why it needs to change.

Company culture (good or bad) is a result of many things. Some examples are below:

* The beliefs reinforced by the owner/ management staff

* The values, attitudes and beliefs of the individual employees/ team

* The experiences/ training/ beliefs/ of the employees and management

Culture usually develops over a period of time within a group or organization. In many instances the longer an organization has been in business or the longer an employee has been employed at a company the more difficult it is to permanently change the existing culture. It is not impossible, but can be difficult.

There a number of steps that should be taken when a culture change initiative is being undertaken. These are outlined below:

1) Determine why the current culture is the way that it is (behavior is caused and so is culture. There is some sort of “payoff” or else it would not be maintained.

2) Know exactly what the desired culture is. If you don’t know where you want to go, you will never get there.

3) Create a strong enough reason as to why change is needed. This could be the loss of critical business, competition, sales decline, pending closure or bankruptcy, etc… If there is a stong enough “why”, the how becomes simple.

4) build your team of “cheerleaders” that will aid in the change and will act as peer pressure to get the change implemented. Sometimes a small-scale (bell weather) project helps in gaining this support team.

5) Use teams/ team building. Anything that involves multiple departments is served well to use teams to help reduce resistance.

6) Management needs to reinforce and “walk the talk”

7) Provide the necessary training, education and competency to make the change. This includes the technical as well as the “soft skills”.

Deming’s 1st point – Constancy of Purpose

Having always been a Deming follower, I wanted to put together a post on some of his points.  His 1st point is as follows:

“Create Constancy of Purpose For The Improvement of Product and Service”

I feel that Deming put this in the top spot on purpose. If there is not a “constancy of purpose” the remaining 13 points will not result in the expected benefit and improvement.

Your organization purpose should be stated in either your Vision statement/ mission statement/ quality policy/ etc… Many companies have these (probably most) but many that I have seen really have no meaning to drive the organization. They are empty statments that hang on a wall. Most will talk about satisfying the customer, continual improvment, supplying quality product, etc.. but when the measureable objectives are looked at there is a gap. The gap can either be in the goal itself or the performance of meeting the goals.

Many organizations are focused solely on the daily fights, the quarterly dividends, annual profit sharing checks, etc..  instead of the long term goal of staying in business, growing and improving. Many times the goals and objectives are exactly the opposite of what should be the long term focused objectives. For example I have heard that Honda has what it calls it’s 100 year plan. How is that for a forward looking business? Other simple things like your business contingency plans and capital expenditures can reveal where the focus is at (daily survival or long term viability).

Stephen Covey also stated it perfectly in his book “First Things First” when he stated that companies that are focused on the urgent are least focused on the important (my summary of his statement – not a quote).

In a nutshell a simple tool such as a tree diagram can be used to start at your organization’s long term objective and can then be branched downward to other goals within the divisions, plants, departments and personnel.

I feel that too many companies are too focused on the short term and not the long term. Deming wisely summed it up many years ago, yet many still do not heed the advice (either for lack of knowing, lack of understanding or just that the organization culture is focused in the wrong direction). It is sometimes difficult to “right the ship” but it can be done.

To improvement!


The 16 Step M.E.N Problem Solving Process Approach

The 16 step M.E.N Problem Solving Process Approach ©


1)      Identify the problem (What is the gap)

2)      Describe the problem in detail (Provide detailed information)

3)      Select potential containment methods (stop the bleeding) (Plan)

4)      Decide on best containment action (cost/ benefit analysis/ test method) (Plan)

5)      Implement containment actions (Try it out/ test it) (Do)

6)      Verify the effectiveness/ Decide (Will it do what you want it to) (Check/ Act)

7)      Select potential root causes (Plan)

8)      Decide on most likely/ feasible root cause/s to address (Do)

9)      Collect data to verify which of the decided upon root causes are correct (check)

10)  Decide on the actual root cause/s (based on data collected to verify) (Act)

11)  Select potential permanent corrective action (cost/ benefit analysis/ risk) (Plan)

12)  Decide on data collection methods to verify corrective action will work (Plan/ Do)

13)  Review data/ verify permanent corrective actions will work as planned (check)

14)  Implement permanent corrective actions (Act)

15)  Verify effectiveness of permanent actions (check – again)

16)  Implement preventive actions (standardize/ communicate/ audit for ongoing effectiveness) (Act)

Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA)

Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA)

The PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) is not just another quality tool or quality notion. The PDCA cycle is sometimes linked with PDSA (Plan-Do-Study-Act) which basically are both the same in my eyes. The PDCA/ PDSA cycles are not merely quality tools but are how we deal effectively with life. PDCA is used in more areas than most of us think. For example – in getting to work in the morning we must PLAN what time we need to get up, the best route to get there and prepare our needed items in advance. Next comes the DO which merely means we implement our plan and get to work (car, bus, etc…). The 3rd step is to CHECK (or study) the effectiveness of the results. Did we get to our destination on time and safely? Lastly comes ACT which means that – based on the results of our planning and implementation efforts we either correct the results or possibly refine/ improve how we will do it the next time. If we did not meet the goal we call it corrective action. If we did and we look to improve the results it is called continual improvement. Either way action based on data/ results is taken.

This can be applied to other life processes as well such as cooking dinner. In this case we (PLAN) the meal (what, when, how many people, etc…), We (Do) prepare the meal after which we (CHECK) the results by eating it and then (ACT) decide if we need to either make it over, add some seasoning or make it different next time.

The PDCA is also commonly usd in the quality field as an improvement tool. After an opportunity for improvement is selected a definitive PLAN is developed to attack it. The plan is again implemented (Do) and the results verified (Check) for effectiveness. Did we achieve the goal (reduce an event from occurring, remove a defect, increase the throughput of a process, etc…). At this point we either determine we need to reformulate our plan or conclude that we achieved the goal and move onto improve the process further or move onto another process altogether.

As you can plainly see the PDCA/ PDSA cycle is not just another “Quality tool”. It is how we effectively deal with life and improve things.

Here is to effective problem solving.

Mark      .