What can Management learn from NASCAR?

What can Management learn from NASCAR?

I may as well start with a fitting quote:
“I have a lot to learn about NASCAR
but I’ve learned if you have the right people in the
right places doing the right things
you can be successful at whatever you do.”
(Roger Staubach)
“NASCAR Pit Teams and Quality Management”

I saw an interesting video in the past couple of days that really illustrated some important relationships to project planning, teamwork, management in general and 5S.

Any of us that have seen a NASCAR race probably watch in awe as the drivers pull their car in to the pit area for fuel, tire changes, and other necessary actions to allow their driver to get back into the race with the smallest of lost down time for these needed actions. The pit crew seems to move as if scripted from a play. Well, in fact they are. Pit crews, race teams and others analyze every action that needs to get done and ways to eliminate any wasted time doing them. Any errors or team members not completing their actions on-time can cause delay to the others on their team and can cause a loss to the driver.

Here are some things that I notice when watching these pit crews:
1) Everyone on the team knows exactly what it is they need to do.
2) The team also knows what order these need to be done in.
3) The team communicates amongst each other to let the others know how they are doing or if there are issues.
4) The team members know exactly what the target is for each task and the overall target to complete the project and get the driver back in the race.
5) The team members are specifically fit into the tasks that best fit their abilities.
6) They also practice and train on these tasks over and over until they are perfected.
7) They have all of the needed technology and tools to best do their tasks and to stay ahead of their competitors.
8) Only the specific tools that are needed to complete their tasks are in the work areas. This prevents looking for things. Remember, every split second is crucial.
9) Lastly, they know exactly how they did with regards to the task. Did they meet their time target or not? If not the review it to see what went wrong, so they don’t do it again.

It really is a thing of beauty if you watch exactly what is going on. Now you may ask- what does this have to do with quality management? Everything in my view.
How many times have we worked on projects or parts of a larger project and had no clue as to when our tasks were to be completed or when the overall project was to be completed? How many times have we had to wait when preceding tasks were not completed which caused delay to ours and the overall project?

What are some of the causes of these delays and failures?
1) Lack of communication
2) Lack of resources to actually complete the tasks
3) Lack of the needed tools or technology to perform the tasks most effectively and efficiently.
4) New technology that has not been formally introduced or trained on.
5) Inadequate preparation to identify all of the things that can go wrong and come up with a contingency plan in the event they do (or better yet a plan to prevent it from occurring at all).
These are all things that a NASCAR pit crew does so well that we can learn from. It seems simple in the NASCAR context and can be so simple in our world of quality management, project management and even other initiatives/ tools like 5S or setup reduction. It really comes down to knowing exactly what needs to be done, who is to do it, how, how long it will take and provision/ training on the best tools for the job and PRACTICE (training).

Obviously this is a simplified blog discussion and there are other specific tasks that need to be done as well. This is just a starting point to get you thinking, as is the intention of this blog article.

Here is to improvement.


Quality Leadership – Vision is crucial

Quality Leadership – Vision is crucial
I may as well start with a fitting quote:
“The fact is that all flights, short or long distance, are off course 99% of the time..”
(Brian Tracy)
“Complacency is the enemy”
If we do not have a crystal clear picture of what we want our quality system to be or do, there is a very high probability that we will merely coast along into complacency. This can be dangerous because when we become complacent we stop improving.
It is my belief that quality leadership begins with a “Quality Vision for the organization”. This is not to imply a placard hanging on the wall with a flashy statement that no one looks at, much less cares about.

Without a clear picture in our minds of where our quality system will be in the future, the employees (including management) will likely have no idea of what needs to be done or what improvements they should be working on. As a matter of fact, employees may actually be working on projects that are in conflict with what the organization is trying to achieve. Without this clear “vision” of where you plan (or need) to be in terms of your quality system and product/ service quality, you will end up in a place that you do not want to be. Like the plane (above in the quote) that is constantly off course and is constantly having its course adjusted to reach the desired destination (Vision), your organization needs to know what the end destination is. Without this, you may jump around on project after project, yet not be moving any closer to where you truly need to be moving towards. Some will refer to this as “busy work”. Confusing this “busy work” or movement for progress is a waste of resources and lost time.

“How do we do it?”
Here are some initial steps to what I consider crucial in becoming an effective quality organization:
1) Have a clear vision or picture in your mind as to where you want to be as an organization in “X” number of years or months. This will set the stages for the next steps thus it is important.
2) Next, develop a meaningful quality policy. Quality policies should be in terminology that all employees understand and can translate into clear direction for the daily activities. ISO 9001 requires one as well.
3) Develop and communicate actionable “Objectives”. These should be directly linked to your Quality Policy and your Vision. Each of these objectives should use the “S.M.A.R.T’ approach. (Specific, Measureable, Action Oriented, Realistic and time bound).
4) Define the critical business processes within your organization, the process owners, objectives & measures of success of each and monitor/ measure them.
5) Have clearly defined jobs for your employees with objectives and constant feedback.
6) Develop a robust hiring and employee development program.
7) Develop a rock solid contract review and product launch process. If you are not doing this correctly and effectively, you will likely fight problems during the entire product life cycle.
8) Implement a top notch internal audit process made up of all departments, units. There is no better method to engage and educate employees on the “big picture” of the business than to involve them.
9) Important one – management must walk the talk. Saying one thing and doing another is probably the worst thing for an organization. This can be as damaging as trying to implement new programs every month that go nowhere (start/ stops).

Obviously there are tasks that need to be done as well, but this is just a starting point as is intended by this post.

Here is to improvement.

Discussion 3 – Phases of Planned Change:

Discussion 3 – Phases of Planned Change:

One approach to implementing change in an organization was developed by a psychologist named Kurt Lewin. His approach consists of three simple steps:

1)      Unfreezing:

–          This is the first phase in implementing change. It consists of creating a strong enough desire for changing the old, unwanted culture or behaviors. If the “pain” of doing the same unwanted behaviors is not strong enough, there will be no desire felt within the organization to change. In my experience, organization behavior evolves as a result of what is felt to get the perceived job done, while expending the least amount of perceived effort to do it. Many times these methods are not optimal and actually work against other goals and objectives. The change agents need to make a strongly felt reason to change. Some examples might be the threat of closure due to more efficient competitors, or better products that serve a need better.    

2)      Changing:

–          This second phase is where the new culture, behaviors, way to do things is put in place. It is important that any infrastructure needed to support the new change be thought out and in place. If this does not happen, the organization will resist the new change and will either fall back to the old way or even a hybrid of the old and new ways that may be worse for the organization. Many organizations do not do a good job at implementing new initiatives and the employees become resistant to any and all new initiatives. This “start/ stop” can make employees feel that the latest change will come and go as well, thus will not be supported. This phase may require training in the new methods, new equipment, resources, etc… It is important that these be met. 

3)      Refreezing:

–          The third phase in the three step approach of Lewin is the Refreezing phase. This is the phase where the new changes, behaviors, etc…  are made to be the new daily norms of the organization. I have this referred to as “standardize” in the quality assurance field and this is where you make the new behaviors part of the “standard’ method of operating. Some effective methods of doing this are by linking rewards to the new behaviors. I have experienced companies that tie these types of things into regular reviews as well reinforcing it there as well. 

4)      Organization change:

–          Organizational change can be one of the toughest tasks that leadership can face. People are resistant to change by nature unless the need to change is strong enough. At times, company management may have to create a situation (real or perceived by the workforce) to start the process.

To  improvement!


Why the “process Based QMS model ” makes perfect sense

Why the “process Based QMS model ” makes perfect sense


I may as well start with a fitting quote:

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

(Albert Einstein)


“Our system is not working”

   A recurring statement that many have heard at some point. The response in many instances is to tweak a procedure a little, add a new form, etc… Is there a more effective way? I believe so. The “process based approach” gives us a concrete method by which to determine if a process is effectively doing what it was intended to do. The reason is that the very basis of this approach drives a company to ask a very simple and important question about each QMS process. How do we monitor and/or measure whether or not the process is functioning as we want it to? This question leads to determining some objective way to measure the process instead of going off of a hunch or gut feeling.


   A “system” is formed by the interactions of each of the processes that make it up. If one or more of the “processes” that it is comprised of are not operating effectively, the “system” could possibly have the same problem. Our QMS should consist of metrics or objectives that measure each of the QMS processes. These metrics should drive the day to day operation of the process, by the process owner and should be reviewed by management. If there are suspicions that a systemic problem exists, instead of grasping at straws and not performing proper root cause analysis, look at the individual processes and the associated objectives or metrics. If there is a problem, the metrics should confirm it assuming that the correct QMS process metrics have been chosen. 


   In my opinion, one of the greatest improvements in the ISO 9000 based series was the shift to a “Process Based Approach”. The “silo” driven QMS that does not use effective metrics is (or any metrics) is not an effective or value-added manner to operate a business. The choice to define your QMS processes, choose effective metrics for them and act on the data is one of the best choices a company can make.


   Many or most of us may recall the PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) cycle (sometimes referred to as the Shewart cycle). It is used interchangeably at times by some with the PDSA (Plan-Do-Study-Act) or Deming cycle. The whole idea being that you plan how you will do something, check to see how it is performing against the plan, review the results or objectives/ metrics and then take action on the results. This is the “pulse” behind the process based QMS/ approach. Many companies will establish metrics (on-time delivery, customer rejects, etc…) but not tie them to specific QMS processes that drive action (corrective action). The day to day management of the process is crucial to make short term corrections. Equally important, but often forgotten, is the “big picture” review by management (Management review process) to determine if there are “systemic” issues that the “process view” may not reveal. There may be recurring issues being seen by the individual processes that are being corrected from a short term (fire fighting) point of view but not being addressed from a big picture point of view. Management should be reviewing the “system” by reviewing the “processes” as well as the overall performance of the relationship between them. 


   So, how does an organization start the “Process Based QMS” journey? Here is a brief list of the steps in the approach I have used:

1)      Define what it is your business does and the processes that exist (do not overanalyze here – keep the process simple)

2)      Decide who the logical “Process Owner” is. This person should have the responsibility and the authority to affect the results

3)      With the Process Owner and Management, define the objective (can be a monitored or a measured result) as well as the goal that tells you that the process is operating well and as planned

4)      Analyze the process in detail defining the inputs, outputs, information required, governing method (procedure, work instruction, etc…), the resources needed (computer software, dept. resources, equipment, etc…)

5)      Decide how the data on the process will be gathered, by who, how, how often

6)      Define how the results will be monitored by management (Formal management review, other meetings, etc…)

7)      Make sure that the process owner knows how to, and that they are responsible for the continual improvement, corrective action and preventive action of the process

8)      Continue using the P.D.C.A methodology         


   I think most will find this QMS approach to be very interesting and beneficial to the business as well as the quality system.  


Here is to improvement.


Developing an Effective Quality Management System (QMS)

Developing an Effective Quality Management System (QMS)

 Let’s start by breaking down and defining what a Quality Management System (QMS) is in its simplest form:

–          Quality (Q) – Effectively and efficiently giving the customer what they are expecting and paying you for.

–          Management (M) – is the most effective and efficient use of resources (people, equipment, processes, etc…)

–          System (S) – is a stable, repeatable way of meeting some goal/ objective by effectively managing the processes making up the system.

If we put this together we see that a QMS is the repeatable method of managing all of the processes that form the system by which you provide a customer (internal or external) for something that they find value in.


In the not so distant past developing a QMS meant nothing more than writing a quality manual, procedures and work instructions to meet the requirements of some standard (such as ISO 9001).


More recent approaches are looking at the entire system and the QMS (business) processes that make it up, the objectives and measures of success (goals) of these processes and then the documentation aspect of it. The “bottom line” is that you can have the most perfectly written procedures in the world that are followed to the letter of the law, but if they are not adding value by meeting the “real” goals of the processes they mean nothing.


QMS processes are meant to add value, be measured, require the use of resources and data and be managed to fulfill the stated objectives.


Developing a QMS can be difficult if it is done correctly. Now there are those that buy a pre-packaged documentation package or have a Consultant write the entire system for them.

Many companies and quality professionals find the biggest hurdle to be resistance to change. In developing a QMS, one has to try to minimize this resistance where possible. A few strategies that I personally find helpful to minimizing this resistance are to:

  • Involve and empower the workforce that will be working in the processes.
  • Find out which of the current practices, processes, procedures, etc… are working well and try to use them and only changing/ adding/ revising those aspects that need to be changed, initially.
  • Get Senior Management buy in and support right at the outset. If this is lacking you are almost always doomed to failure. This helps in obtaining the resources for the project, and getting the process owners to take ownership of the processes that they were tasked to manage.


Here is a brief path that I find useful in developing a QMS (note – this is not claimed to be the only path as there are many).


1)      Establish a steering committee/ team to guide the process and an overall champion

2)      Determine the overall project required completion and work backwards on the pieces that make up the project.

3)      Determine the QMS process and objectives. These may not formally exist yet, but you can sometimes determine them by talking to those involved in the processes of the QMS. These should also drive your quality policy and quality objectives.

4)      Perform a baseline audit to the required QMS standard or other requirements.

5)      Based on the audit, determine the “gaps” and put a priority on them based on those that impact the customer, effect the company bottom line or the order needed to build a basic quality management system if one does not exist. More on this later.

6)      Develop your Quality Policy Manual/ Documentation. (Sometimes called Level 1 documentation)

7)      Develop your QMS procedures (Who is responsible for what) in the determined format (process maps, text based, pictures, etc…). (Sometimes called Level 2 documentation)

8)      Where deemed necessary develop any needed work instructions (The How To) documentation of your system. (Sometimes called Level 3 documentation)

9)      Train your entire team on the required new or revised QMS documentation and verify the effectiveness. This is a chance to give the changes a “dry run”.

10)  Gather and analyze data on the QMS process metrics/ measures/ etc…

11)  Make sure that the QMS process measures have been given careful planning. Mainly what is being measured, who will produce the data, who will gather it, how, how often, who will analyze it and who will take action on it?

12)  Perform another QMS system audit and address any “gaps” with your corrective action process.


Developing a QMS can be intimidating but if you keep a cool head and focus on the important things first as discussed above you will be fine with some simple project management. Keep in mind that you still have a business to run and you need to keep the customer serviced and satisfied.


Good luck.


Getting to the Roots – Life Reinforces Basic Quality Concepts

Getting to the Roots – Life Reinforces Basic Quality Concepts


I will again start my blog with a fitting quote – (pardon the improper English)

“Normal people believe that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Engineers believe that if it ain’t broke, it doesn’t have enough features yet.”

(Author Unknown)



It never ceases to amaze me how basic quality concepts and teachings are reinforced again and again.


Getting to the roots

I take quality seriously and the things that I have learned from many good teachers over the years. I am always looking at the linkages and relationships between the different areas of my life. Some that are very important to me are my health & fitness, and sound quality principles.


This past weekend I was out doing some yard work and began pulling up some weeds that had started. Initially, my first instinct was to grasp the leafy portion and pull the wed up. Unfortunately some of them had taken root and were quite difficult to get out of the ground and the leafy part of the weed broke off leaving the root. This reminded me of a very important quality principle of “getting to the root” of problems. Some might be happy with merely pulling the leafy part of the weed off and continued to do the same with the others when the same issue came up. I can hear it now “Hey as long as I can’t see the weed I am happy”. Unfortunately this mentality goes on in our organizations as well.


For any of us that have experienced this weed pulling experience and went on to the next weed we always find that the pesky weed comes back. This same phenomenon occurs in our organizations as well. A problem not truly solved will be back to cause grief again and again. To make matters worse, other “weeds” (A.K.A problems) usually follow and before you know it, the number of them is out of control and we end up giving up in frustration or tearing our lawns up to start over.


This serves to illustrate the importance of taking proactive steps with our yards and our organizations. Many believe that you treat the problem once and it is taken care of and forget about the maintenance part of the equation. This principle applies to lawns and organizations. For example – do you shower and are “good for life”? If you have a really great workout – does that mean you do not have to do it again? Absolutely not! Our lawns, our Lives,  our health and yes our organizations (employees, quality systems, products, etc…) all require monitoring, measuring and maintenance.


What are some of these preventive activities as they relate to our organizations?:

a)      Solid FMEA processes.

b)      Effective training processes for employees.

c)      Developing and maintaining solid and effective processes.

d)      Measurement of our processes (Product and QMS processes) and acting on the data.

e)      Involvement of employees in the planning and implementation of the process and organizational operations.

f)        Implementing, enforcing and reinforcing quality at the source.

g)      Simplify, stabilize and standardize everything (more to follow on this in another blog article).

h)      Develop and monitor “S.M.A.R.T.” Goals for everyone and the organization as a whole.

i)        Hold people accountable and not their hands.

j)        Audit your processes.                    


The bottom line is to make sure that we actually gather the data on our problems and take the time to properly dig until we get to the root of the problems before they overtake the “garden”.


Here is to improvement.


Deming’s Point No. 8 – Drive Out Fear

Deming’s Point No. 8 – Drive Out Fear


W. Edwards Deming’s 8th point can also be defined as “Creating a Culture of Trust”.


I will again start my blog with a fitting quote –

“Confidence comes not from always being right but from not fearing to be wrong”
Peter T. McIntyre


Maslow’s well known Hierarchy of Human Needs, states that unless humans have satisfied their basic “physiological” needs (air, food, shelter, job), those higher level – “self actualization” needs (personal growth, further education, promotion, etc…) will not be sought after.


Much of this information has been known for a very long time, yet we as organizations, Managers, Supervisors, etc… still have failed to address this. Many Managers and Supervisors have only a minimal understanding of the job that their employees do, the problems they encounter, and the employees input on to make things better.


In a time when many are fearful of job loss due to the sluggish economy this is even more prevalent. Employees are afraid to take their problems to their Managers for fear of job loss.


What are some of the effects (“symptoms”)?

  • Fear loss of job or negative impact on reviews
  • Fear of ridicule by Managers or peers
  • Fear of being blamed for the issue


What are some of the actual causes for this?

  • Lack of a stable process, system , QMS or environment
  • Lack of actual training or a training process
  • Lack of resources to perform the work (equipment, time, personnel, or materials)
  • Lack of authority or empowerment to “stop the process” by Management when there is a problem (“We have to make a shipment” syndrome) 
  • Conflicting objectives in the organization or department
  • Untrained, unqualified managers or others in leadership positions that fear empowering their workers.


How do we “fix” this?

  • Train employees properly. Do not just put them on the job. If they are not confident in the ability to do the job, we cannot expect them to perform properly.
  • Empower your employees. This means to give them the tools, information and support to do their assigned tasks.
  • Have an “open door policy” so issues do not get “trapped” in the hierarchy.
  • Practice “open book management” so that employees feel and are part of the team and have input into how the business is operated to some extent.
  • Be willing to “stop the process” when there is a problem and give workers the authority to do so. Nothing is more discouraging than not being able to do a good job and make quality products or services for your customer.
  • Train Management in and enforce, encourage empowerment of the employees. This can be very challenging for them but can stifle employee enthusiasm and creativity
  • Do not merely chastise employees when there is a problem. Solve the problem with them and fix the process. Take the “person” out of it. An environment of “yelling, screaming and condescending discussions” will only encourage the environment of “fear”.



Here is to improvement.


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.