Quality: More than just a result

BY MASAAKI IMAI - 2016-12-16

Quality in this context means the quality of products or services. In a broad sense, however, it also means the quality of the processes and of the work that yields these products or services.We may call the former result quality and the latter process quality.  By this definition, quality runs through all phases of company activity—namely, throughout the processes of developing, designing,producing, selling, and servicing the products or services. Figure 3-1, a quality assurance system diagram of Toyoda Machine Works, shows how quality-assuring activities take place on an ongoing basis at a tool manufacturing company. One might say that this diagram shows all the key steps of process quality. Reading from top to bottom, Figure 3-1 shows the flow of activities from the identification of customer requirements through such stages as Product Planning 1 (the customer’s standpoint). Product Planning 2 (the manufacturer’s standpoint), Prototype Design and Test, Sales Activities, Production Design, Production Preparations, Production, Customer Service, and Audit.

Reading the diagram from left to right shows the involvement of people from various departments. The main body of the diagram shows activities that assure quality at every process. The flow of quality-related information also appears here. For instance, below the Division Manager column appear four stages of design review (DR), meaning that the division manager is involved in all design review stages.

The Conference column in Figure 3-1 shows cross-functional meetings and conferences in which the departments concerned must participate at each key stage before moving on to the next stage. The last column on the right shows the related standards, regulations, or documents corresponding to each stage of quality assurance. This diagram shows that before gemba starts making the products, a long list of quality-assuring actions take place. For instance, items 8 through 12 of Standards and Regulations (including the process control manual, the instrumentation and calibration manual, the inspection manual, the QC process table, the standard operating procedures manual, my operation manual, and the manual on outgoing inspection) list typical procedures that assure quality at gemba. But the diagram also shows that items 1 through 7 have been completed by the time gemba work begins. Activities that precede gemba (standards 1 through 8) are called upstream management. Traditionally, when quality was perceived primarily as a matter of workmanship, quality-related efforts focused mainly on gemba. While workmanship remains one of the most important pillars of quality, people increasingly recognize that quality in the area of design, product concepts, and understanding of customer requirements must precede gemba work. Most activities in gemba relate to workmanship and seldom reach upstream management, although gemba-based kaizen activities arise from management’s policy deployment, which in turn identifies the need for kaizen upstream as well. Top management must establish standards for quality of planning.

Planning correctly the first time around—accurately understanding customer needs, translating this understanding into the engineering and designing requirements, and making advance preparations for a smooth start-up—makes it possible to avoid many problems in gemba during process stages as well as in after-sales service. The job of developing a new product or designing a new process starts with paperwork. Bugs or malfunctions can be rectified with the stroke of a pen at no cost. Malfunctions identified later, in the production stage or—even worse—after the product has been delivered to the customer, necessitate very expensive corrections. Quality function deployment (QFD) is a powerful tool that enables management to identify the customer’s needs, convert

those needs into engineering and designing requirements, and eventually deploy this information to develop components and processes, establish standards, and train workers. The system diagram in Figure 3-1 shows that the company is using the tools of QFD in the daily quality assurance activities listed in the right-hand column. These tools include QA tables, which are matrixes correlating between such items as customers’ requirements and corresponding engineering parameters. Upstream management plays an indispensable role in assuring quality. On the other hand, if gemba is not sufficiently robust, the company will not be able to enjoy the full benefits of even the most effective upstream management. Such a situation is analogous to making a sophisticated plan to climb Mount Everest only to find that one’s legs are too weak to make the climb.

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Acknowledgement: GEMBA KAIZEN book by Masaaki Imai

Gemba Kaizen