When Don Baechtel and I had dinner in Ohio this summer, he brought a list of industry issues he thought we should all talk about it. Atop the list was quality, which isn't particularly good in his eyes.
WOW, what a subject, quality! The simple fact that we here in North America build very little anymore is directly poportionl to quality. I remember years ago where tools and regular hardware store items were made in North America, and most of them are around today. Unfortunatley large corporations have outsourced the brand name products we use to buy to offshore places. Hence profits went up, quality went down, and the landfills are being filled to the brim with throw away junk that doesn't last. Seeing as the corporate world sees the average consumer as ignorant of quality, they take adavntage of the situation. It is a proven fact that 75% of the public do not know what quality is. (Some stats I read about 25 years ago). It costs about 1/10 to 1/20 to build offshore as it does on home ground. Unfortunatley the price of these offshore goods sold here fail to reflect that price. You'd be amazed at how cheap items are in China that we pay so much for here in North America. Automotive Quality? some people made the comment that the engine lasts longer, truth is engine oil is better, and roads have improved drastically. As for all the plastic that breaks in cold weather or falls off because of poor engineering standards has not been solved. The fact remains that this country is flooded with inferior autoparts that do not have the quality of what was built here in North America. We should all revolt and buy cheap made in India cars and drive them to the landfill when they expire, it would be cheaper than making payments on what we are driving now.
Well the consumer got cheap products, the corporations laid off home workers for outsourcing while filling their pockets with truckloads of money, and our communities are not economically sustainable anymore. What is even worse is some of these companies took taxpayer's money to stay afloat and protect jobs? where you say? offshore, where else.
Has automotive quality truly improved? My 1990 Nissan went 250,000km on it's original brake rotors and never needed oil between changes. It did have a flaw that caused it to eat tail pipes every 60,000K, and eventually rust got to it.
My follow on car was retired at 290,000km. Again barely used oil, but needed 2,000 of engine work at 150,000 and struts somewhere. It had little rust.
The next car was "retired accidentally" at 150,000. A so called quality brand, that went through a set of pads every 25-30,000, alignment about the same, and if you looked at it the wrong way the body panels dented. Muffler somewhere in there. Because of the frequent $400+ work on it, ended up costing a lot to maintain.
Current car, 210,000km. Rust in several places. One of the front seats needs replacing, rattles here and there, feeling "soft". I don't think it is going to be long for this world. Another quality brand and yes initial quality was good.
I think this brings up a point, initial quality, which is mainly related to manufacturing processes, and lifetime quality, which is more related to the design. Things today, even cars to some degree, seem to be designed for more disposability .. especially appliances. Plastic for metal, thinner metal, etc. Improved manufacturing ultimately lowers cost and hence gets attention. However, part cost is king and hence long term life has taken a back seat. It must last the warranty reliably. Beyond that ... good luck
I'd guess that in some areas, quality has gone way up, and in others down. The automobile, as qerqwe noted. A lot of people learned to work on cars in the past. Some did it because they enjoyed it, but many more did because they had to. Of course, the counter to that comes in price. Years back, if my transmission died, I could go to a junk yard, spend $150.00 on a working used transmission, and have the car back on the road in a weekend. Today, you'd be looking at $2,500 - $5,000 to get the car back on the road.
DVD players, have gone the other way. I've lost count on how many I've purchased and thrown away. But then, I tend to buy the $40.00 models. If I purchased a $200 player, I'd probably have it until DVDs are out of style.
I would be curious if MTBF calculations are done for many consumer products.
One factor in quality is having a team of people who have been with the company for a long time (does that even happen today?) and are familiar with the company's products, its successes and failures, the reasons for its successes and failures, and are familiar with product design down to a component level. Quality can be a painstaking process. It involves knowledge of materials, suppliers, specifications, absolute maximum ratings, and evnironmental stresses. It also involves holding up a standard and having the backbone to maintain that standard under pressure.
I disagree. Quality isn't the sum of all requirements. It's one of three basic requirements: quality, cost and time. Of those three you can only have two. If you want quality and low cost it will take more time. If you want quality and quick turn around it will cost more. If you want cheap and fast, you'll get low quality.
I agree. We need evidence! In my observation quality as made significant improvements in a number of areas, automobiles come to mind first. Household appliances have regressed though. I used to live in the GOOD OLD DAYS. We have it so much better today.
OK I'll bite.
Where is the evidence that quality is really getting worse?
Is this based on real objective information or is it just the subjective bias of people who feel their jobs/industry are under threat and feel they need to fight back by claiming they do things better than competitors.
Even if people built stuff better in the Good Old Days (something I would dispute), it is important to understand what quality really is.
The ISO9000 definition of quality is:"Degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfills requirements."
Some of those requirements are cost and time to market.
A product that comes to market late - even if gold plated and hand made by PhDs fails to meet the timeliness requirement and is thus reduced quality.
A cell phone that costs $1000 that only provides $20 cell phone features is low quality too.
Different markets set the weighting on various requirements differently: aerospace wants reliability and accountability and does not care about time and cost; consumer products are pretty much the opposite. People and organizations that are tuned to deliver one set of requirements (eg. cost and time insensitive) will often struggle to adapt to delivering according to a different weighting (eg. cost and time sensitive).
I agree that in general product quality has not improved or rather declined over recent years , there are very obvious reasons for that, here are two example:
- competition between manufacturers over the price, eats-up their margin and one of the 1st area that gets the hit is the quality
- Product life cycle is way shorter than it used to be even 5 years ago, again the rush for the mass production affects the quality negatively
however, that does not mean no quality checking is being done, at each industry there are still many riguros mandatory testing, however, that alone is not sufficient to provide the approval seal we are looking for.
Most likley, today's challenges as noted above are not going to allow us to add more layers of approval for our engineering. The only way I can see the quality can be improved is by including its cost into the product's final cost. When the cost of proper quality control is ignored or underestimated, quality is one of the 1st things to be affected.
We also need to educate the consumers that what level of quality they can expect when they opt for cheaper products
1.A quality seal can be put. Real seal is affixed by the users of the products in due course.
2.During QC check involve the vendors QC managers and show them what we exactly need
3.Yes Technical Managers are highly responsible for the product development next to the inputs from the customers needs.Technical managers needs to have a third eye to view the future product and he need to imagine that he himself as the user.This will fine tune the product in the development phase.