Very good your article. I took the "liberty" to translate it to portuguese to sahre it with other coleagues in Brazil that don't read well in english.
A long time I didn't see an objective article about the rising low-quality of products and services and the acceptance of ordinary people on it.
I think is in our hands to bring quality back.
Speaking from an inside software development perspective, I've seen the pressure to meet a nonsensical deadline. The result was a piece of software that had kludge, patch and fix upon yet more kludges and patches piled on until the product creaked to life. There was literally no time to investigate the design issues that we faced as the sales people over-ruled the engineers every time we wanted to correct a fundamental flaw in the design. The standard response was always, "Can you patch it?" This situation was by no means unique, as I've seen it in military contractors, aviation, communications and commercial products companies.
One company threatened our CEO by telling him that unless the problems were fixed, they would rip out our boxes and dump them into the nearest landfill. How's that for building the company's reputation for quality?
The software we were forced to deliver was highly coupled, badly designed, buggy and brittle. Requests by customers for even small changes were a nightmare to implement and get right. Of course when the product failed, as it often did we were chastised on the quality of our processes. Any attempt to bring realism to the discussion of schedules was met with the retort, "... but you agreed to the schedule in the first place." Of course the threat was always that if you can't do the job then we will get someone in who can.
If this sounds a tad cynical it was meant to be as I don't see anyone, save the Japanese companies, attempting to change the status quo.
It use to be common (I don't know if it still is) for design engineers to operate a resistor at know more than a certain percentage of its rated power. Other components were similarly derated. Practices such as these contributed to a robust design.
Jack made the remark that durability and ruggedness "do not equate to quality", but that being good enough to do the job was adequate quality. That sounds like the sales people who start to list features of a product when I mention my desire for quality. Even a paper towel must not fall apart until after it has completed the task of drying my hands. A quality tool is one that not only fits correctly the first time that I use it, but still fits (or functions) correctly after I use it a few hundred times. A quality refrigerator would last 40 years, and the first part to fail would be the door gasket. Of course, it would not even have an ice maker. The quality color TV sets in the sixties did give a decent picture on all the channels with an adequate signal. It was the junk sets that had the problems. The guilty parties know who I mean. So definitely, we can say that a high quality product gives us our money's worth, while a poor quality product does not.
Don, you ask where the Quality is and then go to a big box store to try and find it?
That's like going to Walmart when you want to buy a Cadillac. Even if Walmart sold cars, what kind of car do you think you would find?
Good story, and I'm sure a nice guy but give your head a shake.
Don is right on with his story. Lots of products -mostly modules- that engineers use are not even finished, or they have flaws. The key for succes -in my humble opinion- is to bring stuff on the market that really is doing the job suburb. There are brands (ON-semi, National, Analog devices) who do that. Then, doing so, your company will be a winner. Unfortunately this is overshadowed by extremely quick innovation. (It is a kind of paradox) Best is not to leave your principles behind and finish your product.
When you really really analyze the past it all started with the PC e.g. Micro$oft. No one knew anything about computers those days and no one would dare to admit that the software of these days actually was one piece of garbage. (We all paid for it... Hard to admit you threw your money in the bin, right? ;-) You asked your neighbor how he solved his PC problems. On the other hand, your car and even the car radio you expect that to work in 1 time. If not, you go back. My theory here is that Mr Billy Gates really F$#%^ed up our mindset about these things. He initialized this trend. It indeed started a few decades ago.... I would suggest to all of you readers: Give this a thought.