Enabling Employees to Assure Quality

Rajinder Singh, Solving Efeso
Published March 18, 2015

As a child, I remember vividly playing in my grandfather’s workshop that was used to repair and re-tread used, worn and damaged truck and bus tires. As we ran in and out of the workshop we saw employees working hard on different processes – buffing, loading and unloading, assembling, etc. – often waving and smiling at us as we passed by. My grandfather was a very jovial person and the complete atmosphere was very happy.

The workshop was very popular in and around the city and known for its quality and customer service. However, sometimes we would see our grandfather agitated and upset. This would only happen, as we realized later, when he received a customer complaint about quality, however minor it might be. This to him was unacceptable and a very painful experience. I think his pain was shared by all the employees in the workshop. Quality was very personal to him. He expected each person to ensure their work was perfect, as a way of showing pride in their craft and workmanship. “Nobody should be able to find any problem with your work,” he would always say. Pride in the work and ownership of what every employee did was a huge factor in the success of this small business.

The Shingo Model™ has embodied this principle as “Assure Quality at the Source.” If we want to have an uninterrupted flow of value to our customers, every element in the process has to take ownership and pride in their work and ensure that work is perfectly done each time.

We recently saw in a large motorcycle manufacturer how ignoring this principle led to serious deterioration of quality and other negative consequences, such as low morale and infighting between employees. The organization’s management team went on a benchmarking study tour to a strong international plant and came back with ideas to create “Quality Gates” as a means of preventing defects from reaching the next process. These were inspection stations at the end of the lines to check and provide feedback to the employees about their quality. Contrary to our advice, these gates were established and used to check parts and provide feedback. The accountability of good quality slowly moved away from the operators to these quality inspectors. The operators stopped taking ownership of their defects and blamed the quality gates for any issues. The ownership vanished and defects started to increase. Within a year this practice was abandoned, but it took a lot more time to re-establish the operators’ lost pride and ownership.

Putting people and tools on the line to catch defects created by another process is a sign of not showing respect in the inherent capability of the people to do good work. Instead, management has to spend time and energy in creating processes that are capable and can catch errors and mistakes by themselves leading to continuous improvement. Dr. Shigeo Shingo preached these concepts when he talked about zero quality control. According to Dr. Shingo, we cannot achieve the aim of zero defects until we make each element of the process capable to produce perfect quality by ensuring the errors and mistakes are quickly identified and corrected before they lead to defects. His idea of poka-yoke and source checking are exactly in line with this principle.

In a nutshell, if we want to create excellent quality and therefore value for our clients, we have to show respect toward our employees and provide them with the capability to do quality work and ensure perfection every time. They should be able to check their own work and catch the mistakes and errors as they happen.

 

Rajinder Singh, Country Manager and Chief Mentor

solvingefeso.com