Category Archives: Total Quality Management

Takt Time: The time it takes to finish a product.

Takt is a German word for the baton used by maestros. Just like the musicians must be synchronized with the conductor, the rate of production within an organization must be synchronized with the rate of its delivery. In a nutshell, takt time is a theoretical figure that indicates how much time is needed to finish one product. The goal is to precisely define takt time to meet customer demand, and then run the production line to meet that takt time. Once takt time is defined, the processes of the entire organization should be adjusted to keep up with it. If any process exceeds the takt time, there will be shortage of product, if it is faster than takt time, there will be product surplus. A simple way to find takt time is to divide the total production time by the number of units required by the customer. This can be expressed in seconds, minutes, or hours per produced item, depending on production speed. To achieve the ideal takt time, it is important to take into account all the irregularities that are part of each step of a process.


Gemba Kaizen: A Commonsense Low-Cost Approach to Management, by Masaaki Imai (McGraw-Hill, 1997) Quick Response Manufacturing: A Companywide Approach to Reducing Lead Times, by Rajan Suri (Productivity Press, 1998) A Lean Guide to Transforming Healthcare: How to Implement Lean in Principles in Hospitals, Medical Offices, Clinics and Other Healthcare Organizations, by Tom Zidel (ASQ Quality Press, 2007)

Extracted from; Qualipedia


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Did Quality Programs kill GM?

Are Quality Methodologies All Smoke and Mirrors? Part One

Can we blame quality programs for GM’s demise?

World War III has begun. This time it’s not a war of battleships, bullets and bombs—this is an economic war. The weapons are televisions, steel, cars, and clothes. This is a war where we have no allies. Every nation is out to capture more of its share of the U.S. and world’s market. We are being attacked with tires from Brazil, cars from Japan, radios from Taiwan, clothes from China, cosmetics from France, shoes from Italy, and beef from Argentina and Australia.

Businesses in the United States entered the 1980s with a deep-seated resolution to stop the flood of import products and as a result, a group of “new admirals and generals” took over to reestablish our industrial leadership. These were people such as John Akers of IBM, F. James McDonald of General Motors Corp. (GM), Jim Olson of AT&T, and John Young of Hewlett-Packard. Industrial leaders like these laid out strategies to thrust the United States back to the prominence it once had. But it takes years to reestablish a reputation once it has been destroyed or at least tarnished.

General Motors—one of the most powerful and respected organizations—is now in bankruptcy. Why did this happen? What did they try to do that didn’t work? To help understand this, I will report on an interview I had in 1988 with GM’s corporate president, F. James McDonald, which was documented in my book, The Quality/Profit Connection (American Society for Quality Control, 1989).

General Motors celebrated its 100th anniversary on September 16, 2008. It was on this date in 1909 that William C. Durant founded. General Motors Co, predecessor of the current GM. The first motor company acquired by Durant was the Buick Motor Co.

In 1988, GM had 151 facilities operating throughout the United States, in 26 states and 90 cities; in Canada, there were 13 GM plants. It had assembly, manufacturing, distribution, sales, or warehousing operations in 37 other countries. GM also had equity interest in associated companies, which conducted assembly, manufacturing, or distribution in several countries. The average worldwide employment totaled approximately 748,000 men and women in 1984.

Following is an excerpt from my interview with F. James McDonald, president of GM from 1981 to 1987.

H. James Harrington: What were the circumstances leading to the current focus of GM on quality improvement?

F. James McDonald: Efficient, small, high-quality vehicles from Japan, and the availability of these vehicles at just the right time in history were watershed events in the U.S. auto industry. Their perceived quality became the benchmark for all cars—in effect, customer standards changed dramatically. And that change swept through the entire line of products.

HJH: Do you have an official quality policy?

McDonald: Actually, the new quality consciousness at GM began with the development of a quality ethic for all GM units and operations. The essence of this ethic boils down to this: Quality is the number one operating priority at GM today.

HJH: To what sections of the business is it being applied?

McDonald: Quality improvement is being applied to all areas of our business. Specific quality objectives and strategies must be included within each unit’s five-year business plan. All departments within a business, and of course, each employee, contribute to meeting those quality objectives.

On new product programs, resources are allocated very early when our ability to influence the outcome is greatest. This includes the front-loading of people from all disciplines including marketing, product engineering, manufacturing, assembly, quality assurance, financial, and materials management. This includes early sourcing decisions so our suppliers can work with product development teams on potential problems and improvement.

HJH: What activities were undertaken to start the quality improvement process and when did it start?

McDonald: At GM today, we have this kind of strategic vision, and that vision is simply to offer world-class quality in every market segment. By world-class, we mean parity with, or superiority to, the best in the field—product for product.

To assist the operating units in this effort, the corporation has issued four key success factors for quality, which help focus the GM quality ethic and its six mandates. Research has shown that these key success factors must be addressed in business planning and implementation strategies if meaningful quality improvement is to occur.

Let’s take a look at what the key success factors and the associated objectives are.

  • Management commitment. Managers at all levels must be committed to continuous quality improvement and demonstrate their commitment by word or action.
  • People development process. Every employee, regardless of function or level, must have the encouragement, support, and opportunity to be a contributing member of the quality improvement effort.
  • Quality performance processes. Each task and activity must have processes and tools to ensure conformance to specifications and to provide for continuous quality improvement.
  • Customer satisfaction. General Motors must be the world leader in quality, reliability, durability, performance, service, and value, as confirmed by customer-defined measures and marketplace response.

We have also identified the major steps to carry out improvements on any given project and have found that they work quite well.

HJH: What is the role of top management in the improvement process?
McDonald: Achieving true quality maturity is totally the responsibility of top management in our company. Others may carry it out to one degree or another, but those at the top must be willing to go the whole route.

We believe that the whole top management team must be aboard. Even the most inspiring leader can’t hope to reach the organization without total commitment from everyone at the top.

What is the role of the employees and the union in the improvement process?

We are absolutely convinced that eventual success depends heavily on the employees. As we discussed, one of our key success factors for quality improvement concerns people-development processes.

For instance, we’ve trained more than 30,000 GM workers in statistical process control techniques. And I must say, to see these tools put to work right on the line is one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had at GM. So, I think we’re on the right track on the employee side—even though we still have a ways to go.

HJH:What problems did you have in implementing the improvement process?
McDonald: Prevention within manufacturing can take you only so far along the journey. Greater success must come from moving the focus upstream, to design and engineering, for example, by combining the talents of design engineering, processing, and manufacturing, and having them work together as a team instead of individually. That’s the place to start if you’re serious about doing everything right the first time. Our product development teams on new products that we have previously mentioned are addressing this in a fine manner. We are also initiating this concept in our daily operations.

General Motor’s reorganization of its North American passenger cars and its worldwide truck and bus operations addressed changes necessary to ensure quality improvement, accountability for results, and effective allocation of resources. The reorganization was quality-driven from the beginning.

On reviewing McDonald’s comments, I see he was saying all the right things and doing all the right things, but the results have been disastrous for GM investors, employees, suppliers, and the United States.

H. James Harrington; Quality Digest; Are Quality Methodologies All Smoke and Mirrors? Part One

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Posted by on August 4, 2009 in Total Quality Management


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Was Henry Ford a true Lean thinker?

Do not forget that Today and Tomorrow was written in the 1920s, over a half century ago when Ford’s career was at its peak.  Shortly, he would face his first failure and discouragement even though the Ford Motor Company ultimately survived.

As I said earlier, I have long doubted that the mass-production system practiced in America and around the world today even in Japan, was Ford’s true intention. For this reason, I have constantly sought the origin of his ideas. For example, take a look at the American social environment of the 1920s when Ford was prospering

“But are we moving too fast – not only merely in the making of automobiles, but in life generally? One hears a [great] deal about the worker being ground down by hard labour, of what is called progress being made at the expense of something or other, and that efficiency is wrecking all the finer things of life.

It is quite true that life is out of balance – and always has been. Until lately, most people have had no leisure to use and, of course, they do not know how to use it. One of our large problems is to find some balance between work and play, between sleep and food, and eventually to discover why men grow old and die. Of this more later.

Certainly we are moving faster than before. Or, more correctly, we are being moved faster. But is 20 minutes in a motor car easier or harder than four hours solid trudging down a dirt road? Which mode of travel leaves the pilgrim fresher at the end? Which leaves him more time and more mental energy? And soon we shall be making an hour by air what were days journeys by motor. Shall we all then be nervous wrecks?

But does this state of nervous wreckage to which we are all said to be coming exist in life – or in books? One hears of the workers nervous exhaustion in books, but does one hears it from workers?…

The very word “efficiency” is hated because so much that is not efficiency has masqueraded as such. Efficiency is merely the doing of work in the best way you know rather than in the worst way. It is the training of the worker and the giving to him of power so that he may earn more and have more and live more comfortably. The Chinese coolie working through long hours for a few cents a day is not happier than the American worker with his own home and automobile. The one is a slave; the other is a free man.”

There have been many changes in the last half century. Circumstances in China have changed drastically, for instance. Recently, between September 1977 and September 1978, I visited many Chinese industries trying hard to promote modern industrialization.

From the Ford’s time to the present, through our postwar period when we began work on the Toyota production system, and within the industrialization that China is trying to achieve, there is one universal element – and Ford called it a “true efficiency”. Ford said efficiency is simply a matter of doing work using the best methods known, not the worst.

The Toyota production system works with the same idea. Efficiency is never a function of quantity and speed. Ford raised the question: “Are we moving too fast?” In connection with the automobile industry, it is undeniable that we have been pursuing efficiency and regarding quantity and speed as its two major factors. The Toyota production system, on the other hand, has always suppressed overproduction, producing in response to the needs of the marketplace

In the high-growth period, market needs were great and losses caused by overproduction did not appear on the surface. During slow growth, however, excess inventory shows up wether we like it or not. This kind of waste is definitely the result of pursuing quantity and speed.

When describing the characteristics of the Toyota production system, we explained the concept of small lot sizes and quick setup. Actually, at the heart of this is our intention to reform the existing and deeply rooted concept of “faster and more” by generating a continuous work flow.

To be truthful, even at Toyota, it is very difficult to get the die pressing, resin modelling, casting, and forging processes into a total production flow as streamlined as the flows in assembly or machine processing. For example, with training, setup of a large press can be accomplished in three to five minutes. This is shorter than that of other companies by a surprisingly large margin. In the future, as work flow is perfected, we could slow down and still keep it under 10 minutes.

This explains why the Toyota production system is the opposite of America’s system of mass production and quantity sales – the latter system generates unnecessary losses in pursuit of quantity and speed.

Ohno, Taiichi. 1988. Toyota Production System. Beyond large-scale production. Pp 107-109. Productivity Press. New York.


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Strategic Vision Inc. recognizes the efforts coming from Detroit

(Strategic Vision: San Diego) — Volkswagen of America and Ford Motor Corp. were recently announced as full-line corporate leaders in Strategic Vision Inc.’s (SVI) Total Quality Index (TQI). Across their various brands, both corporations are consistently producing vehicles judged high in perceived quality and emotional delight, resulting in models that customers can love. Volkswagen of America also had the greatest number of TQI leaders across the segments being measured than any other brand: Rabbit, Jetta, CC, New Beetle, Tiguan, and Audi A4. Ford has Focus as the leader in the popular Small Car segment.

The TQI asks buyers to rate all aspects of the ownership experience from buying and owning to performance and driving—much more than simply counting problems. Results from studies that measure the number of problems or the overall satisfaction of a vehicle do not measure the customers’ commitment to, advocacy for, or loyalty to their vehicles accurately. “In today’s difficult market, the difference between products that generate consideration, build brands, and increase sales versus those that do not is often how much delight and love the product generates with its customers,” says Darrel Edwards, Ph.D., chairman of Strategic Vision.

In a recently published survey conducted by another research company that only counted problems, MINI was rated the worst quality brand. However,  in Strategic Vision’s most recent research study, which examines the entire ownership experience and MINI owners’ perceptions of quality, from styling to performance, including what went wrong and what created delight, MINI is the highest rated brand in total quality in its price category. Therefore, it is not a surprise that MINI was one of the two brands to increase sales during last year’s start of the U.S. and automotive recession. “When you have a product worthy of love, customers will come,” says Alexander Edwards, president of SVI.

The past 12 months have been rough for domestic manufacturers as constant negative news is delivered, bankruptcies are filed, and the mantra, “Why won’t Detroit build quality vehicles that people want to buy?” is stated again and again. However, it is important to note that four of the top ten-selling vehicles in the first quarter of this year were domestics. Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler have all scored well with customers in total quality and in sales.

General Motors had four segment leaders: Pontiac G8, GMC Envoy, Yukon XL and the Chevrolet Corvette (which was the highest rated TQI of any vehicles this year). Customers report that these vehicles deliver what they want from each segment. These leaders have delightful interiors, performance, and styling, providing customers an added sense of security, confidence, fun and excitement. It’s also important to note that Saturn and Pontiac brands performed well in TQI across most of their models, with both brands tied for having the highest TQI scores in their price segment.

The Chrysler Group has increased in total quality from last year with the Dodge Ram leading the way with the highest Total Quality score of any truck in the history of the 15-year study. This is also the first time the Ram has achieved this honor since 1999 when it lost its title for the first time to competition. Customers specifically noted that the Ram has the best added storage capability along with the best truck interior ever rated by customers. “For truck buyers, the Dodge Ram has reclaimed its perceived leadership in innovation, a corporate hallmark,” says Edwards. “We have tracked innovation as a critical dimension in success since 1979 and have shown that it has been the single most powerful factor in success across categories, especially among automobiles.”

American Honda Motors, Nissan Motor Corp., and Toyota Motor Sales each led in two segments with strong positions in many others. The Nissan Maxima tied with the G8 in the large car segment while the Infiniti FX and EX, both competing in the near-luxury utility segment tied with each other. The FX and EX both delivered strong performance and exterior styling that led to a greater perception of quality leading to an enhanced sense of prestige and individuality for their owners.

For American Honda Motors, the Honda Ridgeline and Odyssey lead their segments with delightful capability and overall flexibility in each of the models. Both models show innovation that produces leadership. Odyssey became a leader among minivans when it offered the most innovative product in its segment years ago. Ridgeline burst onto the scene as Truck of the Year with innovation unmatched by competition in its segment. Although Ridgeline’s price has kept sales below that of competitors, those who buy it often report that they are delighted with almost every aspect. The innovation and delight delivered by each of these leaders cause owners to state that their next vehicle will be a Honda.

Toyota Motor Sales led with the all-new Toyota Venza and Toyota 4Runner. Both vehicles, as do most Toyota and Lexus products, delivered high levels of trust associated with the Toyota brand name and the brand’s attention to interior details. Customers reported that both of these vehicles showed increased thoughtfulness in their design. Few things-gone-wrong combined with higher expected durability and reliability provided a foundation for Toyota’s leadership position in these segments. With the added thoughtfulness and utility of the products, Toyota’s customers were truly delighted.

Having few problems (solid initial quality) can provide foundational assurance to customers, increasing brand trust and expected durability and reliability. As seen in similar studies, SVI found that the number of problems per vehicle found in the Lexus brand is statistically the lowest of all brands. Lexus’ goal should be to focus on enhanced products and communications to show customers that they are focused on delivering more than basic satisfaction as they build on their foundation.

Finally, in the Luxury categories the BMW X3 tied with the Infiniti FX and EX on Total Quality. The Mercedes S-Class has again defined luxury in its class, leading for the fourth time in the past six years. The Land Rover Range Rover is the leader in the Luxury utility segment. Many other Land Rover/Jaguar models also scored very well with models like the Range Rover Sport, Jaguar XF, and Jaguar XJ scoring just below top positions in their segments.

Buyers rated the following vehicles tops in their segments:

Segment Winner(s) TQI Score
Small Car Ford Focus Sedan 877
Small Multi-Function Volkswagen Rabbit 889
Mid-Size Car Volkswagen Jetta Sedan 891
Large Car Nissan Maxima
Pontiac G8
Near-Luxury Car Volkswagen CC Sedan
Audi A4 Sedan
Luxury Car Mercedes-Benz S-Class 934
Specialty Coupe Volkswagen New Beetle 924
Premium Coupe Chevrolet Corvette Coupe 938
Minivan Honda Odyssey 865
Entry Utility Volkswagen Tiguan 914
Mid-Size Crossover Utility Toyota Venza 925
Mid-Size Traditional Utility GMC Envoy
Toyota 4Runner
Large Utility GMC Yukon XL 899
Near-Luxury Utility Infiniti FX
Infiniti EX35
Luxury Utility Land Rover Range Rover 920
Standard Pickup Honda Ridgeline 874
Full-Size Pickup Dodge Ram 1500 899

The TQI was calculated from 20,101 buyers who bought 2008 and 2009 models in September to December of 2008.

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Posted by on July 1, 2009 in Total Quality Management, Toyota


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A TQM approach to inspection

Cheap availability of technology.

I read daily about silicon and semiconductor industries. In the actual situation, with a liquidity squeeze, it seems that technological development will soften the rocketing curve that was following and now we see at our backs. Lower demand and less available money for companies to invest in the latest technology have resulted in the closure of the last silicon fab in Silicon Valley and problems for AMD, Quimonda and many others. Regardless of this, we have lived a buoyant period where Moore’s Law was met rigorously.

Advanced n-generation quality control systems have spread in all sectors because of their increasing capabilities, computing power and reduced price. Caliper and gauges are old fashioned tools, where now we have inspection systems checking thousands of features per second in 100% of the production. Behind, SPC tools provide sound and nice charts in real time about production parameters, and the most competitive organizations feed-back this information to take corrective action and maintain quality standards in product specifications.

CMM machines with the most diverse tip materials, vision systems and smart cameras that can provide 3D measurements to be compared directly against CAD models with accuracies of microns, computer software to evaluate deviation, virtual gauges. All this with the formula more (accuracy, speed, precision, repeatability, flexibility) for less (investment, change-over time, calibration) with some additives like connectivity, screening in portable devices, wireless, the list is long.

Check list, an always reliable tool

Check list, an always reliable tool

Resource optimizing strategies

Unfortunately, the availability and acquisition of technology doesn’t guarantees an advantage over competitors. We know how disastrous would be that a non conforming product reaches our customers, that’s why we invest and put effort in inspecting a certain percentage of the production, or even all manufactured parts. Right, no defective product will pass because the available technology permits checking connectivity, metrology, with all sort of non destructive tests. As I explained before, and in other writings, most companies will use inspection data to feed back the production process when the characteristics are getting out of tolerance, changing tools, modifying temperatures, etc. As a good example of CIM practices, data gathered from inspection, influences in real time other manufacturing operations. If the product results to be out of tolerance will be rejected.

In the best case, this part will be a steel casting, a composite or an assembly of a little number of parts. If the inspection results NOT OK, the part can be re-cycled with a low cost or re-worked. If the inspection is carried at the end or even final stages of a complex assembly process, as many parts of different materials are mounted together, as more expensive results fixing the defect. Anyways, it is evident that this non-conforming product didn’t cost nothing to the company. Materials from our low level inventory were dedicated, machines have been used, tools have been worn, electricity, energy, workers wages dedicated to a failed product, and what is more important, we allocated time and resources of our value-adding stream into building a defective part bringing more investment, while a good part would have returned capital.

The question is again how to keep quality levels while reducing costs (very interesting nowadays), and I don’t have the magic recipe, but I know the strategies from a TQM point of view. The strategy is not to ensure the quality level by inspecting against specifications, but to build quality in our product. Even when this seems a stereotye, by ensuring that all produced parts are conforming from the first stages and processes from the value stream, the probability of finding a defective product at the end is highly reduced, but is not my aim to speak here about the benefits of TQM or design for manufacturing, etc.. If only good parts are produced, is there a need for inspection? Yes, but let’s do it the smart way.

Let’s carry inspection in a smart way to improve TQM

If we take for instance a steel part produced in a foundry, inspecting the finished part for measurements is ok, but inspecting the sand cores used for the casting will give better results because you ensure that no defective part will be produced from this source, and all the operations and machining carried in the part from this point are adding value to a good unit. The same applies to many operations in metal forming, presses, punch dies, etc. And inspection must be performed before adding more value in form of grinding, milling or drilling, because those tools and time are too expensive to waste them in a non conforming product. Besides, those tools and inserts can be also inspected by vision systems or other means to ensure they will perform as expected.

When manufacturing electronic products and devices, where assembly involves many digital and electro-mechanical components, quality control after each operation is crucial. In an SMD process, if inspection is carried after reflow, defects like tombstoning and connectivity are easily identified, but reworking the part because the wrong component was picked&placed by the robot or misalignment, would be prohibitively expensive.

Inspection and value adding flow

Inspection and value adding flow

As a conclusion, I suggest that inspection is recommended (not necessary) to ensure quality. If we are addressing a manufacturing process from a TQM strategy the efforts should be in the direction of building quality in the product along the process (from design to manufacturing and all the product life-cyle), and not constraining the strategy to implement inspection at the end of a certain operation or at the end of the production lane.

More and more, when inventory reduction and lean implementations are spreading around, we can not permit the utilization of resources to manufacture a bad part that could have been detected before. In addition, we will be able to address the defect source earlier, because it will be easily identified at an early stage, getting rid of blind fire-fighting-guess-where-the-problem-is time consuming activities.


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