Dear Colleagues,

A topic I often avoid discussing is quality. Mainly because it conjures up ideas of masses of paper work and enormous costs with no discernible increase in the quality of a product or service.

However, someone for whom I have the greatest admiration is a fine electrical engineer, Edwards Deming, who as many of you will recall is often referred to as the father of modern quality control (and was single-handedly responsible for a massively positive impact on the quality of Japanese manufacturing after World War II).

Quality and Costs
Deming made two important observations which are worthwhile repeating:

When you focus on improving quality as defined by:

Quality = Results of Work Efforts / Total costs.

You will find the quality improves and costs decrease.

Conversely, if you focus mainly on costs, you will find that over time the costs tend to rise and the quality decreases.

What key knowledge do you need to improve quality?
In improving the quality of a product or service, he felt all engineers and managers should possess the following key knowledge:

  • Know the system and process well. This not only means the engineering system but the suppliers, producers and customers.
  • Understand where the variations in the quality are coming from in terms of range and causes.
  • Be aware of the theory of knowledge and what can be known in the process and system.
  • Finally (and nonetheless) still importantly – understand the psychology of human nature (the hard bit!).

Thanks to an excellent article in the IEEE by Dr Wole Akpose (A History of Six Sigma).

A good strategy when striving for a high quality document according to David Reisman is:

Look at all the sentences which seem true and question them.

Yours in engineering learning,

Steve