Tis the Season of Giving, not Giveaway

Natalia Ochoa
By Natalia Ochoa | November 28, 2012
Product Operations Manager

It is the holiday season and one of the best things about this time of year is giving. However, as a quality professional, I see a big difference between giving and giveaway. There is never a good time of year for product giveaway.

Giveaway is the result of an imbalance in the role of quality with two other major variables: time and cost. The goal is to balance these variables to what I call a “harmony state”. By taking advantage of practices such as Total Quality Management and Lean Manufacturing you can improve the quality of your products while reducing the production lead time and cost, while having a considerable impact on the number of inspections, audits, calibration of test equipment, rework and scrap.

It is important to be clear and consistent in explaining what “good” quality means to your company. What metrics are you targeting? It should be understood by everyone from executive management to the shop floor operator. This understanding comes from establishing standards for parameters that can be directly measured as well as cosmetic criteria, which can seem too subjective. To help you achieve this goal, I can provide you with a few suggestions:

  • Make things very visual – You could post images on your production lines of what is, and what is not, acceptable by your quality department
  • Keep a standard sample in your lab that all inspectors and operators can access, in case a quality question arises during production
  • Be consistent in the quality message you deliver, and live by example

Nowadays, it seems like there is an epidemic of giving away product. Ask yourself why you think operators may need to give away your product, and I am sure some ideas will arise. From my experience, I’ve seen operators that are afraid of risking their job performance due to a rejected lot. They prefer to put a little extra of juice, material, whatever it may be, to overcome such a risk.

As a root cause, you may not have a consistent and predictable process. Perhaps you don’t have the tools in place to measure your process, or your process is just out of control. Regardless of whether your giveaway is the result of process control or operator behavior, there are some things you can do to reduce giveaway:

  • Tools such as Statistical Process Control (SPC) can help your management and operators reduce process variation
  • Set target values for your measurements to help operators know what they are aiming for
  • Encourage operators to report non-conforming product, as this may be an indication of a process that requires attention
  • Use data analysis to identify problems before they occur; reviewing historical data and Design of Experiments (DOE) can help you identify the root cause of process variation

Remember to focus on delivering the right quality, at the right time and cost. Reducing any giveaway will certainly help the company save money, but the process of identifying and correcting the reasons for giving away product will build a platform for continuous improvement that allows people to do a better job.

And that success is worth some holiday cheer. Enjoy the Season of Giving.

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