Under Control


The manufacturing process itself is only part of the quality story. Once upon a time. quality in US manufacturing was a controversial issue. Lack of it allowed Japanese to get a leg upon us. But quality in manufacturing is a given now. It's an expected feature of any manufactured product. If you don't have it, no one will buy what you make. Cars and TV sets are expected to work.

Quality has got to start right from the design concept, and has to extend until the technologically obsolete product is deposited in the junkyard of history. That's the issue today. It's a total life-cycle consideration. And as a designer, that search for quality in the total life-cycle has got to be my passion.

Three years ago at Flavors Technology, we finished a large-scale design for a real time supercomputer. Five hundred megabytes of memory and more that a hundred large scale microprocessors were installed. The boards were almost two feet long and contained many layers of circuitry.

The design also incorporated object oriented hardware concepts. Circuits can be energized and tested in small parts and later consolidated into the whole machine. This allowed the design to proceed a segment at a time and the computer could be manufactured in the same way. The whole is a complex assembly of simple design and test elements. Conservative values in loading and timing are used throughout. Diagnostic testing was built into the hardware and software from the start.

Results? Significantly less costs in design and manufacturing. We like to think that the parts could be put into a basket and shaken. The components would soon settle into position and the run light comes on. Testing is built into the hardware and software from the start. Even the system architect (me) could bring up the system.

Another example of quality in design comes from automotive arena. Cadillac redesigned the Seville's rear bumper. The number of parts and the assembly time were cut in half. The benefit of this reduction exceed any accountant's estimate. Less time and parts mean the statistically analyzed quality of the manufactured bumper is significantly higher than previous design. Any repair service is simple and replacement parts are cheaper. It's the customer who realizes the benefit of life cycle quality. And Cadillac benefited from a quicker design cycle and lower costs.

I'll tell you where else our quality control efforts have to extend to - our own tools and factories. Factories should be built on the bases of 50-year cycles. This means that we have to be increasingly agile. But how else can we successfully deal with technology and process innovations? Tools, instruments, and process concepts have to be freed from antiquated facilities. In the future, factories must be designed to allow for gradual but continual improvements to the manufacturing process.

Let's take a trip into the future. Factories will be making small lots to order. Flexible tooling is what will make this possible. For example, an engine facility might produce a proliferation of types with from four to eight cylinders. A large variety of displacements and configurations will be made with the same agile tooling. The same facility will also meet aftermarket demands with remanufacture of motors and major components. Routing of both new and recycled products through the same facility, reuse of tooling and equipment-that's what will reduce manufacturing costs and ease pressures on the environment as well. Makes you think, doesn't it?

My point is that we too often consider only the quality inherent in the manufacturing process. It's the buzz word d' jour. Besides design, which precedes manufacturing, we must also look for quality in customer service. Do SPC, SQC, quality cycles, QMC, concurrent engineering, and ATE really help when no one in the service department will answer the phone?

Recently my wallet was stolen. Inside were all the credit cards in the world. Immediately the card people responded canceling and replacing the cards.. They were responsive and quick. That's quality. To hold the customer as king is part of quality efforts. I will cancel almost any normal business appointment for a customer issue.

The US had a quality problem and we were building crap. Now we build good crap. But it's time to move on and become the leaders in total life cycle quality. Design, distribution, service - all performed with agility - are integral parts of the quality process. Now let's have quality that starts with the design philosophy and never stops

As appeared in Manufacturing Systems Magazine March 1992 Page 42

Manufacturing Systems Magazine Articles
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