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Peanut Butter and Jelly. Starsky and Hutch. Inspection and Quality?

Inspection and quality go together, right? Wrong! Conventional wisdom holds that inspection and quality go together like those other famous partnerships in the title. After all, there are mountains of books on how to create sampling plans to check quality with inspections, and nobody blinks an eye when there is an end-of-line inspection station set up. The truth, though, is that we should be looking at the need for an inspection as a giant red flag waving in the breeze.

Inspection and Quality and Red Flags

Inspection and Quality and Red Flags

An inspection is an admission that we know about a quality problem, and haven’t tackled it. The trouble is not that the defect is getting through to the customer-inspections can be fairly effective at stopping that from happening (though they are not perfect).

The problem is that it breeds a culture in which people knowingly pass on poor quality. It sends a message that fixing quality problems is not urgent, because there is somebody else who will take responsibility for the work coming out of our work areas.

I’m not saying to require people to be mistake free. I’m saying that we should be finding ways to make processes that can’t put out bad parts (or services in the office). I’m saying that we should not become complacent about permanently linking inspection and quality in our strategies.

We should look at every inspection as a failure, whether the part turns out to be good or not. What do you think? Am I overly harsh in my view of inspections, or is eliminating the need for all inspections a worthwhile goal? 


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  • Mark Welch says:

    I think you are dead-on target with your thoughts on this, Jeff. I read a quote from Deming almost 20 years ago – “All inspection is waste.” So, you’re in good company. If we ask ourselves if inspection adds value, hopefully most all of us would give a resounding, “NO!” As you pointed out, though, it’s SO HARD to change this paradigm, especially in American culture. In fact, when I’ve brought this thinking to some colleagues, they won’t accept it unless some published authority espouses the same thinking. (So much for their opinion of MY credibility!) Those of us who understand the notion of built in quality (BIQ) as one of the “walls” of the Toyota House Model, with Jidoka, Andon, Poka Yoke, etc. see this as a no-brainer. Unfortunately, I think most people have to experience this concept in real life before they will accept it…

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