- THE MAGAZINE
- WEB EXCLUSIVES
With the eyes of millions of people glued to TV screens watching a space capsule take-off, one thought crowds out all others … will it work? And when the astronaut is fished from the ocean, one fear is uppermost … what if the cable snaps? The prayer and hope that the thing and all its parts will work is the culmination of many long nights of work; the finale to a monumental formula of quality assurance, men, and natural laws. By the innocent phrase, “will it work?”, dangles life-and liberty.
Though our space program is dramatic and new, don’t the same fears and questions apply to jet planes, automobiles and trains? But here we do not ask, “Are we safe to entrust our life and limbs to the quality of these assorted pieces of metal, electromechanical systems and components?” There is a blithe and justifiable assumption that the things will work.
What of the garden-variety of products: castings, bearings, switches, bolts; and the myriad of pure consumer items, such as refrigerators, bicycles, radios and furnaces? Who is to say their quality is not vital? Here is also an inherent dramatic situation. Nothing which America’s ingenuity and hard work produces is unimportant.
Is the quality of missiles and aircraft a far cry from more mundane products? Not from the standpoint of over-all economic life. A manufacturer may lose a sale due to lengthy delivery, wretched service or high price. But he should never fail of the order because of second-best quality. This is true whether meeting domestic or overseas competition. Quality is a manufacturer’s greatest asset. With it, sales can be increased; without it, the profit squeeze becomes a strangling python.
Unfortunately, some managements, caught in the cost/profit vise, will chisel on the quality of their products to effect economies. “It’ll do,” they say. The theory of “good enough” neither builds rockets, bridges nor a sound business. Profits are made by selling more and better products.
To be sure, an effective quality assurance department will effect economies by reducing scrap, preventing premature failures and eliminating receipt of faulty incoming material and components. However, as the quality of a product undergoes tampering, every phase of the benefits of a quality assurance program is minimized. A business can thus hack up a program into minor bits and pieces. All junk!
We believe a quality assurance program will increase sales of a better product, will stimulate sound economies in the manufacturing cycle, and will permit a business to meet overseas competition with a resounding whack on the head.
Another reason for the importance of quality lies in the technological improvements of the past few years. Closer tolerances; customer insistence on rigorous inspection before shipping; higher warranty demands by purchasers; more trying service conditions under which products must perform; finer finishes; and the development of predictability and reliability techniques have tugged at industry’s coat tail, causing them to stop and look at industry’s fastest growing and most important profession: quality assurance.
What of management in relation to quality assurance? If rockets, missiles, aircraft, autos, profits and sales; if our very life and limbs, and in a broader sense, our liberties, depend on quality – what of management in whose hands final authority rests? Quality is management’s job! Not on a part-time basis-but completely and absolutely! From the very top of the managerial pyramid the sense of quality must penetrate into every department, into every office, into every corner of the plant. Quality must become, for management executives, a way of living … a manner of thinking.
Some executives turn the quality assurance function over to production or engineering. To them, quality is still the lone inspector-a rather necessary evil who tries to hold down the scrap. The full implications of quality assurance, so far removed from the solitary checker of ten years ago, are not yet appreciated. This is not unnatural. Blame must be tempered with the observation that the fantastic growth of the quality assurance discipline-having received adrenalin from the space programs-has been so rapid and so overwhelming in its impact that many executives have not yet caught up.
If quality is so vital to America’s safety, progress and economic health, what of the star performers in this drama: the quality assurance professionals? Their gages, systems, chambers, switches, lights and mathematics spell out success or failure. On their knowledge, imagination and dedication hangs a life. Here, then, is a function of industry which safeguards our national prestige, prevents loss of life and limb, reduces costs, meets competition, and increases sales. This army of professionals (one out of every ten production workers is engaged in a quality assurance function), charged with such responsibilities, is important indeed! These are no longer men of some minor and barely-to-be-tolerated department in a dark corner … although in some industries they still perspire under heavy handicaps.
The growth of the quality assurance profession, embracing reliability and predictability, may be misdirected. Its strength and capability may become a serious weakness. The idea that something can be designed, built and so tested that the service life of the product can be accurately determined could lead many industries into a program of planned obsolescence. To manufacture a product which will last exactly so many years and so many months, at which time the user must replace it, defeats the very principle of quality and vitiates the essence of a quality assurance program. A planned obsolescence program must be opposed by all means. No lasting benefit can come from it.
In conclusion, quality assurance believes:
… nothing is more important to America than the quality of its products;
… a sound quality assurance program increases efficiency, decreases costs, meets competition, increases sales and reduces the profit squeeze;
… quality is management’s concern, with which it must live, think and sleep. From management it must permeate every corner of the plant;
… quality assurance people are the fastest growing group of professionals in industry-and none in industry is more important.
To unify all aspects of quality assurance; to broaden knowledge and understanding of management and quality assurance professionals; to continually reiterate the importance of quality to America, to oppose any perversion of the quality assurance function; and to continually champion new techniques, greater efforts, and always superior products … to these ends we dedicate this volume 1, number 1, and all subsequent issues of quality assurance.
Publisher and Editor
Reprinted from the inaugural issue of Quality Assurance, October 1962