Quality Exclusives

Readers Respond: "Quality Control Should Check the Process, Not the Product"

April 16, 2012
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Is this statement truly feasible? Quality Magazine LinkedIn discussion group members debate the answer.

William Edwards Deming
Source: Quality Magazine


Quality Magazine’s LinkedIn Group members sound off about this statement and the nature of process improvement. Share your comments below or in our LinkedIn Group today.

Aziz Milad, Quality Manager at Franke Kitchen Systems Egypt:

“I like the statement by Dr. Deming: "Quality control should check the process not the product."



Bob Doering, Advanced Product Quality Planning Engineer at Stoneridge Hi-Stat Division:

”The goal is to control the process, not the product. So, rather than measuring product from the stream, the goal is to control the variables of the process: pressures, feeds, speeds, etc. Unfortunately, there is physical phenomena that cannot easily be measured directly, such as tool wear. You can measure the part, and use it as surrogate of process parameters, but you cannot measure the tool (always) directly. So, Deming's point of controlling the process-not the product, is admirable, [but]not always feasible.”



Kim Riehman, Quality Manager at Cast Aluminum Solutions:

“Bob, good example! Which is easier to do, measure the product size and maybe surface finish, or pull the tool (and maybe tool holder), somehow measure for tool wear and go from there? Oh, and also replace the tool-toolholder with another pre-qualified setup...I know which one I would pick.”



Tom Johnson, Environmental Health and Safety Director at Kirtland Products:

“Is the point that sometime product review can indication something is going wrong with the process? Something not otherwise detectable without shutting down the process?”



Rick Post , Lead Auditor at Thyssenkrupp Waupaca:

”Everything you do is a process... part goes into the press... gets pressed... is removed from the press... a process. I should think that a robust quality system would have a procedure for checking the tooling at regular intervals to ensure conforming parts... again a process. And if the tooling is found to be wearing to the detrimental side, don't you have a process for contacting the customer or generating a work order for replacement tooling or refurbishment? Another process... and at the least I should think that the operator has something... a gauge... a camera... lasers... something checking the parts in real-time to prevent worn tooling from becoming an issue... another process. If all these processes (and obviously others) are functioning properly you will not get a systemic non-conformity.”



Bob Doering:

“You have to look at Deming's statement in context. He was using the term in the more common generic "everything is a process" definition, as used in modern quality systems. He was looking to get away from looking at the product, and look at the things that generate the product and control their variables. And underlying point is control the variables in the processes that make the product to make good product consistently. One you are looking at the product, you are past the processes he was referring to.

“Once you shut down a process, you change it. As a matter of fact, start-up and warmup are "special causes" and are not typically stable! So, you need to get data from an ongoing, steady state process to get effective data.”



Richard Harpster Owner at Harpco Systems, Inc.:

“It would be interesting to know when Dr .Deming made the statement. I wonder if it was in reaction to him seeing people perform Statistical Product Inspection (SPI) rather the Statistical Process Control (SPC) which he was trying to teach people. It would be interesting to do a study of the SPC charts in plants to see home many measure a process characteristic (i.e. soaking bath temperature) and how many measure a product characteristic (material thickness). My guess is that the majority of the plants have implemented SPI. Thus you have Dr. Deming's comment.”



Kim Riehman:

“Richard, based on my experience I think you're absolutely correct. I also think that occurs because the customer demands statistical data on certain drawing features and says something like, "yes, your process data is nice, but show me how that translates to my parts on this feature or that...Most companies won't be able to close that loop.”



Tom Johnson:

“It does not seem that a consensus has been formed here. I will reiterate my initial assertion: Quality processes which ignores product puts the customer at risk. At some point there must be process validation, a product validation. This validation is a process, of course, but the product (or service) is the proof.

“Focusing on the process solely makes the inherent assumption that the process will provide the desired product or service. This can be a dangerous assumption.”



Bob Doering:

“I don't think there is an argument that quality processes should ignore the product. The assertion is not to ignore the product, but rather to place focus on the thing that creates the product, as that is origin of the variation. The product is simply the result, and as such, is ex post facto of the actual source of variation.”



Rick Post:

“The product should never be ignored... after all that is what the customer is actually paying for... but the point is: If you have mature processes with competent operators you should be able to ensure a quality product, plain and simple... one of those mature processes obviously needs to be some form of part/product inspection. That process should be done by the process owner, not quality.

“Look at this from a lean perspective... quality is basically a non-value added department; if it were responsible for inspecting all the product leaving your facility how large would that department have to be? Now look at your overhead and profits... where did they go? Into inspection... can you inspect quality into a product..? No...it must be designed into the process.”



Bob Doering:

“Quality is not "value added," but it is "value maintained," which makes it equal to value-added processes, and not overhead. That "not-value-added" concept is the biggest misconception out there, and why some companies fail when the cut quality first as simply overhead using that logic. Still, like "value added" steps, it needs to be well thought-out and effective to ensure profits.”



Aziz Milad:

Dearest colleagues: I have noticed that some are talking about process other about product, in fact both are the same as a piece of coin with two faces .....no one can imagine that a not properly maintained and controlled process (I mean by this documented, distributed, audited, awarded to workers and [training] them on it) such process can't deliver unsatisfactory product.

“By other means when we formulate the process by this means and put quality tools in place ......we guarantee good product. Sustainability is then maintained by sampling, testing, customer satisfaction and expectation measures.”



Todd F. Wilson, Heavy Civil General Contractor-Senior Project Engineer at Austin Bridge & Roadway:

“I understand completely. If you control the process you control the outcome thus the product. Managing the process is the key to success. I have never read about Deming only heard snippets about the man but I can tell you I know this principle to be true with or without him.”

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