Quality Magazine

Manufacturing Excellence: 10 Killers of Manufacturing Excellence

October 2, 2008

Editor’s note: In the second of a two-part series, more obstacles that keep many manufacturers from achieving manufacturing excellence are explained.



6. Implementation of quality management systems. It sounds counter-intuitive, however, recent focus on standardization and quality management systems has led to more registration audits, more quality auditors, and corrective and preventive action forms. Actually, quality management systems have diluted the executive involvement rather than enhancing the management responsibility. Effective deployment of quality management systems must facilitate realization of business objectives. For example, if the auto industry is not able to achieve its business objectives, the current quality management systems utterly failed in delivering expected value. Most quality management systems have been designed for compliance with minimal details; rather they focus on maximizing value with optimal details for consistency, creativity and controls.

7. Too much emphasis on improvement methods rather than results. Lean is a method lost in translation of Toyota’s methods and our own Sir Ford’s assembly designs. First it is a misnomer. Even Toyota does not call it Lean. Ford did not call it Lean when first deployed many decades ago.

Second, its deployment in the United States has violated its first principles of human relations, without which, success is impossible to realize. Imagine the outcome if the Lean leader is told to deploy Lean methods with the possibility of losing his job. If we pay attention to Toyota’s practices, one may interpret that Toyota Production System actually strives for achieving perfection for growth opportunities. We must see results.

Success comes not from cutting cost, instead it comes from achieving growth and doing well or perfectly. Similarly, while deploying Six Sigma there is too much emphasis on statistics instead of its intent of achieving virtual perfection.

8. Lack of incentives for learning. Corporate education is the first casualty of cost-cutting initiatives. Training provides the best return on investment. By cutting education, people just do what they are told to do. Cutting training is a message of losing liberty to speak and think, and a way of telling employees to do what they are told. Active minds will always outperform the numb ones. Active and excited employees will outperform the stressed ones. Learning creates excitement. We must continually invest in employee education for sustaining excellence and profitable growth.

9. Not listening to employees. Companies succeed with employees, yet fail without employee participation. Employees experience most of the problems that are included in the management report. Employees have solutions to known problems more often then we care to listen to their input. We must trust our employees’ intuition and capability. Having 200,000 to 300,000 people working in a company, how could it be possible we cannot solve any problem? Imagine 200,000 brains working on our challenges-a lot can be accomplished, given we enlist their support and listen to their ideas.

10. Conflicting political agenda. Frequently it has been observed that it is not the technical capability that eludes resolution of problems, instead it is the conflicting agenda at the management level that hinders progress. For example, management and the union leadership have conflicting agendas at the cost of achieving excellence, serving customers, taking care of employees and preserving a leadership position in the marketplace. Instead we all see the outcomes such as decreasing sales, huge financial losses, lost jobs, lost reputation and marginal decisions-the spiral of loss continues. If everyone in the company agrees to a common agenda of achieving perfection at all levels and in every function-bringing out innovative solutions, addressing customer needs, collaborating with suppliers and ensuring profitable growth-everyone will be happy they did. If we can visualize success, commit to achieving success and work together, we will be happy that we did.