It’s a term that has permeated the down economy these past few years.

I have to admit, I hate the phrase “doing more with less.” Not that it is inaccurate-it is concise and punchy, which is probably why people are drawn to using it, and it pinpoints what companies and employees alike have been faced with for more than a couple of years now. I don’t know why I dislike it.

The term seems lazy to me. A cop-out. The kind of thing you might hear from a middle manager, who heard it from someone else or on TV, and thought it was the perfect way to impart cost-cutting initiatives to his or her staff; The perfect way to dumb-down and sum-up the realities of a down economy.

If I were a judge and heard this phrase in a courtroom, I would ask the attorney to “rephrase.” What it comes down to is return on investment (ROI). It is a matter of fact in the business world to always strive to maintain a healthy ROI. If a business does not, it won’t last long, and its employees-including middle managers-will find themselves on the streets.

In a down economy, naturally, many companies turn to cost-cutting as a way to stabilize ROI. It is no different for quality control operations. Unfortunately, the matter of semantics aside, doing more with less to some means tossing quality control right out the window. But, seeking out cheap labor in low-wage countries with lax standards can result in lead in children’s toys. Poor labor conditions in these same countries can (and has) lead to workers hurling themselves off the roofs of the factories. And it is the same kind of cop-out when it is suggested that the company place netting around the perimeter of the roof to prevent workers from jumping off. One has to say to oneself, there has to be a better, more poignant solution…in both instances.

As for the former, there are a number of ways a company can maintain, or even improve, ROI in the quality control of its manufacturing processes. In a down economy, introducing processes and technology to improve quality control, while reducing the cost of that control, can be a stronger step toward realizing stable or increased ROI than eliminating quality controls. We strive to bring that idea to our readers every month in the pages of Quality.

And this month is no exception. Check out our cover feature on the 2012 Quality Plant of the Year, Chicago-based MBX Systems, and see how the company has stayed profitable and growing for 16 years with its return on investment…in people. Also, see how to avoid “Quality Chaos” by simply defining what quality means across the company in this month’s guest column by Gerhard Plenert.

As always, enjoy and thanks for reading!