Good. Fast. Cheap. Choose two. As introduced by Long Phan in his feature this month, this well-known adage is referred to as The Designer’s Triangle. It applies to the design of systems, as well as the systems themselves.

The adage—and some would say the facts of life—states that we can’t have it all. That when devising a project or process—whether the manufacture of a product, the creation of a Web site, or the implementation of a quality control system—we must choose only two out of the three options.

Our choices, naturally affected by resources, costs, time, accuracy, dependability, and so on, fall out like this:

Good + Fast = Expensive. Bringing all resources to bear, the project is top priority and everything humanly and technologically possible is done to ensure it is done quickly, or at least on time, and the end result will be of the highest quality. The tradeoff: it will not be cheap.

Good + Cheap = Slow. At a discounted price, the project has less priority and potentially less access to human and technological resources, but still results in high quality. The tradeoff: It will take as long as it takes.

Fast + Cheap = Inferior. Referred to as the “get what you pay for” option, the project, like the Good + Cheap = Slow option, will suffer because of lower priority and fewer resources, but will be delivered on time. The tradeoff: inferior quality.

A majority of opinion puts the third option as the least favorable choice of the three. In my opinion, this month’s guest column by M.C. Pereira provides interesting correlations between the third option in the Designer’s Triangle and the result of some of the offshoring of the past two decades. Pereira’s examples describe instances of severely reduced quality in process and product in the attempt to reduce costs through off shoring, ironically, in some cases resulting in an increase in costs.

So, what are we to do? Avoid the third option and just resign ourselves to paying and waiting? Long Phan’s article may have the answer.

While he agrees that, “In systems designed for automated precision measurement, users are typically balancing accuracy of measurement, speed of operation, and cost to purchase and operate. The need for tradeoffs and sometimes-difficult choices will always be with us,” but according to Phan, “the introduction of multisensory measurement over the last several decades, along with subsequent improvement in its capabilities, offers opportunities for improvement in all three areas{He mentions the accuracy, speed and cost above, so it might not be necessary to repeat}. The key to maximizing performance lies in understanding the available capabilities and choosing those that will deliver meaningful benefits in your specific applications.”

For more, check out Long Phan’s article, “Trends in Multisensor Measurement,” and M.C. Pereira’s guest column, “The Risks of Offshoring.” Also, meet this year’s Quality Professional of the Year, Grace Duffy. All in this month’s Quality.

 Enjoy and thanks for reading!