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Back in the day (the late 1970s and early 1980s, to be exact), we learned from Philip B. Crosby’s book that “Quality is Free.” Crosby’s basic concept was based on his “zero defects” quality-improvement approach. This landmark approach was initially credited with a 25% reduction in the overall rejection rate and a 30% reduction in scrap costs. That quickly got the attention of senior executives and Crosby’s peers in the quality-improvement community. According to Crosby, the fundamentals of his quality program were simple: “Do it right the first time” (which we learned as DIRFT).

In the early years of my career in maintenance training, we used the DIRFT principle in performance-based training, as in “Learn to do it right the first time, every time.” That’s called skills mastery. This type of approach was the nemesis of the traditional graded (A, B, C, D, E) educational achievement system. I knew and saw DIRFT work in many areas of skills development over the years.

As the 1980s progressed, we learned of Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) development out of Japan, which was based on the country’s quality-improvement approach to manufacturing. I said for decades that “There was nothing new in TPM,” which didn’t set well with TPM promoters in America. But it was true. While there was nothing “new” in TPM, it was the way the traditional body of knowledge and maintenance best practices were put together to focus on business results to which top management could commit.

Whether it was product-defect elimination or equipment-downtime elimination, TPM’s goal was zero. That too garnered frowns from traditionalists who knew that “defects happen” and “equipment breaks down.” But when the goal is “zero” (which is the ideal), progress in that direction is measured. Having a goal of, say, 5% unplanned downtime means we accept 5% downtime. No need to improve. On our critical assets, though, that could equate to a huge loss of revenue and costs left on the table. So, done right, TPM was free.

But back to “quality is free” and defect elimination. Allowing a certain number of defects in a production process has a cost, i.e., nonconformance to the product quality specifications that impacts the bottom line of a financial balance sheet.

The cost of nonconformance is sizable. It means rework (doing it again), lost materials, lost time, lost labor, unproductive manufacturing processes, and the like. Quality is free because defect elimination pays for itself.

Crosby’s first step in his “Fourteen Steps to Quality Improvement” is “Management Commitment.” This was a critical step in that it set the foundation for the 13 others that followed. Making it clear that management is committed to specific quality- improvement goals is essential, not an option. The same holds true for reliability improvement. Like quality, that’s also free.

Let’s now wrap this discussion up in a neat, clean bundle. The key takeaway from Crosby’s “Quality is Free” zero-defects approach is fundamental to business success. In short, If you focus on the right stuff, improvement efforts will pay for themselves. This means focusing on results and changing the culture along the way. And doing so means management commitment is crucial.

Reliability improvement, though, goes much deeper than implementing improvement programs and tools. It’s about using  those tools to focus on the right stuff, results such as zero unplanned equipment downtime, and accepting nothing less than winning the reliability war.

As RAM Pros, our mission is to get top management to commit to specific goals and objectives for reliability improvement. Goals and objectives that impact the goals of the business. Reliability improvement is free when done right the first time every time.TRR

Bob Williamson is a long-time contributor to the “people-side” of the world-class-maintenance and manufacturing body of knowledge across dozens of industry types. His vast background in maintenance, machine and tool design, and teaching has positioned his work with over 500 companies and plants, facilities, and equipment-oriented organizations. Contact him directly at 512-800-6031 or bwilliamson@theramreview.com.

Tagsreliability, availability, maintenance, RAM, asset management, reliability quality, Total Productive Maintenance, TPM