Dr. Deming's Influence on Me - Point #3

Derek BDerek B PQ Systems Employee
It's hard to work at PQ Systems and not be influenced by the teachings of Dr. Deming.  His thoughts on quality in leadership and management are woven tightly into our company's culture and - I believe - directly impact most of our decisions regarding the system in which we operate.  Over the next few weeks, I'll be introducing each of Deming's 14 Points for Management along with an example or two of how I've caught myself implementing them into my everyday life.  I would encourage you to share your experiences by commenting as well!

Point #3
"Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place."  This is the first point to specifically mention "quality" and is meant to illustrate that catching problems before they go out the door is far more expensive than not having problems to begin with.

My Reflection
This one takes me back to my first day working at PQ Systems.  I was introduced to a short, classic British film by the name of Right First Time.  This video peered into the discovery of Deming's principles in action for a 1950's manufacturing firm whose suppliers cracked down on quality.  One of the major themes they learned through serious evaluation of their processses was that prevention was far more cost effective than reaction.  That aligns very closely with Deming's 3rd point.  By determining the standards required by the customer, empowering everyone to understand their roles in producing quality products and understanding the capability of the machines, it is certainly possible to build a quality system which doesn't rely on post-production inspection.  If you can track down the video, I recommend it for you and any future members of your team!


  • I totally agree. Eventhough I had an isuue without no one solution atfirst sight. In the Visual inspection of leather  it is very difficult to catch all the natural defects before to cut the parts and send them to others station process.
  • Derek, I have two observations about the difficulty of measuring the cost of depending upon inspection for quality. First, depending upon inspection to produce quality can generate at least 3x costs in a process. 1x to make the item or perform the task. 2x to re-make the item or re-do the task following inspection. 3x is the opportunity cost of the re-do activity when you could have been making a new good item. 3x is probably conservative because when work is performed using inspection to produce quality, re-do activity is likely to be repeated more than once for some items. 

    Second. I observed a manager of the audit (inspection) department in a large regional bank. He was asked to support an effort to eliminate dependence upon inspection by providing data to the upstream processes in support of making inspection less necessary. The improvement project would be good for the bank, but the manager’s department would shrink or eventually disappear as the need for inspectors is reduced. The level of investment this inspection manager has in the present system cannot be measured but must be managed. He eventually worked diligently to sabotage the improvement project, saving his department from any changes while costing the bank opportunities to reduce total costs. Deming wrote, “A company may appear to be doing well, on the basis of visible figures, yet going down the tube for failure of the management to take heed of figures unknown and unknowable.” All across our organizations are critical figures that will never be measured nor be made visible. The best of managers operates with this knowledge. 

    Not only is it difficult to learn the true costs of inspection as a source of quality, it is difficult to measure the costs of the commitments people have to such an approach. 

  • Beth SBeth S PQ Systems Employee
    Thanks for your comments Eric. Your observation of the bank is a great example of subotimization.

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