Standardized Defects

Too often when corrective action is taken, the communication loop is not closed, turning containment into a frustrating, permanent practice. This Led Zeppelin clip captures the emotional side of those communication snafus:

Here are a few examples:

  • A production employee demonstrated for me how he searched for burrs on a ceramic bushing.  “The part drawing had a note that we should remove burrs here,” he said while pointing to a particular spot on the surface, “but I’ve worked here for three years and there were never any burrs.”  He went on. “I mentioned it to my supervisor, and after three weeks she discovered that the burr problem had been eliminated years ago, but the inspection note had been left on the print. The note was supposed to be a short-term fix,” he said, smiling. “Only took us a decade to correct it.”
  • A reverse condition occurred in my own factory when a previously manufactured part was outsourced to an external supplier.  The part, as produced by the new supplier, conformed to the purchase specifications, but it didn’t work in our product.  Informal revisions to the part spec hadn’t been communicated to engineering.  “When the part was made in-house,” a production team member confided, “we made a few undocumented corrections.”
  • Sometimes also the urgency to get a part into production will generate an expedient temporary communication on a drawing like “rework as needed.”  As a factory manager, I frequently viewed purchase and manufacturing drawings with notations that validated inspection and rework.  We didn’t always call it rework.  Terms like touch-up and grading spawned entire departments and accompanying ‘standards.’  The waste was invisible.  When we started removing the rework-as-needed language from drawings, we discovered that the provider had often not even been advised of the problem.   Communication breakdown.
  • “Yield” is another worrisome concept, one that when used as an ordering rule, automagically overproduces by plan to accommodate rather than attack defect waste.  Yield becomes another form of standardized defects.

These defects are surely not limited to the factory floor:

  • “The first thing I do with this collections report is correct the names and telephone numbers of the persons I’m supposed to call,” an accountant related to me.  “Why are the numbers wrong?”  I asked.  “Because the customer information is added by the sales department, and their contacts are not the ones who pay the bills.”“Have you asked them for help with this?” I asked.  “No,” was the reply.

Indeed, inspection astandarddefectsnd rework are commonplace for most computer reports, and most are just accepted as the standard.  How many reports can you think of that must be checked for correctness and completeness before they can be used?   These too are communication breakdowns: inadvertent but standardized and maddening defects.

“Communication breakdown, it’s always the same….
Havin’ a nervous breakdown, a-drive me insane….”

Do these kinds of communication breakdowns drive you insane?
Share a story.


BTW:  July’s inaugural webinar, “Tea Time with the Toast Guy” was a great success: Over 75 attendees and some great feedback for future webinars. At the conclusion of the forty-minute webinar, a winner was selected to receive complimentary registration to the upcoming Northeast Region Shingo Conference. Learn more about the conference here.

Have you signed up for my next webinar entitled: Management Kaizen?  August 13 from 3:00 – 3:40 p.m.  I’ll be discussing a few improvements that only top managers can make. Here’s how to sign up and be entered for another complimentary conference registration drawing at the same time.  Hope to see you then. Read more and register

5 thoughts on “Standardized Defects

  1. Ian Lines

    Hi Old Lean Dude,

    I have recently been working in a small quarry, 20 employees. They wanted to review the testing process as it took 24 hours to get the results. The rock gets transferred from the hole in the ground into a primary crusher. It then gets moved to a secondary crusher, finished product then gets dropped onto a stockpile. We decided a VSM would be a good way to map the process. As we started to map it we got to a decision point were the results are returned, pass or fail. It turns out the stockpile is the one used to load directly onto the trucks so if it fails they are still sending it to the customer…… Then adjust the plant and then retest, again another 24 hour delay. Quite often they will go three days before the test is passed. This does not show up on the accounts and therefore no problem is noted, it was also considered “industry norm” by all the employees and managers.

    After some conversation about quality at source the team are now testing on site at the point the crusher does the job. A great example of norms and beliefs and how we accept what’s wrong when everybody says its ok..


  2. Robert Drescher

    Hi Bruce

    You can add a few items to the list.

    We follow industry best practises or we meet industry benchmarks. If I would just get a dime for every time companies that are having a hard time competing us these excuses to claim they are doing nothing wrong, I would be rich. Industry leaders are the companies that ignore competition and forge ahead for better performance, they design new practises, that someday the second raters will adopt as the industry best practise even though by the time they do so the leaders are doing it differently. As for benchmarks there really are only two that matter where are you right now, and where is the leader of the industry. If you match the average you will never be number one, but I guess you could be a comfortable also ran.

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