According to the USDA Egg Grading Manual, “Checks [aka ‘cracks’] are an unavoidable problem in the marketing of eggs because eggs cannot be assembled, graded, packed, transported, and merchandized without some breakage. “ Unavoidable. That’s the standard, I guess. The grading manual does not cite a specific AQL for cracks, but clearly it implies some number above zero. According to ISO standard 2859, AQL, Acceptance Quality Limit, is the “quality level that is the worst tolerable.” ‘Tolerable to whom?’ I ask.
Who buys eggs without opening them to check for cracks? Because the industry has decided that cracks are ‘unavoidable’, we, the customers, routinely inspect for broken eggs. Most persons I meet, outside of a few in purchasing or quality, have never even heard of AQL or the statistics behind it, but all are routinely subjected to its outcome. I first became aware of AQL in an oblique fashion when I worked in an IT department attempting to implement MRP. One of about two dozen order modifiers provided in our MRP software, AQL, was the means by which our buyers enabled suppliers to pass inspection for incoming material with defects. If incoming material could not pass a 1% AQL, it might be tweaked to 1.5%. We unfortunately decided that inspecting defective lots was sometimes more tolerable than running out of parts. After a time, it became our standard, just like checking for cracked eggs.
For the last decade, more or less, I’ve carried an egg carton with me to customers as a prop. The message attached to the egg carton is this:
“The only acceptable level of quality from the customer standpoint is zero defects.”
This fundamental principle behind Shigeo Shingo’s zero quality control became a turning point for me in my own understanding. As customers we should not consider any other level ‘tolerable.’ Once I seriously adopted this principle as a customer, our suppliers became better suppliers — and we, too, became a better supplier to our customers.
Restated from a supplier’s perspective we say “Never pass a defect.” That’s the ideal condition for our customer. To emphasize this thinking, I’ve returned once more to the carton of eggs with a short video vignette about passing defects. It’s taken from a new GBMP DVD entitled True North In A Nutshell. Have a laugh: http://youtu.be/MQrB-HIJWlk . (When was the last time you had egg on your face? Share a story.)
We’ll release the True North DVD at our Northeast Shingo Conference in Hyannis, Massachusetts, September 24-25 … less than two weeks away! Hope to see you there.
BTW: My next free webinar, “Tea Time with the Toast Dude”, entitled Managing Up (click to sign up) is coming up next Tuesday, September 10 at 3:00 p.m. I’ve had many requests to weigh in on this subject. And one lucky participant will win a free registration to our Northeast Region Shingo Conference.