Japan, early post-war years.
Except for a few rare examples of cameras, Japanese technology products did not have a great appeal on European and American buyers, who considered them little more than junk.
The “made in Japan” was not a symbol of pride (like our “made in Italy “) but of a poor quality product.
After a few decades, however, Japan had become the most technological nation in the world, recognized as a producer of high quality technological products.
What had happened and why should this interest you?
Immediately after the war, the person that I will shortly present to you spread and improved the concept of “quality circle” adapting it to the Japanese industry. It is still used in all large Asian companies: in 1997, at the dawn of the modern Chinese empire, there were already several million quality circles in China.
Thanks to this method, applied in a few years by Japanese companies, the approach to Total Quality Control was developed, which made the industries of the Rising Sun famous for being the ones that produce expensive but very high quality products.
Your new hero is called Kaoru Ishikawa and his method could save your company.
The concept of quality and the cause-effect diagram
We all know that we are facing a difficult time and that the next 6-12 months will most likely not be a walk in the park.
Unfortunately, there is not much we can do except study and structure the company to be competitive in the new market that will be created.
Your customers are certainly very loyal, but they too will be in trouble and will be tempted by domestic and foreign competitors who will do everything to recover the lost months and grab other market shares.
In order to compete you have only three possibilities:
- already be the industry leader, or the most famous and recognized company in your market niche, the one to which customers turn even if it costs a little more (the Apple of the situation to understand);
- always make the lowest price (but there will always be those who make a lower price than yours);
- specialize in a few productions (perhaps where there is no strong leader) in which to truly offer a unique service and quality, in order to become the leader for this niche of customers.
If you are not yet the reference of your market niche, Kaoru Ishikawa can help you become one.
In particular, I want to talk to you about the concept of quality and the use of the cause-effect diagram created by our Ishikawa and used in all quality control processes (from the 5M model of lean manufacturing to direct use in the manufacturing industry).
If you asked what quality means, you would most likely have different answers: for some it may be the duration of an object; for others, ease of use; for still others the design or materials used. It would hardly be synonymous with low price.
The total quality method
Thanks to Ishikawa, the total quality method was introduced into the Japanese production process, which required that quality control was an integral part of the product conception and realization phases, not a subsequent and independent phase.
In fact, he claimed that:
- quality control starts and ends with education;
- the first step towards quality is knowing what the customer requires;
- the point of arrival of quality control is when inspection is not necessary;
- you need to remove the root of the problem, not the symptoms;
- quality control is the responsibility of all workers;
- a company that declares that it cannot standardize its work and that it must be based on experience is an organization without technology (and technology improves the quality of the process).
Many points are easy to understand and you probably know them and apply them already, but I would like to make you think about the last point:
A company that declares that it cannot standardize its work and that it must be based on experience is an organization without technology
When a company still has completely manual processes that can only be carried out by a few or very few workers (such as the operator at the mixer) the company is weaker because it cannot guarantee the repeatability of production and must insert controls into the process quality (therefore costs) so as not to risk selling a non-compliant product.
Furthermore, manual processes constitute a bottleneck in the growth of the company, because while it is easy to insert an automated line that requires an unskilled operator, it is much more difficult to have technicians who must know all the productions and know how to work manually on the machines.
Many still have operators who manually weigh the components while looking at a sheet or screen, without any tools that help him not to make mistakes.
When you make a mistake, you only notice it when checking the quality of the compound. Same thing if instead of unloading the mix at 115 ° C, the operator at the mixer unloads it at 110 because he is in a hurry to finish the shift.
The cause and effect diagram in the quality process:
This method, used by thousands of companies, in various forms, even very complex ones, identifies the causes (and sub-causes) to obtain an effect.
Often also called fishbone diagram, it identifies all the causes or activities involved in a process which, depending on their weight, will determine an effect.
The simplified diagram I have entered is the classic Ishikawa diagram for the quality process.
More well-developed are the elements in the arrow, more you will have a process and therefore a quality product.
How can this diagram help you win tomorrow’s challenges?
The diagram makes you understand that by improving one or more of these factors, you improve the quality process, reduce waste and controls and obtain a superior product at a lower production cost.
When Total Quality Control was fully applied in Japan in the 1960s, the products exported, compared to American analogues, were much better and cheaper.
Do you know why?
Because, among other things, the concept of quality for Americans was based on the consumer.
The goal was to get to the stores with safe and properly functioning products.
To achieve this, the tool was inspection. Before being sold, each product had to be thoroughly tested. The consumer was certainly protected but the company had to bear huge costs for inspections and for the inevitable waste.
In this period the high-price high-quality axiom was born.
To obtain the same results, the Japanese thought that the right approach was to make perfect products from the beginning.
Hence the attention to the production process to obtain quality products and the concept that high quality requires a high (production) price has also been disrupted. Because if I already make perfect products, I have less waste and less costs (inspection is not necessary).
I believe that what we can and must all do is structure our company to improve the rewarding factors of the quality process with the aim of reducing fixed costs, increasing the value perceived by our customers and therefore making us the reference only for our small niche of customers.
Quality in compound production
In these more than 25 years of industrial installations, we have identified which are the aspects of the compound production process on which to intervene and consequently we have created products, like brand new MyFlexPlant, that can actually improve process control by acting precisely on the points indicated by Ishikawa.
Our recipe to help you compete:
- WORKING METHOD: facilitating the work of the staffs by limiting errors and downtimes, providing the factory with a complete supervision system which, adapting to production, can inform on the required operations or anomalies.
- MACHINES AND AUTOMATION: both at the control level and at the mechanical level, improve the systems so that they can offer the same performance as the new ones, not necessarily changing them.
- ANALYSIS: eliminate all operations done manually without control. Everything must be supervised by a system that allows the management, production and quality department to be updated, so that everyone can make the best decisions.
- RAW MATERIALS: start a process of true traceability that includes the control of the batch of the MP and that provides updated information on the consumption of the materials used in the production process.
- PEOPLE: facilitate work using simple and complete technology, but empowering the worker making him feel an important part of the process.
I don’t know when we will get out of this situation, but I am aware that things will no longer be the same. Many firms will disappear, others will become stronger.
I believe we must all take advantage of this situation to rethink the processes and flows of our companies to be among those who will win tomorrow’s challenge.
If I managed to get you thinking, this short article did its job.
If you believe you have a production process with some gaps or simply want to have a different opinion on how you can do things, I am always at your disposal.
Fill the contact form and I’ll call you immediately