The Critical Importance of Quality.


Tony Dovey with the ‘Mother of all big Singles’? My thanks to Tony who shared his knowledge and helped paint a clearer picture of realities of slow speed.

And who may never understand the requirement? India?

If you have been watching Boeing, there’s plenty of food for thought, and it does cause me to reflect on a few things I’ve studied for years, things the typical western mind generally fails to grasp.

Back to Boeing for a minute, it really is sad, but I think Boeing has had an incestuous relationship for a long long time, and perhaps the FFA should be seen as carrying the larger share of the blame, but we know how government works, it’s generally a place you can work with little chance of paying much of a consequence for your wrongdoing WHEN we compare it to a job in private enterprise.

I was recently honored to have a guided tour of Blue Origin in my home town of Kent, Washington.  Some of the things they are doing there are truly bleeding edge, and some of the machines I saw there are first-generation, and were just being bolted to the floor.  My host has been a friend for many years, he’s an engineer in QC, and he pointed out a lot of lasers and other toolings that allow measurements of very large pieces with incredible precision.  As you might expect, he knows the tolerances for many of the parts we saw in the production area, and one of the things he said that has stuck in my head was “WE are no one’s friend here”.  What he meant by that is his group of people ‘Quality Control’ are a totally autonomous group, and they’re even inclined to eat lunch together.  They do not overlook misses in QC because their Boss who also has reports in Production suggests that it is the right thing to do. In young Blue Origin, they don’t have that problem!

I ask, how did such a young entity like Blue Origin get it so right? I think the answer might be that most companies get it right in the beginning, and then what seems like a good cost-cutting idea takes root.  The removal of middle management to help with the bottom line, moves to impress wall street with better numbers, and so much more.

When the 737 Max plowed in, it wasn’t long before a lot of people questioned the design of MCAS, but there were pilots that stepped forward to say that regardless of MCAS, you just needed to know how to shut it off and fly the plane!  This didn’t stop the further scrutiny of MCAS, and I choose to think that there is no one who has been brought up in the world of redundant systems who would agree to sign his name to the approval of such a design.

There’s a lot of books written on the topic, but my first opportunity to study these designs was in the Navy.  The ‘Man of War’ is a very different ship from an Auxuallary ship like an oiler or a supplies ship. On the man of war, even electric motors are built to a higher spec and power to critical equipment is sometimes fed by different cable routes and different sources of power with automatic bus transfers.  A lot of these design principles were adopted for aircraft, and at the heart of it is high quality, redundant systems and in some cases diverse routing of power and communication/control cables.

As we look at Boeing today, they have been brutally punished, their stock price arrived in the toilet just in time to be murdered by the irrational fear of the virus! I think Boeing has to get rid of the incest to survive, and they will be a better company for it. I figure it might take 15 years for them to forget this lesson, so I think Boeing stock will be a solid buy soon. Anyone who is caught fudging on QC needs to be fired or transferred to the mailroom or janitorial services, if the Union can’t agree to that, maybe it’s time to have a going out of business sale?

A friend of mine who spent his working years in drug research was comparing China and India as suppliers of raw materials, he made this comparison that I thought was  interesting:  I steal a snippet from his post:

  When I left XYZ, I was horrified to learn that virtually all of the raw materials that were being used to make batches of any of our drugs were sourced entirely from China.  The company HAD sourced many of them from India, but getting the Indians to produce to our quality requirements, and not falsify documents, and not insist on taking bribes as a part of every transaction, took constant vigilance.  Who’d have thought that?   The ChiComs, on the other hand, knew the value of quality because they likely stole that ethic from Japan next door.  However, as we have just learned, relying on a single source of materials to manufacture your product places you at great risk when the unexpected happens.  The Just In Time manufacturing process failed to take that into account. 

I gave up on getting any kind of reliable quality out of India,  it was simply a crapshoot every time. I quickly learned that what you bought could be anything from quite good to no more useful than a doorstop.  The better stuff came out of periods of steady production where a crew of workers learned what was good and what was bad. When there are no orders, workers must leave to find other work and the more skilled worker is often not available when new orders for engines come in.  One thing you can count on, if there are orders for engines, they will be built, and this happens even if the ‘erector’ can only find farmers to do it.

I put a lot of effort into understanding why it was that no one producing slow-speed engines was interested in building a longterm relationship based on better quality, I think their inability to keep craftsmen employed ongoing, and the typical attitude that ‘we always find someone to buy what we make’ pretty much dictated how things were to be done.  I do remember others thinking they had connections so strong that quality was guaranteed, in one case, I remember a person touting one brand he bought as the best thing anyone had ever seen! He ordered a 40-foot container and then announced to the world that his order had been sabotaged, as it was the only thing his western shaped mind could think of.

I recently talked to a valued friend in Mumbai, he reminded me that much has changed since Modi has been elected, and a lot of crooks have been jailed or left the country. JB reminded me that India is now 3rd in the space race, and here we know you can’t even get into orbit without a consistent level of QC. I think India has made it ‘over the bar’, and a lot of gains may be the result of installing a government committed to getting rid of corruption?

I hope America can stay the course, God knows we have our share of corruption, and many who are corrupt are fighting to regain their power? America wake up, there’s every reason to bring work back home, and to get very good at what we do.






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One Response to The Critical Importance of Quality.

  1. Walter McDonald says:

    So true .

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