July editor's comment: Who checks the checker?

Welcome to the July edition of Aerospace Manufacturing. Reading the G&P special report featured on page 26 of this issue reminded me of a time when I was employed as a quality inspector at a control valve manufacturing company.

Working across the goods-in and final inspection departments, I enjoyed the job immensely as it made a welcome change from my previous job slaving away on a dirty old shopfloor CNC lathe. That was until a certain Mr Phil Crosby walked into my life. 

His bright idea was the notion of ‘zero defects’, a phrase coined in his book entitled ‘Quality is Free’. Our Phil made a very convincing argument that when it came to component quality, we should ‘get it right first time’ and that the responsibility should be placed solely on the individual’s shoulders.

Our management team clapped their hands with joy because in one fell swoop, it completely eradicated the need for an inspection department. As a result, I lost my job and it was back to the machine shopfloor for me. Not that I’m still bitter or anything.

But in inspecting this ‘zero defects’ philosophy more closely, it begs the question: who checks the checker? Who’s to say that my interpretation of quality is as exacting as yours? All defects are unacceptable when they affect you personally. For example, we demand satisfaction when we take our car to the garage for a service or purchase something online, yet in these pandemic times we’re expected to accept that defects ‘just happen’. The phrase ‘Near enough is good enough’ springs to mind!

It’s an interesting dichotomy but ultimately, zero defects is one of the best ways to resolve the disharmony between what we expect for ourselves and what we can accept from others – in all walks of life!

Mike Richardson, editor

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