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Quality management of executive holloware

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1 Why is quality important to Executive Holloware?

Quality is important to Executive Holloware because they are one of the UK's leading suppliers of 'top-quality' holloware. They describe themselves as selling to a 'top end' market. As a result their products are priced high.

Executive Holloware say their most important product was a handmade silver-plated Georgian tea set priced at over £400. It is implied that this is the most expensive product and that's why they thought it was the most important. This could be a misguided opinion. It could have been the company's trademark, the item which made the brand; in this case you could have called it the most important because without it, there was no brand.

The entire product range was hand-made and it looks like this was a big part of Executive Holloware's brand image.

Holloware is a term that refers to table service items such as sugar bowls, coffee pots, teapots and other metal items that go on a table. Holloware is traditionally constructed to last a long time. It is typically made with thicker walls and more layers of silver-plate than other silverware. [1]

2 What do you understand by the term 'quality'?

The ISO9000 system describes Quality as:

"The degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfils requirements"[3]

The American society for Quality describes Quality as:

"A subjective term for which each person has his or her own definition"[4]

In reality the definition of quality depends on your viewpoint. A customer may look at quality in terms of design, how the product performs, or whether it lasts as expected. A producer may look at quality in terms of conformance to requirements and the 'cost of quality' i.e. scrap and profits. A government may see quality in terms of safety or environment.

In industry, quality is often measured using values e.g. number of features, reliability, aesthetics etc.

The majority of definitions seem to agree that regardless of your viewpoint, there is a set of requirements, whether it is conscious or sub-conscious, for which conformance is the goal. It is important to understand a range of peoples' requirements both for a product's customer base and within the company in design, manufacturing and other departments.

3 How would you specify 'quality' for executive holloware?

A 'quality' product for Executive Holloware is a product that is free from:

* Dimensional inaccuracies

* Scratches

* Bruises

The product must be free from defects if a customer is to be proud of presenting it on their dinner table. Customers use the product to give their dinner tables a 'touch of class' and give their guests the impression that no expense has been spared.

In terms of the Georgian tea set, the product should be made of a layered silver-plate, other products are made from pewter or stainless steel.

4 What are the underlying causes of the problems at Executive Holloware?

One of the main problems is that there is no dimensional / defect inspection carried out until the product is 'ready' for shipment. Too many problems are getting ignored during the manufacturing processes and the product is getting 'passed down the line' with defects.

It appears that there is no quality control data generated during the processes until the end of the production line. For this company, the data would not have to be complex, just a numerical count of defects and possible reasons. There definitely seems to be a lack of control chart knowledge.

The problems with defects are causing a massive amount of rework, which costs the company money as work is being done twice, this should be virtually unnecessary.

The culture of the workforce is wrong. It appears that this stems from the top as the Production Director, Andrew Keegan, is constantly pressuring them to speed up production. This will not work if the quality is not under control. It will only multiply the problem or even increase the percentage of rework. It is a reactive culture with people only reacting to problems with the finished product.

There seems to be a blame culture affecting the workforce too. Nobody wants to help with the root causes of the problem; they just want to blame somebody else. This could be because the workforce doesn't feel empowered to do anything about the quality problems. They can't stop production if they notice a problem because they will get blamed for a loss of production time.

The workforce may be paid per item they get through their station. This is the case in so many industries of this kind. The problem with that is that the workforce is inclined to rush jobs because they know that if there is rework then they will get paid again.

Another problem is that when a defect is found the workforce has no way of knowing if it is out of tolerance or not because there is no specification. There are no limits.

5 How should Executive Holloware measure quality at each stage of the process?

Statistical Process Control should be used to take periodic samples from the processes and plot sample points on a control chart. It can then be determined whether the process is within limits. Variability is inherent in production processes and the aim is to lessen the variability to random causes. Three quality characteristics have been highlighted in section 3 which can be measured. A specification needs to be drawn up so that the workforce can decide which defects are failures and which are not. There needs to be a set of tolerances for problems like dimensional inaccuracies. The workforce also needs to be provided with measuring equipment to assist with this. A process control chart can be used as shown in Figure 5‑1. The process would be in control if no sample points lie outside the limits, most points are near the average, and there are an equal number of points above and below the centre line.

A histogram can then be created to visually show which problems are most significant. A Pareto analysis could also be done to work out which problem is costing the most. Using control charts at each stage it will be possible to pinpoint at which stage defects are caused. A Fishbone diagram could then be used to show all the causes of a particular quality problem. All these visual aids are useful for meetings to aid effectively communicating the message to everybody present.

Another approach to quality control is acceptance sampling. This can also be used on a random basis to measure the % defective. As the products are intended to be 'top quality' and supplied to a 'top end' market, this is not really suitable; especially with the large number of non-conforming products.

6 What steps would you advise Paul Stone to take to improve quality?

The basic four steps from the Total Quality Management theory should be used:

* Step 1: Collect and organize data

* Step 2: Identify problematic components or maintenance processes

* Step 3: Analyse data after maintenance process monitoring

* Step 4: Action plan [5]

The management should ask themselves the '5 Whys' each time there is a problem with quality. The 5 Whys is a technique that doesn't involve advanced statistical tools, and in many cases can be completed without a data collection plan. By repeatedly asking the question "Why" at least five times, you can peel away the layers of symptoms which can lead to the root cause of a problem. [6]

Paul should advise management to instil a new culture into the workforce. The workforce should be empowered to report problems and stop production if they feel there is a problem. They should also be involved with problem resolution because it has been proven that if a workforce feels more involved then they are more likely to use their process knowledge to come up with solutions for themselves. This would increase morale and is a basic TQM (Total Quality Management) philosophy. There could be daily meetings for each production unit to go through control chart data. There could then be monthly meetings for the entire staff which will make everyone feel involved and issues can be discussed between departments. Installing a continuous improvement mentality should be the goal.

Quality control data as discussed in section 5 should be analysed and used to direct resources for improvement efforts. Specifications need to be created for each product stating tolerances for defects of different types and in different locations on the product. Appropriate metrics need to be identified so that problems can be measured against a standard.

There could be cause for a pay restructuring so that workers are paid a fixed rate instead of per item. Bonuses could be introduced based on 'quality production' targets as a different type of incentive.

Andrew Keegan should be advised that if the efficiency of the process is increased, then this will bring an increase in productivity. Cycle time should also be increased because there will be fewer problems during processes and rework should be rare.

The spare capacity introduced from the lack of rework could then be used to increase production and for new product development.

It may be possible to reduce manpower which will lower costs and increase profitability. Increased production means increased turnover.

One study by the University of Manchester states that success in applying the quality tools and techniques discussed relies on:

* In-depth knowledge of the process

* Formal training in problem solving techniques

* Appropriateness of tools selected for use

* Application of simple models at all levels in the organisation to aid communication and learning [7]

If this is true then there needs to be formal training of statistical process control and problem solving techniques generally. There must also be involvement from all levels of the organisation.

The Six Sigma theory can be used to help this organisation as well and can be applied to all stages of the problem solving process. The DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve, Control) methodology can be used. Six Sigma seeks to improve the quality of process outputs by identifying and removing the causes of defects and minimizing variability in manufacturing, which is exactly what this company needs to do. As quality assurance manager, Paul should take the lead role in this. The six sigma tools matrix (see Table 6‑1) can present a clear roadmap for the problem solver, especially if the problem solver is a novice (Black Belt or Green Belt).

Six Sigma may be an appropriate strategy to base the work on but not in place of TQM because, as Dr Rick L. Edgeman from the University of Idaho said:

"Six Sigma is a highly structured, information-driven strategy for product, system and enterprise innovation and design". In contrast I would say that TQM "seeks to satisfy customer needs continuously by providing what they desire at the lowest possible cost as a result of involving a critical mass of the organization's human resource." [8]

Different aspects of both of these methodologies / strategies will be helpful for this company.

The steps discussed in this section should have a positive effect on the shops as they will be more confident in the product they are selling, and the end users.

Works Cited

1. Encyclopedia Britannica. Holloware Article. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. [Online] [Cited: 7 December 2009.] http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/269441/hollowware.

2. AtlanticHospitality.com. Holloware. Atlantic Hospitality. [Online] 2003. [Cited: 7 December 2009.] http://atlantichospitalityinc.com/images/on_halloware/EJAZZ.JPG.

3. International Organization for Standardization. Quality management systems -- Fundamentals and vocabulary. 2005. ISO 9000:2005.

4. American Society for Quality. ASQ Glossary - Entry: Quality.

5. E. Vassilakis, G. Besseris. An application of TQM tools at a maintenance division of a large aerospace company. Journal of Quality in Maintenance Engineering. 2009, Vol. 15, 1.

6. EMS Consulting Group. Problem Solving. Lean Manufacturing Consulting and Training. [Online] 1 February 2006. [Cited: 7 December 2009.] http://www.emsstrategies.com/dd020106article.html.

7. Greatbanks, David R. Bamford and Richard W. The use of quality management tools and techniques: a study of application in everyday situations. International Journal of Quality & Reliability Management. 2005, Vol. 22, 4.

8. Antony, Jiju. Six Sigma vs TQM: some perspectives from leading practitioners and academics. International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management. 2009, Vol. 58, 3.

9. Catherine Hagemeyer, John K. Gershenson, Dana M. Johnson. Classification and application of problem solving quality tools. The TQM Magazine. 2006, Vol. 18, 5.


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