Measure Twice Cut Once: Deming’s Third Point and Why Inspection is Too Late

More than ever, the timeless wisdom of Dr. W. Edwards Deming’s principles continues to resonate, particularly his third principle: “Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality.” On first glance, this principle seems perhaps counter-productive. Wait, I shouldn’t inspect for quality? As we’ll discuss, that’s not the point. This principle emphasizes a proactive approach to quality management, suggesting that the real work of quality assurance should be integrated into the manufacturing process from the start, rather than relying on inspections as a safety net.

The Fallacy of Inspection Dependence

Traditionally, businesses have depended heavily on inspections to ensure product quality, believing that quality can be inspected in products after creation. However, Deming’s philosophy challenges this approach, arguing that inspection is fundamentally flawed as a quality control method. Inspections, while useful for identifying when processes have deviated from standards, do not contribute to the product’s intrinsic quality. They are merely a reactive measure, often too late to correct the defects without incurring additional costs and delays.

Where inspections are often a safety net to catch errors post-production; Deming’s teachings urge us to view these not just as a means of correction but as opportunities for learning and prevention. Mistakes are inevitable, but when identified through inspection, each error serves as a valuable learning point. This perspective transforms inspections from a final checkpoint into a tool for continuous improvement. By capturing deviations and understanding their root causes, you can adjust processes to prevent these errors from recurring, embedding the lessons learned into the fabric of operations. This proactive stance on learning from mistakes ensures that quality is maintained and enhanced over time, supporting a culture of continuous improvement and resilience against future challenges.

Building Quality from the Ground Up

The alternative, Deming says, is to build quality into the process from the very beginning. This involves designing processes that inherently minimize the possibility of defects and ensure consistent output quality. It’s not just about catching errors but preventing them. This shift requires a deep understanding of the processes and a commitment to continuous improvement. There are a few ways to do this so you’re not reliant on after-the-fact inspections or maybe-this-time trial and error.

  1. Process Mapping: Create detailed visual representations of all production or service delivery steps. This helps identify inefficiencies, redundancies, or potential points of failure, providing a comprehensive overview of how things work and where improvements can be made.
  2. Employee Training and Engagement: Equip employees with the skills to understand and improve their work processes. Encouraging a culture of transparency and feedback can lead to valuable insights from those who are directly involved in daily operations. As we’ll discuss, leadership and management are essential to employee’s being and staying engaged.
  3. Data-Driven Decision Making: Use data analytics to monitor and assess process effectiveness. This involves setting up metrics and KPIs that reflect the quality and efficiency of various production stages, allowing for informed decision-making based on empirical evidence.
  4. Regular Audits and Reviews: Implement a schedule of regular process audits and reviews to assess process performance and compliance continuously. This will not only aid in maintaining standards but also foster an environment of continuous improvement.

The Role of Leadership in Quality Assurance

Leadership plays a crucial role in this shift. Leaders must create an environment where quality is seen not as a compliance function but as a cornerstone of production. This includes training employees thoroughly in quality management practices and empowering them to identify and solve quality issues as they come up.

Comprehensive training programs should be established to teach the fundamentals and the practical applications of quality management, supplemented with hands-on workshops and seminars. Mentorship programs can also be crucial, with experienced employees guiding less experienced ones, fostering a culture of continuous learning and knowledge sharing. Leaders should empower employees with the autonomy to make decisions about their work, encouraging them to identify and resolve quality issues independently. This empowerment can include recognizing and rewarding those who contribute to quality improvements and motivating continuous engagement and innovation in quality practices.

Implications for Business Strategy

Adopting this proactive approach to quality has far-reaching implications for business strategy. Companies that integrate quality into their core processes can achieve higher customer satisfaction, lower costs, and improved operational efficiency. They are also better positioned to adapt to changes in market demand and technological advancements.

Deming’s third principle teaches us that quality cannot be an afterthought, inspected into products at the end of a production line. Instead, quality must be a fundamental part of every manufacturing process step. Adopting this philosophy can improve products and enhance overall competitiveness in your marketplace. It’s about measuring correctly at every step, so when it comes time to deliver, there’s no need for a last-minute fix. This proactive approach is not just a strategy for quality but a blueprint for operational excellence.

Request A Quote Today

Fill Out The Information Below And An Amtech Team Member Will Be In Touch Shortly