A Lesson from Industrial Quality Control

One day the QC manager at a manufacturing plant said “Starting tomorrow we shall have no more defects.”


You can’t achieve a desired result by exhorting the workers.

You have to study the system that produces the defects and fix those causes.  Off-spec materials, worn out machinery, inadequate training, outdated procedures, etc.

Workers can do nothing about those things.

Defects are downstream, the system is upstream.  The behavior of a system as a function of time is called a ‘process.’  A process takes certain inputs and delivers certain outputs, days, weeks or months later.


A major-league hitter gets paid millions of dollars to turn out 70% defective work.

A stable process can turn out 100% defective results, day in and day out.

To solve problems, you have to look upstream and improve the process.

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