Protect the Customer

Quality is the Minimum Expectation

A committed employee of an auto body shop told one of his customers with genuine pride, “It is like my boss said;

“our goal is to safely employee people to restore cars to the highest quality in the shortest amount of time…and if we are successful -make a little money along the way.”

World class organizations, from multibillion dollar – multinational companies to the local auto body shop understand the hierarchy of needs for a business.

First, the employees must be safe, emotionally and physically. Second, the product has to meet the quality expectation of the customer. Third, the product or service has to be completed in a reasonable amount of time consistent with the market expectation. The business which successfully completes these objectives, then earns the right to seek a profit.

Safety is always first, but quality is the table stakes to get in the game of business.

Quality is the Table Stakes in Business

Table stakes are the minimum amount of money a player must start with at a poker table. A product that meets the expectation for quality is the minimum a business needs to stay in the game.

When a company has a quality defect, even as simple as putting the label on incorrectly, it immediately sends a signal of a bigger problem. The customer, in this case, the consumer, loses confidence in the whole organization. If they can’t get the label correct, there is a chance that they messed up something else.

Work to Build in Quality, but Protect the Customer

World class organizations work hard to build in quality. They use techniques like Poke Yoke and one-piece flow to ensure each product is made to the specified level of quality. However, they also recognize the hierarchy of needs with quality being before profit. This may translate to 100% inspection of a product with variation that has gone out of control.

Work has to been done immediately to identify the critical variables to stabilize the process and bring it in control, but even the best lean operations recognize the customer still needs product and it still needs to meet the quality expectation. So as painful to the bottom line as it is – extra steps to protect the customer have to be taken.

The real risk is leaving those steps in place. 100% inspection without a parallel process for identifying critical variables would be almost as tragic as letting a bottle with the label upside down make it a grocery store shelf.

Help your organization understand the hierarchy of needs to stay in business; safety, quality, delivery – then cost.

Learn more in Patrick’s book, “Facilitating Effective Change,” available online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. He is also the founder of UTV Advisors, a business consulting firm based in Pittsburgh, PA.

Patrick Putorti

Patrick Putorti

Patrick Putorti

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