Quality Progress - July 2013 - (Page 46)

QuaLity in the First Person By WIllIAm D. TAylor III Looming Memory Are you haunted by an unsolved problem you can’t leave in the past? Most quality professionals have self. For the sake of cathartic storytelling, Bulletproof solution? a number of stories on their memory I would like to share one with you. One night, after the first shift ended and shelves about projects that went well, This story takes place early in my I was getting ready to go home, a darn maybe even by the book. Tucked away, career, years before the NBC White Paper shuttle ejected from the machine, crashed there may be a tale or two about a project “If Japan Can…Why Can’t We?” that intro- through the office’s window and landed that was successful, even if it seemed to duced many of us to W. Edwards Deming in my lap. A shop mechanic was standing require a little luck to complete. and the concept of quality improvement. in the office, laughing hysterically. He jok- Then, there are the stories we want to 1 I was a young supervisor at a textiles fac- ingly suggested, “Why don’t you just put forget. No matter what we do, they fall tory and fly-shuttle looms were still used bulletproof glass in that window? You’re off the shelf and hit us at unexpected mo- to make fabric. The main office had a win- never going to fix that loom.” ments. Perhaps it’s a story about a prob- dow overlooking weave room operations. lem we never found the root cause for. Just outside the office was loom 301, shop, took a sheet of half-inch Plexiglas, If we did find the root cause, maybe we which occasionally threw its shuttle out. cut it to size and installed it that night. couldn’t figure out a solution to correct Sometimes, the airborne shuttle would While I no longer had to worry about it. These are the projects that haunt us— hit the office’s window and shatter it. dodging shuttles, I never fixed the loom. sometimes throughout our entire career. Supervisors before me dealt with the same By the early 1970s, new equipment that problem. No one was able to correct it. used a jet of water or air replaced the old We don’t mention these stories during presentations showcasing how quality I became responsible for loom mainte- That’s just what we did. We went to the fly-shuttle looms. tools work and how they promise ever nance. My job was to make sure the equip- finer quality at a low cost. These are ment was capable of producing products like to think that the quality engineering the projects we don’t want to admit we that met customer requirements. While skills I’ve picked up over the years would worked on. I have a few experiences my- loom 301’s problem didn’t impact the qual- allow me to fix the loom. But, to this day, I If I was able to go back in time, I would ity of the fabric it wove, one am not sure if I could. As quality profes- of my primary objectives was sionals, we pride ourselves on our ability to fix it. to get to the root cause of any problem I tried everything. I re- and correct it. To our credit, we usually placed almost every part on have numerous success stories. But I the loom, large and small. I wonder how many of us have a loom 301 aligned and leveled it myself. somewhere in a closet that we don’t like I consulted with experts to talk about but can’t forget? QP at other plants and sought advice from the loom manufacturer. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I was looking for the NotE 1. “If Japan Can... Why Can’t We?” was an American television episode broadcast by NBC News as part of the show NBC White Paper on June 24, 1980. The episode is often credited with beginning the quality revolution in the United States. root cause. I never found it. I kept track of problems using primitive statistical analysis, not really knowing what I was doing. But no matter what I did, the loom continued to hurl shuttles and break the window. 46 QP • www.qualityprogress.com WILLIAM D. TAYLOR III is an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina’s Union campus. He earned his MBA from Jacksonville State University in Alabama. Taylor is an ASQ-certified quality engineer and a senior member of ASQ. http://www.qualityprogress.com

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Quality Progress - July 2013

Up Front
LogOn
Expert Answers
Keeping Current
Mr. Pareto Head
Feeling Connected
Take Charge
Full View
Reinventing Excellence
Innovation Imperative
Measure for Measure
Quality in the First Person
Standards Outlook
Career Corner
Statistics Roundtable
ASQ's Continuing Education and Professional Development Directory
QP Toolbox
QP Reviews
One Good Idea

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