Quality Progress - July 2013 - (Page 46)
QuaLity in the First Person
By WIllIAm D. TAylor III
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,
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
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
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
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
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.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Quality Progress - July 2013
Mr. Pareto Head
Measure for Measure
Quality in the First Person
ASQ's Continuing Education and Professional Development Directory
One Good Idea
Quality Progress - July 2013