Quality Fable: Legitimizing Process Incapability

On one of my monthly visits to the head office of a television manufacturer, the Chairman was a worried man. No. Correction. He was in a state of shock.

He purposefully took me to his plush Chairmans’ Office, and shared a devastating quality lesson he had learned the previous day. From a potential Korean mega buyer of color televisions.

Two Koreans had arrived in his office at the dot of 8 am. They had no time to sit in the Chairman’s Office; refused the Chairman’s courtesy of a cup of tea; went straight to the shop floor.

These two Koreans walked the shop floor, making notes in their pictoral script. They whispered to each other, at regular frequency over a four-hour walk.

At noon, they finally had a meeting with the Chairman at his office.
“Why do you paint your machinery grey?” was the first question.
“Why do you have incoming inventory? And work-in-progress inventory? And finished goods inventory?”
More: “How many inspectors do you have?”
Even more: “How many after-sales-service engineers do you have?”

The Chairman confessed that he had fumbled with his answers.

The concluding remarks of the Koreans were:
“Respected Sir, we paint our machinery white to sensitize the workers for detecting errors. Also, we see strong correlation between inventory and process incapability. Further, your army of inspectors reinforces weak process capability. Finally, your large after sales-service department leads us to ask: Is your product so unreliable and bad?”

“Our advice to you Sir is that you improve your processes and thereby reduce your costs. We would not like to pay for your chronic problems.”

Random Thought:

Is Reliability Engineering the key to economic growth?


  • Neat story:

    I never noted white painted machinery in the various Korean factories that I have visited. Or any in other countries.
    All the same , it is an idea/concept to adopt.

    In selecting suppliers I look for cleanliness of the factory floor , machinery and the clothing of the workers to judge the management’s quality . Product quality is directly related to that.
    And inspection on the machines by operators, not inspectors….same idea as these Koreans’ yardstick.

  • Yes. Reliability Engg is a key. Further, I always believed and practiced the conviction that working capital is Non-working Capital.

    Enjoyed. This story is no exception.

    • Thank you Dr Rau for your positive feedback.

      I agree with you that Working Capital is Non-Working Capital.

      Banks even give loans for some COPQ factored in Working Capital!!!

  • Relibilty engg minimises failuress,,, reduce repair time,, improve maintenace effectiveness, meet customer and organisation expectations thus help improve economic growth

    • If the CEO of every industrial product manufacturer had MTBF and MTTR on their dashboard, they would delight their customers.

      I have seen this happen with a diesel engine manufacturer’s After-Sales-Service department.

  • Managing Process reliability is central key to Management Performance that’s my understanding too Sir

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