Ways to Reduce Errors and Rework –Part I

by Tom McBride, Partners for Creative Solutions, Inc.


Customer demand for quality has continued to increase over the last several years.  Pressure from emerging countries and knowledge provided by quality gurus like Deming, Juran, and Crosby have all contributed to this quality revolution. However, a large number of organizations still have not mastered the ability to eliminate errors without increasing costs, and often the problem lies not in how hard they try but in how they go about it. Companies that still consider quality to be an additive function instead of integrating the attainment of quality into their processes will continue to fall behind.

While totally eliminating errors on a sustained basis is difficult, taking measures to ensure top quality at each discrete step (or source) will reduce errors and their cost and impact on your business.  Methods of achieving source quality fall into two broad categories, early detection and prevention.  This article focuses on early detection, and we will continue with preventive measures in our next issue.

Early detection – It is clear that an error detected early in a multi-step process will cause less disruption, cost, and impact on schedule than one found several steps down stream.  We must continue to reduce our reliance on final inspection.  While it may keep errors from reaching customers, it does little to prevent them or to reduce the cost of producing good quality. 

Here are some practical ways to detect errors early.

Require workers to verify the quality of their own work.  This approach is cost effective and places responsibility for quality on those performing each step.  With proper training and tools most workers should be able to detect a large percentage of errors.
Likewise, place strict quality requirements on vendors.
Build “buddy” checks into your system.  First, each worker self-checks his or her own work.  Then, the next worker in the process checks the incoming work prior to performing his own step.  This independent check will catch many errors missed during self-checks.
Reduce batch sizes.  Instead of processing several items before passing them on to the next step, transfer smaller batches to allow the buddy checks to catch errors earlier.   Fewer defects will be produced before realizing there is a problem.
Place process steps as close together as possible.  This enhances communications between workers, makes buddy checks more effective, and makes transferring work in smaller batches more feasible.

Applying these straightforward techniques to capture “low hanging fruit” will set the stage for more sophisticated prevention techniques.  You should be able to reduce quality costs quite rapidly and reduce the need to rely on final inspection.