Quality and the Toolmaker

Paul Harding SAQI MD

I am often asked how I became involved in the Quality profession and my immediate answer is that it was by accident. Of course quality should be all about planning and to quote John Ruskin’s famous words: “Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of intelligent effort”. So should people coming into the Quality profession follow some form of career path and study Quality as an academic subject?

The definition of quality 

To help us decide on what attributes a Quality professional should have, let us consider what the definition of quality should be. My favourite definition of quality is still something that could be found some years ago in the ISO Standard 8402. This definition described quality in the following way. “The totality of features and characteristics of a product or service that bears on its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs”

The attributes of a toolmaker

I started my working career as a toolmaker. Now before you get the impression that I made hammers, screwdrivers and pliers let me explain a little more about tool making. Toolmakers are a special breed of craftsmen without whom none of today’s hardware such as motor vehicles, i pads, vacuum cleaners, laptops, smart phones, or airplanes would be available. The profile of a toolmaker needs to contain all the quality attributes found in the ISO 8402 definition of quality. The toolmaker has to be trained in the use of a variety of precision hand tools and machines to enable him / her to accurately perform work. Even if these machines are now computer controlled someone has to create the program and indeed build the machine. The toolmaker has to work to rigid tolerances in order that the end product, the tool or die, can consistently deliver the component part that is required by the customer. Now how accurate must the work of the toolmakers be in order to perform to the requirements necessary in the application of their trade? Now here lies the crux of the matter. Most people accept that there is no such thing as perfection, so there must be a tolerance band. But people often overlook the fact that the tolerance should be there to cover the wear and tear on the tool itself during its life span. So the tool has to start its life with an accuracy way inside the limit of the tolerance of the component part that the tool will produce. If we are talking about a press tool that produces automotive sheet metal parts or cookers or fridges, other factors like chemical or mechanical variation of raw materials also affect the accuracy of the final part. If a tool is made up of a number of stations then the toolmaker has to take account of the tolerance “creep” which is an accumulation of variation from one die section to the next. In some instances of multi stage progression tools more than five hundred individual sections could make up the final tool. So if each section had an error of just a few microns, the final tool could not be assembled to produce the intended component. So the tool cannot be the result of an accident. It must be the result of intelligent effort put in by the toolmaker to plan each stage of the process using the correct materials to the right specification. Then each stage must be checked and verified that each part will interact with other parts in order to deliver the final product to the satisfaction of the customer.

The attributes of a Quality Management System (QMS)   

Let us now look at the attributes of a QMS. If we start off with a basic system comprising of standalone documented information that is only focusing on the individual requirements of ISO 9001:2015, will it be capable of delivering an accurate product or service that is within the tolerance required by the customer? Then what if parts of the system are not clearly thought out or the system as described is poorly applied and maybe even abused? If that is the case the QMS may not be an integrated approach to satisfy the customer but purely a set of individual activities that may lead to an even more inferior product or service. So the QMS needs to be set up with attention to detail of all its component parts that interact with each other in order that the “creep” from each part of the system does not affect the viability of the system as a whole. Like any tool the QMS also needs to receive regular maintenance in order that the original intended purpose lasts the life of the product. This maintenance aspect of the QMS should be addressed by ongoing audits as well as the Management Review as stated in the Requirement Standard.

The role of the auditor

Can you audit the work of the toolmaker? The answer is to a degree yes you can. Some of the “building blocks” or individual die sections of a tool can be checked for accuracy during each stage of manufacture but at the end of the tool build, the tool either produces an accurate acceptable part or it doesn’t. Toolmakers generally would feel insulted if a third party checked each stage of their work. Yet this practice is readily accepted in production areas. This is what makes the role of the toolmaker different; they audit their own work as each stage is developed. There is no place to hide or no one else to blame if the tool doesn’t work. Only lengthy planning, working to tight limits, applying project management skills and not accepting inferior workmanship from others will produce the final result. So the role of the auditor, in this case the component inspector, is not to check the planning and application of the trade but rather the end result, the component part. But what do we expect in a quality management system audit? At best an auditor can only take a very small sample of a QMS and make a judgement on its effectiveness. Sometimes this is not even one percent of the overall system. So this is like checking five parts of a five hundred-part tool and making a judgement that the tool will work. Of course the auditor can check whether the organization’s stakeholders are truly satisfied and then make a decision on the real effectiveness of the QMS. We can then apply the same criteria to a QMS as a tool; it either works or it doesn’t.


Studying quality principles from a book is fine but to be a successful Quality Professional we need to link the theory to practice.


Quality blogging

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Paul Harding SAQI MD

How has executive responsibility changed according to ISO 9001:2015

In the previous 2008 edition of the ISO 9001 Quality management systems requirements standard there was a mandatory requirement for top management of an organization to appoint a management representative to perform certain tasks in establishing and maintaining the Quality Management System (QMS). In practice this position varied, depending on the understanding of the requirement by senior executives, from that of an administrative position to one of complete control of the QMS. In other words the Management Representative was either a Scribe or a Champion.

In my experience of interacting with “ISO 9001” certified organizations I have come across many scribes but rarely have I seen a true champion. The revised 2015 standard now calls for more leadership and commitment from top management who must also take accountability for the effectiveness of the QMS. A champion or a number of champions may still be appointed but if the auditors and Certification Bodies are true to the revised requirements in the standard, scribes will no longer be acceptable as a substitute for leadership.

The new standard also requires that top management ensure that the quality policy and objectives for the QMS are compatible with the context and strategic direction of the organization and are integrated into the organization’s business processes. Furthermore the new standard also requires that top management engage, direct and support persons in order to contribute to the effectiveness of the QMS. In essence this now means top management need to link strategy and operations in their organizations.

In one of my previous posts I spoke about “Should executives be auditors?” and the article focused on how executives can effectively address this issue of taking accountability for the performance of the organization. The methodology described was based on the Focus, Alignment, Integration and Review (FAIR) approach. Focused activities in the form of new strategic goals and objectives need to be aligned across various business processes. Once this has taken place the new activities need to be integrated into the existing operations. Finally executive involvement is recommended in order to review the outcomes of the integration process at the various levels and stages of application. This is now what the 2015 new standard requires but will anything change or will it be “ISO 9001” business as usual?

Change from management responsibility to leadership

There have now been significant changes in the new ISO 9001:2015 Quality management systems – Requirements standard where the requirement for management responsibility has been replaced for a requirement for leadership. How is this change going to affect the application of the requirements to satisfy conformance to the new ISO 9001:2015 standard?

If we follow the definition of leadership found in ISO 9000:2015 Quality management systems – Fundamentals and vocabulary, we see that; “Leaders at all levels establish unity of purpose and direction and create conditions in which people are engaged in achieving the organization’s quality objectives.” ISO 9000:2015 goes on to give a rationale for this statement. “Creation of unity of purpose and direction and engagement of people enable an organization to align its strategies, policies, processes and resources to achieve its objectives.” So what are the possible actions that top management of an organization could take to comply with the leadership requirement found in ISO 9001:2015?

So what are the possible actions that top management of an organization could take to comply with the leadership requirement found in ISO 9001:2015?

According to ISO 9000:2015 these actions could include:

  • Communicate the organization’s mission, vision, strategy, policies and processes throughout the organization;
  • Create and sustain shared values, fairness and ethical models for behavior at all levels in the organization;
  • Establish a culture of trust and integrity;
  • Encourage an organization-wide commitment to quality;
  • Ensure that leaders at all levels are positive examples to people in the organization;
  • Provide people with the required resources, training and authority to act with accountability;
  • Inspire, encourage and recognize the contribution of people.

The new standard also requires the integration of the quality management system requirements into the organization’s business processes. The ISO 9000:2015 Quality management systems – fundamentals and vocabulary standard does not give a definition of a “business process” only that of a “process”. However, there is a note under leadership in ISO 9001:2015 that says “business” can be interpreted broadly to mean those activities that are core to the purpose of the organization’s existence. So we must now ask the question: Is ISO 9001:2015 talking about the Management of a Quality System or are we now finally talking about the Quality of a Management System?

Does your organisation work in teams or silos

Paul Harding SAQI MD

I remember when our first Japanese CEO came to our plant in South Africa. He immediately gave up his fancy office and converted it to a training / meeting room. He then took up a desk alongside the production managers in an open plan office. This was not just a token move, it was a clear message that he needed to communicate directly with his managers and understand what was happening in the sharp end of the organization.  This of course is not unusual in Japanese style management.

Historically each manager had their own separate office and each director sat in a plush suite in the main administration building. All the executives and managers were focused on their lines of responsibility in their particular functions in order to meet their targets and Key Performance Indicators. This was typical of an organization that works in silos and does not fully communicate. The role of the CEO was to sit at the top of the hierarchy and give commands.

Below you will see an illustration of a model that depicts a typical manufacturing organization. Each department or function is illustrated by a small triangle. Does it look familiar? Probably each of these functions had a manager who sat in his office and focused only on what objectives he had been told to achieve.

If we look at the figure above we see the triangles that indicate various functions within an organization.

Count the number of triangles that you can see in the figure.

Look carefully before you come to your conclusion. Each of these functions has a role to play in the success of the operation. No doubt each of these areas has a list of policies, procedures or work instructions supported by job descriptions relating to what must be done in each department.

The figure shown is manufacturing based but it could also apply to any service organization as well with a couple of minor modifications. So what we are looking at is a process based organization that may be working in silos with little team work or communication across functions.

How many triangles did you count?

One of the simpler definitions of systems thinking is that “The whole is greater than the sum of its individual parts”. So how can we achieve this in our illustration?

Let’s start with the 4 triangles at the top of the model. We have a CEO, Business planning function, Finance and Logistics. Now of course if we want to implement a strategic plan for the organization we need input from each of these 4 functions. So we have now created a larger triangle that incorporates all these functions. However, we haven’t produced anything yet. So let’s look at the logistics function as the top of another 4 triangles and incorporate Production, Quality and Research and Development. Do we need further input in order to achieve success? Well how about including Training, Customer service, Information technology, Sales and an Audit function. Now add all of these nine functions together and you now have a bigger triangle.

Get the picture?  

Now go back and count the triangles all over again and see how many you can find this time? Of course this is a lot of theory about systems thinking but does it really work?

Well what our Japanese CEO did was to form Cross Functional Teams (CFTs) that needed to cooperate in order to meet the organization’s objectives. So although each of the divisional managers had their functional KPI’s they were also allocated CFT KPI’s too. So the Production manager had a CFT KPI for achieving Quality targets as well as his allocated volume targets.

So we have 16 small triangles in the model. There is also a large triangle surrounding the model that can be depicted as the organization itself. These 17 triangles can be indicated as the sum of the individual parts. However, the organization can be much stronger if the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts. So now add all the triangles in the model.

Who counted 27 triangles?  Well done. Now apply it to your organization

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