Quality Digest  |  02/27/2009


Why, Why, Why, Why, Why

I agree with Craig Cochran that complex problems are difficult to solve or tackle using the 5 Whys method (“Don’t Fail Your Customers With the Five Whys,” February 2009). Companies and consultants have a tendency to want to use the 5 Whys method as a pill for all illnesses.

Another problem with the 5 Whys method is that by the time you get to the fifth why, the root cause of a problem inevitably ends up being something along the lines of “the employee causing the error is not motivated.”

There are, however, a lot of cases where the 5 Whys method has worked nicely. Normally it’s with simpler or straight- forward situations, or where there’s supporting data for the problem-solving team to explore during the 5 Whys process. I have seen instances where after a lot of complicated Six Sigma or failure mode analysis, problems were never solved. When we applied the 5 Whys correctly and, in a brutally honest way, we got to the bottom of the issue in no time.

--Paolo Chiappina


That Article Was Delicious

I absolutely loved this article (“ISO 9001 Documentation Is Like a Box of Chocolates,” Bretta Kelly, February 2009). It describes what we at Kent Foundry complain about when we talk about ISO [standards]. We have a two-page quality manual and only five procedures. We started out with a “premade” set of documents but found them to be too cumbersome. So we went our own way and spent most of our time teaching our personnel to think differently. We have been very pleased after a year of being registered at how well it works and how much better a company we are.

--Steve Ziny


I’ve been battling with our engineering group over this exact issue of over- documentation for years. Our Mexican facilities have written literally thousands of procedures, work instructions, and other nonvalue-added documents to justify document control. I’ve written a simplified 10-page version of our 32-page quality manual with the seven required ISO/TS16949 procedures; however, managers seem to think they need even more manuals and procedures. “How will people know how and what to do if we don’t have procedures?” is a phrase that makes the hairs on my neck stand on end.

Thank your for the timely article.

--Jesus Guerra


Bretta Kelly’s article is a breath of fresh air for today’s overcomplicated world of system documentation. I was not aware that ISO 9001:2008 specifies six documented procedures: Can you tell me what those are?


--R. Montgomery


Bretta Kelly responds: “For ISO 9001:2008, the following sections require documented procedures:

4.2.3 “Control of Documents”

4.2.4 “Control of Records”

8.2.2 “Internal Audits”

8.3 “Control of Nonconforming Material”

8.5.2 “Corrective Action”

8.5.3 “Preventive Action”


“AS9100 requires the above plus:

7.5 “Operations” ( “Production equipment, tools, and programs shall be validated prior to use and maintained and inspected periodically according to documented procedures.”)”



Not Dead Yet

Regarding the article “Is Print Dead?” (“Quality Curmudgeon,” Scott Paton, February 2009), I beg to differ about your prediction that print media is moribund, soon to be dead. Certainly, the reduction of printed pages is due to the proliferation of computers, web sites, and blogs. I, however, will howl in fits of laughter if and when the entire country subscribes to electronic exchange of information--only to see a major electrical generation or distribution meltdown, à la New York’s famous blackout.

I feel very strongly that another reason for the severe reduction in printed matter is the intellectual void that seems to be growing, even among the so-called professionals. Zeroing in on quality publications, I’ve been rather disgusted for over a decade regarding the endless selling of Six Sigma, lean manufacturing, lean Six Sigma, ISO 9000 and ISO 14000. Advertisements for these have proliferated at the expense of useful articles.

--Carl Jarosz


Quality Cut Up

Bill Kalmar asked: “If L.L. Bean can guarantee their merchandise forever, why can’t others?” (“Should Quality Have Time Limits?” www.qualitydigest .com/inside/quality-insider-column/should-quality-have-time-limits.html ).

Some do. Cutco, for instance, has a lifetime guarantee on their knives. We’ve had ours for 25 years, and they’re still going strong. But Cutco and L.L. Bean charge premium prices for their high-quality merchandise. Not everyone can afford them. And even among those who can, many are reluctant to pay their prices, even if, in the long run, they would save money by not replacing the cheap stuff over and over.

That’s our fault. We want our stuff cheap. Stuff is easier to throw away and replace rather than repair, not to mention the rapid obsolescence with so many things electrical. I don’t think Hewlett Packard would stay in business very long if people could return their laptops after three years with no questions asked.

On the other hand, Harley-Davidson just unleashed a new ad campaign--buy a new certain model, and get your money back when you trade up later. That’s faith in the long-term value of their bikes.

Anyone want my Ginsus?

--Jeff Jackson


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