This article raises some interesting questions about the role of quality in today's marketplace. It argues that quality standards have definitely gone downhill, at least in consumer products, but the market is almost rewarding that.
“Chinese manufacturers have shown that you don't have to offer quality to compete if you can slash prices enough. ‘I see no evidence of the managers and workers at these facilities having the slightest concept of quality,' says John Dowd, an American quality expert who has visited dozens of Chinese factories. ‘They will comply with customer requirements when they are monitored closely, but left alone, it's strictly: ‘Get it out the door.””
Do factories other than those in China emphasize “get it out the door?” While lean preaches (and my division's quality policy, for what it's worth) says “Do it right the first time.” The “conventional” lean wisdom is to build quality in to the product and the process, by doing it right the first time. However, one opinion in the article says:
Not only is it easier for them to make goods that aren't durable, manufacturers can now profitably “double dip.” This means when they receive a failed device, they can replace its broken parts and sell it again, not as “preowned” or refurbished, but as new. Brue, the Six Sigma consultant, says of one computer peripherals company that he works with, “They have more revenue coming from processing extended warranties, refurbishing the returned units, and sending them back out than they do in getting the product right the first time.”
Is this right, taking products, repairing them, and selling them again as “new”? This might be profit maximizing in the short term, but is it really the best strategy for the long term? I don't recall seeing numbers that say Toyota's quality has dropped…. What do you think about this? Click “comments” below to chime in.
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