You Need Quantity AND Quality


Mishandling Has Spiked Since Liquid Ban Reduced Carry-Ons –

With the new security rules in August, the number of checked bags increased suddenly (including my own, until I changed my process to include leaving a bag of toiletries at the hotel).

You know it's not a robust process when quality suffers with a demand/volume increase. Not that any of us expected the aviation industry to have robust processes….

The rate of mishandled bags was the highest since December 2004, rising to 8.08 per 1,000 passengers in August from 6.5 in July, according to the report, which can be found at .

I assume that's a statistically significant increase and not just part of the common cause variation. Even if you look at the government report, they only compare August 2005 to August 2006. I could dig into previous months' reports, but it's late. If someone could provide an SPC chart, I'd appreciate it. Maybe tomorrow…

With lean, we talk about “heijunka” or level loading as an ideal. We also somehow preach about the idea of “flexibility.” Your processes need to be robust enough so that, when demand goes up or down, you can react accordingly. Increasing demand means, usually, new people and the performance of those new people is a reflection of your processes, training, supervision, etc.

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1 Comment
  1. Karl McCracken says

    I used to work with a guy who was an ex-production manager at a certain aero engine manufacturer (based in Derby – no need for the name here…) who told a story about how he once got into a race with another line to see who could ship the most product in a month.

    Flying with him was a nightmare, as he’d look out of the skybridge’s window on boarding, notice one of ‘his’ engines, and let out an ominous “U-oh”, before launching into a very detailed and LOUD description of production and reliability problems. On a particularly stormy flight back from SanFrancisco one night, this got so severe that the stweardess suggested that shutting up might be preferable to getting arrested on landing.

    He had an ‘interesting’ approach to quality too. We joked that he thought that quality was spelt Q-U-A-N-T-I-T-Y. I once sat in a meeting next to him where this was proven – it took three attempts to spell the word correctly.

    Anyway, back to your post. The fact is though, that Quality HAS in most companies become an ‘order qualifier’ (see Terry Hill’s Operations Strategy writings), that everyone just expects to see, while Quantity is often the order-winning factor, alongside cost. When you can’t meet these though, how soon before the product / service is no-longer fit for purpose, and becomes a quality failure?

    Of course, people tend not to realise that you can control chart & SPC this kind of process. And if you do it right, you may even get to see this kind of spike in failure rate BEFORE it becomes a problem. That does assume of course that people prefer prevention rather than cure. Any thoughts?


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