Six Sigma SPC - Statistical Process Control

Poor Quality Can Cost You Customers, Forever
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These articles are from the Six Sigma SPC Newsletter and other publications. All articles written by Jim Winings

From the (MAY-JUN) 2001 Newsletter

Call it bad luck, or a gift, but I am one of those people that can walk into a store with one million of the same item. One in a million will have a defect, and I pick the reject, consistently, even with said item packaged and not viewable. Either that or quality of some companies really, really stinks.

I purchased an RCA 31 inch TV at Best Buy. There were a lot of different brands and a lot of different models. But I selected the one I did, (see above). I also purchased the extended warranty. Why, I hate to say it but because it was American made. One year almost to the month that the extended warranty was due to go out, the tube started going bad. I called service, and the guy came out.

He told me that they were having problems with that model of set and he proceeded to re-solder some of the connections. He then ordered a new picture tube. When he came back with the new picture tube and installed it, he saw some glue on the glass. He tried to wipe it away, but of course that did not work. Because of the coating on the screen, it could not be removed without leaving a spot on the screen. Why he installed it and/or did not order a new one is beyond me.

So I spent $600.00 for a TV that if I had not gotten the extended warranty, for an additional $150.00, I would have had to probably pay $300.00 for a new tube plus $100.00 for a service call on a defective product, and it is still far from being acceptable. Not only is there a spot on the screen after removing the glue, but, apparently the solder connection from the antenna to the circuit also has bad solder. I have some terrible reception that clears up when I push down on the antenna connection. Now, if RCA thinks I will ever purchase anything that has their name on it, they are crazy. Actually I will never purchase anything that is manufactured by the Thomson Electronics Co.

According to the Associated Press.

' The maker of RCA, GE and Proscan televisions will set aside as much as $100 million to compensate consumers for potential defects that can render the products virtually unwatchable.' .

.. 'The defects affect certain RCA, GE and Proscan models produced from November 1992 to January 1996

The defect resulted from mounting the sets' tuners on their circuit boards, said David Arland, a spokesman at Thomson's U.S. headquarters in Carmel. Because the tuners and circuit boards were made from different materials, they expanded and contracted differently when heated or cooled, leaving solder connections vulnerable to damage, he said ' .

I really hope GE is not allowing Thomson to make their TV's or anything as far as that goes. I will be so disappointed in GE if they are. There use to be a number and a web site to get in on t he class action, but it has become a site that I wish to not to link to.

RCA/GE TV (CTC175-187+) Solder Connection and EEPROM Problems (this site, as of Jan. 2005, customers still having problems with picture tubes. remember though, it is Thompson Electronics making the sets)

In 1974 I turned 16. My parents gave me a brand new '74 FORD Mustang II MACH I. This car was grossly underpowered. It had a four cylinder V4. In '75 FORD put in a 305 small block V8 in I believe. The '74 was far from being a 'muscle car'. I raced a Mazda XR7 and he gave me 1/8 of a mile head start on a laid out 1/4 mile course. I still lost. This car had the same performance as a Pinto, but, I never heard any stories about the Mustang II blowing-up or catching fire in rear-end collisions.

Two weeks after I drove it off the showroom floor, it developed a squeaky front bushing. I took it to the dealer, and they said they could not get a replacement part. I was mad, even at 16, so, every week, I took it to the dealership, and they filled the bushing with grease to stop the squeak until they could get a replacement part. It also had a spring fall off the carburetor. Since then, I have never even considered purchasing a FORD product again. Note that the '74 Mustang II was a first year production model for the Mustang II.

We all remember the Edsel and I have a feeling the some of the FORD trucks in the future will be purchased less frequently than in the past. Just a 'Warm-Fuzzy-Feeling'.

While writing this, FORD has recalled a bunch of Explorers saying the new wider design was too wide for the assembly line and it cut some tires and Firestone is trying to get the US government to investigate rollovers on some 2x4's Explorers. Brazil, I believe, has started an investigation into Explorer rollover problems. Some really smart entrepreneur should develop an add-on training wheel system for all these sport utility vehicles. Like the ones they use to test for rollovers. Make it spring out from underneath as the center of gravity goes off or something like that.

In 1989 I purchased a Chevy Cavalier. The 89 Cavalier was also a first year production model. They changed the way it looked. After I got it home, and the first time I filled the gas tank, I saw a place on the fuel cover that had paint missing. I could see metal. So this fuel cover must have had some kind of contaminate on it for not even the primer stuck to it. So I had to take it back to get that fixed. Now the dealer filled the tank for me, why did they not see that and fix it?

In less than two months, the speakers in the dashboard started rattling. Looking closely, you could see that the dashboard was warping. I took it back, and they had to replace the dashboard with a replacement. But, the replacement did not come from the factory. They were all bad. It came from a third party supplier. It was in a generic color, and the dealer had to paint it, but, after painting it, the dealer forgot to put a sealant on it, so, the windshield kept getting cloudy from some kind of vapor that the paint was releasing when heated by the Florida sun. After several weeks of putting up with that, I took it back. The dealer said it was because I smoked. I informed them that if I cleaned the windshield and the car sets for 48 hours without being driven, it also happened. Well, I had to threaten to turn them into the government before they put a sealant on it, and the problem went away. Now why did I have to jump through these hoops to get them to do the right thing and finish the job they started?

About four months later, I was in Tampa Florida. I went over some rough railroad tracks. Now while these tracks were rough, they were not rough enough to cause damage to the car. I hit them at about 20-Miles Per Hour, and the ashtray broke off and fell on the floor. Well the car was out of the 90-day warranty, so I would have to pay to have it fixed. When I was asking how much to fix it, a lady behind me also with a Cavalier said that her ashtray also broke off. I knew then, I was going to be less than enchanted with this auto.

After about nine months, I noticed that the paint was starting to fade. In particular, around the back of the car. A month later, I saw where the paint was fading, some dried drops of paint. Apparently, when they fixed the fuel cover, they painted the back of the car to match the paint and got drips on the existing paint. So they buffed the paint till you could not see the drips any longer. Unfortunately for me, the also buffed half the paint off the car. When I took it back to the dealer, they said that it was because I never waxed the car. Of course I waxed it, and I also paid extra for paint sealant. I doubt they ever put the paint sealant on, for the entire car faded within 5 years. But, because it was out of warranty, they refused to fix it. The dealer said that as long as the factory did not issue a recall to paint the car, they were not going to.

In less than 26 months, two more things happened. The right turn signal bulb burnt out, and continued to burn out about every 8 to 12 months. Only the right side. The left bulb I never replaced, nor the break lights. And in less than 24 months, the visor on the passenger side fell off. The visor did not fall off the driver's side where it is used at least twice as often. I told at least 10 people that were also considering buying a Cavalier. Needless to say, they did not.

In between the Mustang II and the Cavalier, I owned a Corolla and a Honda Civic. I never had a problem with them.

In 1999, I purchased my next new car. Silly me, once again I choose an American company. I purchased a Dodge Neon. Now the 2000 models were on the lot, but there had been change from 1999 to 2000. It was a different look. Having my past experience with first year production models, I choose the 99. I decided to lose money in a different manner. Did it pay off? Of course it did not.

The first problem is the passenger door is misaligned. You have to shut it pretty hard to get it closed, and the window does not get seated sometimes. So you have to power the window down and back up to get it seated. The next thing that happened was the RAM emblem on the hood fell off. And now, after only opening the sunroof about 50 times, it will not open and is stuck with the front part slightly raised. I'm just waiting for it to start to leak. And once again, in about 18 months, the left turn signal bulb burnt out. (There may be a trend here with turn signal bulbs)

But I guess I am lucky. Dodge is recalling thousands of the 2000 Neons for a faulty break line hoses. And now they are also recalling their mini vans because the sliding door locks come open in crashes ejecting the occupants. Have they recalled the 1999 Neons for a faulty Electric Sunroof? Of course not, don't be silly. On top of that, apparently Neons, since at least from 1997 to 1999 had squeaky rear breaks. At least my mother's Neon had them, (1997) and mine does, (1999). I figured out how to fix them. The rear breaks are self-adjusting. So, just reverse a little faster than normal and apply the breaks fairly hard.

My intent here is not to single out the US automakers, I am just reporting the facts. In the US, most if not all states have what is called a 'Lemon Law'. For our overseas readers, this law states that if you have to take a car or truck back to be repaired more than 3 or 5 times, etc., that you get a replacement for free. This is the legacy that they, the car companies have left themselves. And for the new generation of Engineers and Managers, it is a large deficit to overcome. As the population of the US gets older, there are fewer first time buyers. If they have screwed their customers in the past, their sales will plummet. And indeed, some of the automakers are saying that they have to offer all kinds of incentives to get the customers back in the showroom. If the customer is not happy one year after the purchase, they may not EVER come back. With an auto, or anything that one pays more than $500 for, it is not only the fact that you have to get it repaired, (even if the repair is free under warranty), the inconvenience to the customer of being without the item they purchased, for more than 1 day is NOT 'Total Customer Satisfaction'.

For the car companies and all companies that have showrooms or service centers, that are trying to implement Six Sigma, (which IS 'Total Customer Satisfaction'), you MUST also train the people in these places. After all, this is the customers' FIRST POINT OF CONTACT. It does not matter if you have parts per billion defective, if the service is less than 'Total Customer Satisfaction', it will not work. And we in the states know how terrible it is to have to deal with an auto dealer. Because the service manager at Maroone Chevrolet in Ft. Lauderdale whom had been there for 30 years refused to do the right thing and repaint what they messed up, I will never purchase a Chevrolet and perhaps GM product again, and this is not even GM's fault. Of course some of these things happened a very long time ago. Long enough that there may have been big changes at some of the places mentioned, but the damage has already been done. But in a lot of cases, especially with high priced ticket items, it is buyer beware.

It would be my perception that the auto companies, and perhaps all companies in the US only recall their products if there is a potential for harm to the end user. This is because the law suites for personal injuries are so high and they have no choice. It is cheaper to recall than have thousands of people get judgments for a couple of million dollars. But there is a deeper longer lasting problem with NOT fixing product, and that is customer loyalty. As the population ages, you MUST have customer loyalty to endure. Just getting the sale is not going to keep you in business in the long term.

It is possible that some dealers take the autos off the truck and put them on the lot. When they are sold, then they fix what is wrong with them. So, if a dealer sells an auto on a holiday, when most of the special promotions are, the customer takes the car off the lot in less then perfect condition. They should go over every auto before putting it on the lot to be looked at. The customer should not have to do an inspection and then bring the auto back to have items fixed and be without transportation for several days. This is what happened with the NEON I purchased.

What on Earth could have caused these problems? It was a combination of a lot of different things.

  • Poor designs and not using Statistical Tolerancing.
  • Not realizing what the customer wanted/needed.
  • Not performing Accelerated Life Tests, (ALT).
  • No Statistical Process Control, (SPC), at the point of manufacturing.
  • Lack of SPC on the supplier side.
  • When SPC was implemented, skewing the actual results by manipulating the way in which the tests were performed. (More later on this)
  • Supplier/Manufacture equipment out of calibration or not able to produce even a 3 sigma process any longer.
  • Poor workmanship.
  • Lack of ethics.
  • Lack of common sense.

Lets take the turn signal bulb for example. This bulb is the same bulb that was used with the brake lights on both cars. The brake lights get used a lot more than the turn signal. Did I make more right turns in Ft. Lauderdale with the Cavalier than times I used the brakes? Have I made more left turns in Springfield with the NEON than times I hit the brakes? Of course not. My best guess is that a supplier of a part that is a standard part and used in most or all turn signal designs, is producing junk, and because their price is lower, they are used by the automakers and I have to keep paying for it. For 12 years now and even with a new car, I am still paying for it. It is an absolute necessity to have even just basic SPC, (statistical process control), on or at most every manufacturing point. It is just a question of how often you must take samples. It may be only twice a day, 3 pieces each. This is what our software pricing is setup for. To allow even very small companies to have SPC everywhere and get a return on that investment in less than a year.

Now it is possible that I just picked the rejects off the lots as stated in the opening of this story. My ex-wife actually picked the non-American autos without me being there. But I really feel that there is a reason why most if not all states have enacted lemon laws.

To view some WEB sites where people are tired of being done wrong my manufactures, see the links below.

Motorola and Six Sigma are Trademarks of Motorola, Inc.
General Motors, GM, Chevrolet, Chevy, and Cavalier, are registered trademarks of General Motors Corporation
Ford, Edsel, Mustang, Taurus, and Explorer are registered trademarks of the Ford Motor Company
Dodge and Neon are registered trademarks of DaimlerChrysler
GE is a registered trademark of General Electric Company
PROSCAN is a trademark of Thomson Consumer Electronics, Inc.
RCA is a trademark of RCA Commercial Products

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Last Updated: Saturday, 15-Apr-06 19:47:43 PDT