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The classic depiction of COPQ is an iceberg with only a small portion of the symptoms visible above the surface. Every good quality practitioner knows the effect that poor quality has on top and bottom lines, and consequently that improving poor quality is a moneymaker. Measuring COPQ establishes a baseline, and eventually a trend line (heading, hopefully, toward the goal), as seen in figure 1, below. The value of COPQ Inspection, waste, rework, and warranty costs are the most obvious nonvalue-added activities that go into the COPQ metric.
However, as seen in figure 2, below, inspection, waste, rework, and warranty costs are only the tip of an iceberg composed of many unknown and misunderstood nonvalue-adding activities. Most alert organizations realize that losses can accrue from wastes such as excess inventories, unnecessary motion, and supplier nonconformance. In a typical facility, there’s normally much less effort spent on improving (and profiting from) these more esoteric nonvalue-added activities. Another waste is easy to understand and quantify, but even in the most enlightened organizations receives little attention because there’s no obvious indication that anything is wrong. In fact, waste can actually be increasing and going unnoticed because it’s hidden to most observers in most industries.
An example of this phenomenon and its consequences can be seen in the food-processing industry.
In most other industries the safety margin appears innocuous and is considered a lifesaver to the designer. Figure 5, at right, shows an optimal situation where processes are capable, well understood, and in control. Even if safety margins are minimized during design, this is an insidious problem that will crop up repeatedly. A more typical scenario is when problems occur in the process and it’s considered easier to overbuild the product instead of correcting the process. From the product perspective, compare the weight, size, number of components, fit and finish, and cost.
From the process perspective, compare labor hours, throughput time, the number of process steps, the complexity of the process, and the product yields. Although it’s difficult to say how much can be saved on any individual effort, all these factors should be considered when determining how much of an opportunity exists. Waste due to safety margins can be easily prevented if good design practices are followed and product standards are used. Gerald Lee is the director of internal audit, manufacturing operations review with ABB in Raleigh, North Carolina. I refined this concept while occupying a National Sales Director position for nationwide short sale corporation. After the 2008 mortgage meltdown there were millions of homeowners who found themselves in the unenviable position of having to sell their home when they were “upside down” on the mortgage.
Almost all the time these good people could put themselves in a FAR better real-time financial situation by short selling their house and moving, thus, dramatically lowering their monthly housing costs. Sometimes they could move across the street to rent an equal size home, with equal amenities, for HALF of what their monthly mortgage payment was costing them on their current house. How would you feel if you could cut your monthly mortgage or rent payment in HALF without really changing your lifestyle or neighborhood? The simple FACT that all these good people were facing was that their investment in the American Dream had gone horribly wrong. If they moved they could get out from under a HUGE investment debt that had begun to destroy their financial future, as opposed to cultivating equity. Many ended up in foreclosure which was far worse for their credit rating and completely PREVENTABLE. How many of you are hurting your brand because your artist child wants to put everything it ever creates up on the world’s refrigerator before its ready lest you be judged?
How many of you are creating product with poor quality (horrible sonic quality, shoddy performances, amateur arrangements, etc.) because of whatever excuse? How many of you are so busy lamenting the fact that your careers are not going the way you pictured they would (or should), that you’re completely missing the opportunities and strategies that will effectively get them going?
How many of you are procrastinating or avoiding taking action because you are unsure of exactly what it will look like when you’re done? This statement sounds like it should be filed in the “easier said than done” category but let’s look at the rest of your life. What if you approached your current job with the same attitude that you approach your fledgling artist career?


You know, scared of dropping a tray of food or drinks, making the wrong cocktail, measuring once and cutting twice on your construction gig, or scared of learning some new software process they are requiring.
Of course not.  So you go to work even though you don’t have a clear picture of what your day is going to look like and you get through it. You already KNOW how to separate the emotion of your daily job from the daily events that occur.
You still push forth every day, on a consistent basis and do what you have to do and you get your results. Logically speaking, if you would apply the same predictably mundane climb, up the staircase of faith you do at your day job to your music career you would begin to see magnificent results. Why do so many of you place the hopes of your future career on meeting “the right people” that will do it all for you? Why do you expect anyone in the music business to jump in and help you for free when you clearly won’t do it yourself? Why would you expect anyone you don’t know in the music industry to help you for free when you don’t expect anyone you know to do your job for you at your regular job? How is it that you can separate the emotion from events occurring in your day job but you’re afraid to make a move in your artist career?
Where do you get the courage to consistently go to work and face the terrifying unknown, but fail to execute this same brave behavior with your artist career?
For some of you (and you know who you are), your bosses have more faith in your abilities to learn and improve at your day job than you have in yourself to learn and improve your artist career. You are going to have to get serious about your artist career and change your behavior if you expect to see real results. You will have far more leverage in a relationship like that then you would have if you seek them with your hat in your hand. The rest of the details will naturally, organically improve if you have a heart beat and a brain. Things that once were foreign and unimaginable will become second nature to you, like tying your shoes or tuning a guitar. Professionals are all in, man, and don’t get me wrong, they get pissed off when things don’t go their way. However, what they do not see is that poor quality affects sales, results in longer cycle times and affects many other business aspects. However, a different standard may apply to your model or business.A better metric could be measuring the Cost of Quality as a % of Cost of Goods Sold (COGS). Although this is universally acknowledged, it’s not always clear how to go about improving poor quality. COPQ is measured by estimating the cost of all efforts undertaken in an organization, including materials and processes used in assembling our products, that don’t provide value to customers.
COPQ is used to measure progress within the organization and to identify best practices that can be shared throughout the company. It’s estimated that up to 10 percent of revenue is wasted on these activities, which are fairly easy to measure and are understood by most people, even those not practicing in the quality field. The nonvalue-adding costs from waste, inspection, warranty, and rework are dwarfed by the root causes lurking unseen beneath the waterline. The enlightened company will also see that losses can occur from more obscure wastes, such as unnecessary paperwork, large lot sizes, and excessive auditing. This simple and eloquent chart shows the interaction between product specifications and process capability--the beauty of a Six Sigma design. Here the specification calls for the process to be capable of delivering a measure less than a nominal value, but the process capability is poor and widely distributed, so failures sometimes occur.
There, a product must meet the weight specification printed on the packaging or there will be serious consequences from both governmental regulators and consumer groups.
It’s easier to add a little to the design so that the requirement is always met than it is to ensure that the process is exact. One of the easiest ways is to compare your products to your competitors’, to a similar product from another facility, or to a product from a world-class manufacturer that has many of the same characteristics.
If your product is heavier, larger, or more complex than your comparison model, this is an opportunity to simplify.
Look into the time it takes to deliver your product, the amount of packaging required, or if special handling is needed. Consider how much bigger, heavier, or more complex your product is due to the safety margins. Understanding where and why these opportunities exist is a chance to improve the bottom line.


Waste due to safety margins can also be easily discovered with a little knowledge and effort. All this came at a monthly cost that was literally TWICE what they could get for the EXACT same lifestyle if they sold (eliminating the bad debt), rented a comparable property, and began to rebuild their finances. Poor quality is opportunity lost and the loss of precious resources, such as time and money, on unnecessary tasks and wasted materials. COPQ is a metric and a learning tool, helping an organization to understand what’s nonvalue-added and to establish opportunities for improvement. To make matters worse, this hidden problem can continue to grow while quality appears to improve.
A specification will call for a hole smaller than, a weight larger than, or a temperature lower than a nominal value. In this situation it’s easy for the engineer to add a safety margin to prevent failures.
A margin of safety can be added to each package to make certain that this never happens, but an extra ounce or gram added to each package represents waste and, subsequently, profit loss. What’s a little additional material when it decreases failures and improves product quality? In an organization where this methodology is followed, costs can be contained, designs can be optimized, and a competitive advantage can be maintained. Customization leads to multiple engineering opportunities, and, let’s face it, engineers are paid to engineer.
This is considered a prudent and cost-effective solution, when in fact it’s like placing a band-aid on a festering sore.
Consider how much more expensive a heavier and larger product is to ship, how much more handling is required, and if any other special processing is necessary. Once discovered, this can be the source of huge opportunity and a clear competitive advantage. In this article I’ll discuss some of the obvious and less obvious opportunities lost due to poor quality. At ABB, COPQ is the sum of all nonvalue-added costs divided by the total revenue that’s generated. Although a single-sided design specification at first glance might appear helpful, it can mask serious flaws. It’s essential in this highly competitive industry that processes be capable, or product costs will soar.
A good engineer will try to improve a product, given the opportunity, but he or she doesn’t always understand the justification for the original design. If the product falls outside the specification limit, the loss should theoretically be 100 percent. The process might be used on multiple products, or it could set precedence for all processes. One method to confirm that minimal safety margins are used in a design is to add this verification to the design reviews or the phases-and-gates checklist. This is indeed a very slippery slope, where at first glance it would appear as if no problem exists whatsoever.
In other words, perform a variable data MSA on the Cost of Poor Quality measurement system to help fine tune the calculation and standard operating procedure or work instruction.Don't allow the details to interfere with going forward with a COPQ procedure. Finally, a process that’s out of control will tend over time to become even more out of control.
So even if a safety margin is used, the process eventually will produce product that’s out of specification. The team will be surprised how frequently their is detection, appraisal, rework, scrap, or other COPQ related costs. The perfect state should strive to eliminate COPQ but reality is that not all can be economically eliminated.
An operation that doesn’t control its processes usually will add more safety margin, and the cycle repeats.



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