Zero Defects! The call of the monthly Cycle Count…

David D. Hood, President, Induron Coatings

“Zero Defects!” So proclaimed a huge sign over the entrance to Lockheed Martin‘s production facility in Marietta, GA. It was 1966, and I was a newly minted junior engineer doing structural analysis on the forward bulkhead of the C-5A Galaxy. It seemed pretty obvious that defects in manufacturing an aircraft capable of lifting 800,000 pounds into the air were not well tolerated.

In addition to being a structural analyst, I was a student in the MBA program at Georgia State studying the concepts of managing people doing things which require training, skill and dedication. The buzzword then was “Zero Defects”.

I have since come to realize that the goal of zero will always be a shibboleth. Nobody and no organization is perfect. I’ll admit, defects in aircraft might be a bit more important than in paint, but we certainly don’t let that inhibit our efforts to reduce them.

Here at Induron, as at other responsible manufacturing facilities everywhere, we try hard to do things consistently and measure that consistency so that our customers can rely on our products. That includes running quality control checks for numerous properties, such as viscosity, solids and flow, on every batch we make. Every batch of paint meets these required properties before it is released. All that data is recorded, graphed and analyzed to keep us “in control,” so our customers don’t have to.

One measure we report internally is “Cycle Count”. It summarizes all the defects and corrections in one number. Cycle count is a direct measure of how well we perform at “doing it right the first time, every time”.

Cycle Count = (number of batches requiring corrections/number of batches made) minus one. If every batch requires an adjustment, the cycle count would be 1.0. If every batch required 2 adjustments to meet our internal specs then the Cycle Count would be 2.0. If we and our suppliers were perfect (zero defects), the Cycle Count would be 0 (not gonna happen).

Induron’s cycle count is:

  • 0.22 for June 2011
  • 0.19 for 2011 to date
  • 0.18 for all of 2010
  • 0.25 for all of 2009
  • 0.18 for all of 2008
  • 0.23 for all of 2007

I think we are pretty good based on these numbers. Our goal is to constantly strive to get that number lower — a much more realistic goal than Zero Defects. I often wonder how that compares to other paint makers.

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