All of the above costs contribute to the total cost of quality — spending time, money and effort to reduce them, or paying to fix the problems after they occur. A more detailed look at cause and effect can be found in a text edited by Jack Campanella, “Principles of Quality Costs: Principles, Implementation and Use,” (ASQ Quality Press, 1999).
Some Other Quality Concepts
Management gurus have put forth several other quality concepts in the recent past, and some of them have applicability to the feed and grain business as well. It is worth reviewing them and seeing what they have to offer.
TQM: “Total Quality Control” was the key concept of a 1951 book by Armand Feigenbaum’s titled, Quality Control: Principles, Practice, and Administration, in a chapter titled “Total Quality Control.” Total Quality Management (TQM) is an approach that followed from this work and attempts to allow your whole company to focus on quality by integrating all organizational functions to focus on meeting the needs of the customer.
Specifically, according to Lawrence Martin in his book “Total Quality Management in Human Service Organizations,” TQM employs these key principles: Management Commitment, which includes management’s commitment to quality by planning, communicating and regularly reviewing progress toward quality; Employee Empowerment, to include training, measurement of results and recognition of jobs well done. Martin also supports the formation of “Excellence Teams” in the area of Employee Empowerment where these teams work on innovative ideas and monitor themselves in regard to quality. The third TQM principle involves “Fact Based Decision Making,” and implies a strong commitment to analyzing results statistically to determine the percent of product meeting standards you set. The fourth principle is a focus on “Continuous Improvement,” and looks at attaining, maintaining and improving standards via use of the above described excellence teams with management’s input. The final principle is to maintain a “Customer Focus,” which implies continuously gathering input from customers to help set desirable standards for your product and to “never compromise quality.”
Six Sigma: “Six Sigma” is a more recent development (initiated in the 1980s) and is a registered service mark and trademark of Motorola. Motorola has reported over $17 billion in savings from Six Sigma as of 2006. The objective of Six Sigma Quality is to reduce process output variation so that on a long-term basis, (which is your customer’s aggregate experience with your product or service over time), this will result in no more than 3.4 defects/million (parts per million or ppm) opportunities.
For a process with only one specification limit (Upper or Lower), this results in six process standard deviations between the mean of the process and the customer’s specification limit (thus 6 Sigma — as sigma is the Greek letter used for standard deviation in statistics). Specifically, higher sigma values indicate better processes and products; lower values are less desirable. Six Sigma (99.99966% perfection) is thus better than three sigma. As a result, Six Sigma can be characterized as a continuous effort to reduce variation in process output as a key to business success, and asserts that manufacturing and business processes can be measured, analyzed, improved and controlled.
There is a commercial Six Sigma website you might find useful, which has some case studies of companies using the Six Sigma approach and offers training opportunities for managers and others www.isixsigma.com.
Specific Recommendations for Quality Grain and Feed
Quality for grain and feed products is critical in part because they are quasi-perishable. Under controlled storage conditions, feed and grain products have significant “shelf life.” The key is providing these optimum conditions so that quality is preserved. Purdue University Extension suggests following the “SLAM” approach: Sanitation, Loading, Aeration and Monitoring. While the program is geared for farmers, we feel that it is applicable to anyone in the industry and is worth reviewing.
Sanitation includes cleaning and maintaining equipment, disinfecting storage areas inside and out before refilling, removing all grain spills and removing vegetation and maintaining a weed-free facility. Benefits of sanitation include reducing the chance of mold and insects and keeping weed seeds and foreign material out of bins.