THE INSPECTOR’S POINT OF VIEW
I have followed with interest the correspondence and Editorial comment on the subject of the quality of British motor cars. I have, however, been puzzled by the absence of any possible explanation for the poor quality, if indeed it is poor. Some correspondents have put the blame on the inspectors but I believe this to be wrong. Having been employed as an inspector in the British Motor Industry and now following the same occupation in Australia, I should like to be allowed to put my views on this matter.
I believe that the responsibility for the poor quality of any product can be put squarely on the shoulders of management who by pursuing certain policies set the quality level of the product. There are plenty of tools available to management today, such as Quality Auditing, whereby it can ascertain the quality level of its products. If it does not make use of these aids or if it neglects to apply the lessons learnt, the blame for poor quality cannot be shifted to the inspectors who are merely carrying out management’s policy.
I should like to enumerate some of the factors which in my experience lead to poor quality in motor vehicles.
(1) Insufficient or ineffective job instruction. This is the responsibility of the line foremen, who have to ensure that the men under them build the vehicle to the specifications laid down by the engineering department. One of the urgent needs of British industry is to produce more and better foremen and it is the responsibility of managements to train such men and always to keep before them the necessity of maintaining high quality. Quality has to he built into the product, it cannot be inspected into it.
(a) The use of the cheapest available material consistent with a certain standard of durability, for instance in interior trim, to offset the high cost of labour. There is also an element of planned obsolescence in this in that the materials are designed to last for a certain period, after which the car will be traded in on a new model. (3) The reluctance of engineering departments to change
specifications. This can be an expensive business, possibly involving changes to jigs and tools, but when an obvious defect is brought to light design engineering should modify the design with the least possible delay. Some engineers have a tendency to believe that they are infallible.
(4) The necessity of maintaining stocks. In the motor business it is sudden death to be caught with inadequate stocks because in this buyers’ market the customer will go elsewhere if he cannot take immediate delivery of the model with the colour and trim combination he wants. In the factory this leads to the ” tyranny or the schedule” or the production of quantity at all costs. In this atmosphere the inspector is severely handicapped as production people are capable of perpetrating the most diabolical skullduggery in order to get a vehicle past inspection and out of the gate, and so maintain their schedule at the insistence of production control.
(5) Insufficient lead time in the introduction of new models. Management, through sales and publicity divisions set dates for the announcement of a new model by which time distributors all over the country must have adequate stocks. These are all too often rushed out with certain known defects such as inadequate dust and water sealing, problems for the solution of which sufficient time has not been allowed.
(6) Poor new car preparation by distributors. No car leaves the factory ready for delivery to the customer, and since the distributor has to pay for the preparation of the vehicle out of his profit margin some distributors tend to do a slipshod job of preparation. Many complaints are voiced about loose nuts and bolts, and while it is agreed that these should not have left the factory, a five-minute check on the pit or hoist would have ensured that they did not reach the customer.
Mr. John L. Prince’s letter in the September issue of MOTOR SPORT showed how some of these problems are overcome in West Germany. The problems are the same in Britain, Germany, or here in Australia : they have to be faced and overcome. A quality drive will soon lose its impetus unless the necessity for it is constantly brought home to those responsible for the maintenance of quality; that is, the men who build the vehicles, and when management actively pursues policies aimed at producing vehicles or other goods of high quality rather than merely goods in quantity, then perhaps we shall see British-built vehicles once more regarded as the best available.
Dulwich, S. Australia. DAVID N. KIMBER.