Thursday, December 6, 2012

Ethics and Engineering

Engineers have an important role in society. The decisions that they make affect everyone that interacts with the products that they design and put out. In engineering, like most professions there is, like most professions, a code of ethics. This code of ethics provides an important set of guidelines on how engineers should act. Along with that this some companies have their own code of ethic. This code provides guidelines about what all engineers hold as important conduct in the workplace.
 The first point in the National Society of Professional Engineers code of ethics talks about the importance of safety for the customer. This is important to make sure that the engineers puts the customer’s needs first not only in the product they want but in their health and safety. Engineers have a huge affect on the outcome of products and they are the ones who could affect what goes into a product and every aspect of how it is made. The second point that is emphasized by the fundamental canons is the importance of honesty and truth in the workplace. This implemented because if the engineer is not honest about his activities it could ultimately affect the well being of society. If cuts corners when they do work the trickle affects could cause affects that could ultimately harm the company that they work for. They also shouldn’t be revealing information that they know to other companies because it gives another company a competitive advantage and could drive the other company.
Why have this code if these are things that are inherently natural to people? Engineers should have the common sense to know the values about what is right and wrong. The fact of the matter is some situations may be difficult to decide on what an engineer should do. The code allows a base that engineers can follow. This lays out what is expected of engineers in terms of conduct. It seems to me that the code is important to know. Although it seems that the code talks about general inherent human traits some people may not see certain qualities the same way as most engineers. This guideline shows what is values by engineers overall an there importance not only in the company but on the customer as well. 

Quality in Confinement: An Ethical View

     I can't imagine a place where there would be a "purpose" to limit quality; that is, aside from prisons where people go to be punished rather than living the high life.  But does that mean that the quality perspective should be entirely overlooked?  I think not...

     It's no small decision to send someone to jail, for any time at all, let alone for life.  So it should also be no small decision as to what they can/should/or have to do once there.  Many questions and responses can be posed that shake the ethical foundations of the prison and confinement process.  One such question: How high-quality of a life do they deserve? Or not deserve? They are there to be punished after all, so what do they really deserve, and how would the system be changed? 

     Quality teachings suggest looking to the customer for the answer, but using this methodology in this scenario doesn't make sense, so what then?  If quality cannot be changed then what about time or productivity?  Again quality methods don't seem to make sense, the "only" option left to consider is finding a way to reduce the costs, and this is where the ethical boundaries can begin to be pushed...

     The high costs of the current prison system almost demands that something be done, but the ethical boundaries that wrap around the system slow progress.  I propose the use of the prisoners for greater purposes than menial things like stamping out license plates or picking up trash from the side of the road.  I propose changing the system to one that allows the inmates to grow and gain abilities and purpose.  Help them find something to drive them towards good, and in that way, maybe their quality of life can be improved as well as of those around the person.  From this, able bodied people would be able to be released from prison, potentially even early, and make an impact around them.  This would potentially have a great impact on the system as a whole, but that idealism wouldn't last long, there are going to be those that fight changing to the very end, and with those people, the opposite direction could be taken.  Their quality of life could be diminished and diminished until they reach a status little more than slaves; where free labor is all the value they hold, until maybe they find it in themselves to change. Until they find that it is better for them to come to the side of good where they can then not only find fulfillment in the world around them, but to also find a way to fulfill the world around them.  The ethical boundary that makes us shy away from this, but I’ll pose the question again; what kind of quality of life do they really deserve? I believe that this scenario allows the inmates to choose their direction, and would ultimately look to joining the side of good.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Morals, Ethics, and Problems

            There is a grey line between morals and ethics, one that most get mixed up.  Morals are personal.  They are from the way you are raised, the way others have influenced you.  They are your own code of conduct.  Ethics are a set of accepted guidelines for a culture.  That is, culture of a certain career.  Most careers, especially in the engineering world, have their own professional code of ethics.  Ethics are not laws and they do not require some police force to enforce them.  They mean, almost in a vigilante sense, to hold professional peers to the standard.  They can be thought of as heuristics, as they are general guidelines, or hand rails, but will not solve the complete problem for you.
            In dealing with real world problems, those heuristics can be the best approach to start.  However, when ethics takes you as far as it can, you have to rely on your own morals to solve the problem.  They have been with you all your life, and will assist you in weighing options and making the final decision.


Modern American Ethics and Technology

Modern American Ethics and Technology

Ethics is an interesting subject in today’s fast paced world, especially here in America. Ethics is defined as moral principles that govern a person’s or group’s behavior. The people that teach us ethics are normally the people we look up to and idolize. The people that kids idolize are the rap artists, movie stars, sport figures, and politicians. Quite possibly the most unethical group of people America has to offer. Rap artist’s lyrics are nothing short of talking about weed, loose women, and killing people. Movie stars, such as Lindsay Lohan, are in jail for illegal activity and are slapped on the wrist. Sport figures, such as Kobie Byrant and Michael Jordan, are idolized and protected even though they have raped and cheated on women.  And Politicians are supposed to represent us, yet most of them have multiple ethic complaints filed against them currently.

What does this tell you about America? America is not based on ethics. Greed drives America still and forever. Music Labels, Movie Company’s, NBA, NFL, and the media put up with unethical behaviors because of greed. Their company represents these people simply because they make them money. Censorship and moral teachings need to come from the parents not what the media and other outlets such as MTV have to offer.

Unfortunately, politics has become a career profession. I find it hard to believe that conducting government work without learning business ethics in a business environment will lead politicians to be ethical. The house of representative has a committee simply for ethics. The House Ethics Committee is there to investigate representatives for stealing money from campaign funds and other ethical charges that may be filed against them.

I ask myself why do we as a nation have such bad etiquette when it comes to ethics. Technology is the reason. Before cell phones, and the internet people were forced to communicate with each other with their mouths. Now everyone is in front of their smart phone or tablet computer and people are slowly growing apart from each other. It is weird to think that internet websites such as myspace and facebook are actually doing the opposite from what they were designed to do. When you put technology in between human interaction it allows people to be more unethical because people are saying mean things or hacking people’s identities from their living room. Also due to the internet people are exposed to more news about movie stars and sport figures getting in trouble. When they see their idol doing such things they think it is okay for them to do the same.


Ethical Decision Making

Engineers design products for the general public, to make life better for everyone.  With engineers designing products that everyone has the ability to go out and purchase for themselves, comes a lot responsibility.  If the product we’re designing is a car than we need to make sure it’s safe before putting it on the market.  The car is a remarkable machine but it can also take human life if not used properly.  Engineers need to keep that in mind when we design our new products, whatever they may be.  Ethics are about being a good person and using our own moral values to make the right decisions.  Engineers are the people who design things for the world; if we are unethical in our decision making it can cause catastrophic events.  Back to the topic of automobiles, the infamous Ford Pinto case is an excellent example of a case where the ethical decision wasn’t made and it cost innocent humans to lose their life.  The Ford Pinto was one of the more popular cars when it first came on the market, what people didn’t know was that it was a death trap.  The engineers who designed the car put the fuel tank towards the rear of the car thinking it would not be a safety threat.  They began manufacturing the Pinto cars but they didn’t realize that the gas tank was a serious issue until after they had shipped their product out to be sold.  They discovered the issue with the gas tank in the back of the car; if the car was rear ended the car would ignite and explode.  Recalling all of those cars and fixing them would have cost Ford a fortune and they decided that paying out some lawsuits would be less than if they recalled the car.  The inevitable eventually happened, there were a group of teenagers driving their Ford Pinto on a highway and got rear ended.  Upon impact the gas tank caused the car to catch fire and explode burning everyone in the car alive.  Young lives were lost because the people responsible for making the car decided that money was more important than the safety of their customers.  Ford let their valued customers drive off in a death trap they designed and knew had a serious defect, all to save the company money.  This is considered one of the biggest unethical engineering decisions in history.  The story of the Pinto shows that as engineers we take on a responsibility to make sure we design things with the safety of the user in mind and if we fail to do that the consequences can be the loss of human life.  Ethics is about not looking out just for yourself but being concerned with your decisions and how they affect others around you.  You can’t put a price on human life.  No amount of money can bring a parent dead child back.  Human life and safety needs to be the most important part of any engineering design, cost comes second.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Help with Making Ethical Decisions

Ethical decisions can be very difficult to make at times. To aid in ethical decision making, there are tips called heuristics to guide the way one proceeds with a  decision or design. Heuristics can be interpreted in different ways for different situations, but can be very useful in saving time. It is important to note that heuristics are not the solution to the problem.  Heuristics can be found in two different circumstances: optimization and procedural. Optimization heuristics analyze two or more terms that need to be balanced against each other to find the maximal result. Procedure heuristics are for the beginner to know how to handle oneself or practice to get better end results. Along with heuristics, there are codes of ethics. For engineering, there is a general code of ethics for all engineers and there is a code of ethics for each discipline of engineering. These codes are upheld by the National Society of Professional Engineers and are used by the Board of Ethical Review to resolve ethical issues.
          Even with all the heuristics and codes, I believe that making an ethical decision comes down to an individual's morals and values. I think that it is important for engineers to understand  they have a direct impact on the consumers that come into contact with their products, take their work seriously, analyze their morals and values, and use the various heuristics and codes available to them to aid in make ethical decisions. 


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Above the Influence

In today's age, it can often be easy for co-workers and bosses to steer new employees down unethical paths.  To many times in industry, new employees are influenced to spend money on a company credit card for personal entertainment or alcohol.  Another example could be adjusting sales or production numbers to better please management.  These examples happen every day in the modern workplace.  It is important for college graduates to understand that although the job market is difficult, you must work to combat this approach to help better business practices in our society.
 Values are key when it comes to combating poor ethics.  Using self-control and wisdom are very good mechanisms to begin with.  New members of the workplace should have a good understanding of business  as well as social ethics, but often times these understandings can be tainted by a manager for co-worker.  Being vocal when unethical circumstances arise can be important when holding strong to the virtues that you are taught throughout your education.  Establishing a good set of values can help you become not only a stronger leader, but a true asset to your organization.
 When one makes it to a management position, it is important to stay true to your values. Encouraging your co-workers around you to be ethical and apply the ethics that they have learned is not only beneficial for your department but for the company as a whole. Encouraging integrity can often be difficult, but extremely impactful on the working environment. Managerial leaders should reward those who display ethics and be vocal about how ethical decision making helps improve a company’s environment as well as society as a whole.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ethics in Engineering

When I think of engineering I think of equations, physics, calculus, processes, methodologies, rules and regulations. The one thing that I would not think of however is ethics or more specifically engineering ethics and the manner of designing ethical products and services. This principle of designing with morals and the health, safety and good of the general population is difficult to ignore.

Ethics, especially those applied in the engineering field, can make or break a product or service (no pun intended). Ethics provides responsibility to the designer and allows the public to be sure that each and every product or service they are using is, without question or doubt, tested and proven to be safe. It allows security as a consumer to use and purchase products without questioning safety or health.

To assure or guarantee that engineers are ethical and design products and services ethically, there are a set of engineering ethics principles or guidelines  These guidelines assure that each engineer considers that people, the environment,  competition and other factors are considered to the fullest to provide ethical products and services to society.

In my opinion these guidelines and principles are a much needed check or catch to all the products and services being designed today. If the product or service being considered is going to affect society or the environment every engineer needs to make ethical decisions. We are only given one life and one earth to live so why not ethically and knowledgeably make decisions that will help sustain the environment we live?


Is Money More Important than Consumer Safety?

Is Money more Important than Consumer Safety?
Product Liability has become an issue within the past two decades. The reason for an increase in product liability cases is because the government is holding companies responsible with new laws and regulations for companies to abide by before they release the product to the public. Before the 1970s, companies were not held to the standards they are now and therefore product liability is generally a new concept. It is very important that companies produce products that are safe for humans-beings and for the environment. People have been known to take advantage of product liability in courts. The example I have chosen to write about is a defect dryer that caused deadly fires. In 2006 there were 17,700 home fires involving dryers and/or washing machines. (92% Dryers). Consumers should not have to worry about their dryer trying to kill them. In this case the dryer was collecting lint in an area that the consumer could not see nor clean. Studies show that the 1/10 of a gram of lint coming into contact with the heating coils ignited the fire. This is the importance of Product liability. Clearly, this is a defective consumer product effecting thousands of people. There were 15 deaths and 360 injuries. The process of product liability enhances safety. Safety comes at a price, how can a dryer in the 21st century be a fire causing death trap?  
Tort reform is still needed. There is no question that companies will make decisions with their pocket book rather than the consumer in mind. The Ford Pinto in finally issued a recall in 1977 because the gas tank ruptured when it was hit from the rear causing a violent explosion. It took Ford Motor Company a long time to issue the recall. Ford already invested a hefty cost into the pinto. 200 million dollars was invested in the tooling of the pinto. This amount was enough for the company to put the car into full production because they wanted to get a return on their investment immediately. They knew it was a poor design, with the poor crash results and they knew the gas tank was poorly designed which should have triggered a redesign. Ford Motor Company made a conscience decision to put the Pinto into production with unsafe qualities to save a few dollars. This is a classic example of why Product liability is imperative to the consumers benefit and how companies favor money over consumer safety.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Product Liability: Who's at Fault?

Product liability is a topic that has been discussed and disagreed on for many years.  Some say that the producer of the product is completely liable for its safety, while other people argue that common sense must come into play and that the consumer shares much of the liability.  The McDonalds case is one of the most well-known product liability cases.  It seems that most scholarly individuals feel that Ms. Stella Leibeck who was burned by the scalding coffee is responsible for the accident and that no lawsuit should have been filed.  I, on the other hand, tend to agree with the Ms. Leibeck.  The coffee was served extremely hot, and she did not consider the temperature (how hot it actually was) until it was too late.  I believe that manufacturers cannot assume ANYTHING on the part of the consumer.Product designers must “simplify to the extreme” in order to do everythingpossible to prevent consumer accidents.  America consists of an extremely diverse body of people (in terms of education), and you cannot assume that everyone’s intelligence/interest level matches that of your own.  If I was McDonalds, a label at the bottom would read “Caution! Coffee served at 135 degrees! Wait 5 minutes before drinking!” or something of that nature.  Our job as engineers should spell out all product hazards in an attempt to protect everyone who uses the product.    Anything less than that is irresponsible and (in my opinion) should be punishable by heavy fine and even loss of job.


Liabilities of BPA in the Plastics Industry

Manufacturers continue to face major issues with product liability.  One industry that has been hit the hardest is the manufacturers of plastic products.  Many children’s toys producers as well as water bottle producers have come under fire for still using BPA in their products.  Bisphenol A is an organic compound used in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxies.  In fact, nearly 8 billion pounds were used as of 2011.  BPA can mimic estrogen in females when released from bottles filled with acidic beverages or washers with strong detergents.  Nearly 8 billion pounds of BPA’s are used in companies yearly and the production continues even though manufacturers have been sued because of this dangerous compound.  State governments like Ohio; have even passed laws banning BPA’s use. The article listed below this blog says that BPA’s have the potential to cause sexual reproductive problems, heart disease, obesity, as well as neurological issues can occur when it is released and consumed humans. Phillips, a producer of baby bottles or ‘sippy cups’, reached a settlement to refund all of its products made with BPA in 2011.  This lawsuit cost the company millions of dollars and probably many employees their jobs.  So was it worth it?  If you are a producer of plastics and you are using BPA today, is it worth continuing to use BPA in the same manner or should you take proper steps to ensure your product is safe for humans?  I think that it is important for these companies to remember Phillips and the fact that soon the federal government may mandate that these BPA’s are not used in manufacturing. Using liability loss control programs to change the raw materials of your products will save your company money.  If your company is using raw materials that could cause harm to consumers...Raise the red flag


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Product liability

Product liability is something that is important for all companies to be aware of especially in the use phase of the product. If a defective product leads to an injury of a customer this could have huge effects not only on the engineer but the company itself. Engineers have the responsibility to make sure that this product is used the right way.  This is important that the design of the product can’t harm and the safety and wellbeing of the customer comes first. Companies need to make sure that it is something that is user friendly yet at the same tie has limited to no risks. Engineers in the entire process of design need to make sure that this is in mind at all time. If the product can cause harm to the customer then it needs to have a label attached to it. This not only prevents the company of being sued but also makes the customer aware of what the use of the product is and the dangers that could come with the use of the product.
One example that comes to mind is there was a man that was trapped in a telephone booth. The man got hit by a car by a drunk driver. This man ended up suing the telephone company because he had no way of getting out before the driver hit him. This design flaw in the telephone booth this failure in design caused the man to be hit by the driver. The man had the right to sue him. The company ended up losing the case because multiple people had trouble with the ability to open the door. The failure by the company in keeping the customer in mind cost them. This inaction by the company shows a great example of product liability.  Sewing  companies has been a cause of discussion in the past. I feel that if someone was harmed by the actions of someone else it seems that they have the right to be sued. Product liability is something that is not only important for the company to be sure to be aware of. It is important to make sure that the customer’s interest is top priority not only in quality but in safety.

Product Liability Blog

Product Liability Blog
Product Liability has become an issue within the past two decades. The reason for an increase in product liability cases is because the government is holding companies responsible for their products they produce to the public. Before companies were not held to the standards they are now and therefore product liability is a concept. It is very important that companies produce products that are safe for not only humans-beings but for the environment as well. People have been known to take advantage of product liability in courts. There have been countless court cases that can arguably be a ridiculous claim of people spilling on themselves and people using the product incorrectly and getting hurt. The example I have chosen to write about is a defect dryer that that causes a deadly fire. In 2006 there were 17,700 home fires involving dryers and/or washing machines. (92% Dryers). Everyone knows that when you own a dryer and operate a dryer it is imperative to empty the lint bin. In this case the dryer was collecting lint in a area that the consumer could not see it nor clean it. Studies show that the 1/10 of a gram of lint coming into contact with the heating coils ignited the fire. This is the importance of Product liability. Clearly, this is a defected consumer product effecting thousands of people. There were 15 deaths and 360 injuries. The process of product liability cases enhances safety.
Tort reform is needed still but there is no question that companies will make decisions with their pocket book rather than the consumer in mind. The Ford Pinto in the 1970s was issued a recall because there we incidents of fires starting. The recall would have cost Ford Motors more than to pay the liability suite. Therefore Ford paid the Liability claims and did not recall the Pinto. This is a classic example of why Product liability is imperative to the consumers benefit.

Product Liability

According to Dr. Donna C.S. Summers book “Quality Fifth Edition”, product liability is the obligation of a company to make restitution for loss related to personal injury, property damage, or other harm caused by its product or service.  Because it is ideal but extremely difficult to create a product that is perfectly safe and can do no objectionable harm at any time under any circumstances we have product liability.

Because this is so difficult a lot has to be done during the design and manufacture of a product in order to provide the customer with the safest product or service possible.  In order to avoid making a dangerous product, designers should consider the usefulness and desirability of their product.  Once this has been done and it is determined that the product has value for the consumer, Dr. Summers has a plan for the design and development of the product.  The six steps are as follows: design to remove unsafe aspects, guard against unsafe use, provide product warnings and instructions, design to standards, conduct design reviews, advertise and market wisely.  If these steps are followed properly a product liability suit can be avoided.


Should Farmers Market Vendors Carry Product Liability Insurance?

I recently read and article about product liability at a farmers market. The article debates whether or not it would be beneficial to require the vendors at a farmers market to carry product liability insurance.  The initial thought would be that it would be beneficial for them to carry it just in case a customer gets sick because of one of their products. At a second glance, these local farmers are growing on almost no land, and generally barely make any money at all; so requiring them to add another bill to their payments could possibly cause them to drop out of the market and not do business there.  The farmers market manager would be the one who could require the farmers to have this liability insurance. 

I for one, do not think that they should require this.  I have been to many farmers markets before, and have never heard of anyone getting sick because of some bad produce that came from there.  Generally these farmers do not use any of the commercial pesticides or any of that.  It is locally grown, and usually organic.  Overall, I think that product liability is indeed necessary in some instances, but a farmers market probably isn't one of them.  But, that is just my opinion.  I trust the farmers there and even if I do get sick, it generally isn't life threatening.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

"Liebeck v. McDonald's" v. "Truly Frivolous Lawsuits"

            I, for one, am more in the mindset of people toughing out hard times, and not turning to civil lawsuits to solve one’s problems.  Going along with this mindset, and knowing what the average American knows about the Liebeck v. McDonald’s case (the hot coffee suit), I assumed that Stella Liebeck was in it for a quick buck or two.  I was wrong.  My assumptions were wrong because I did not know all of the facts.  She wasn’t driving.  The car wasn’t moving at all.  The coffee was about 20-30o F below boiling (212o F is boiling).  As Ms. Liebeck attempted to open the cup, she spilled it on her sweat pants, in which cotton absorbed the scolding liquid and trapped it close to her body.  At 190o F, it can cause full thickness (think third degree burns plus more internal tissue damage), and at 180o F, it can cause those burns with exposure between 12-15 seconds.  The damages left her in the hospital for 8 days but disabled for 2 years.  She requested that McDonald’s pay her $11,000 medical bill.  To me, that seems reasonable.  A product/service has severely injured a consumer, who, given the situation, did not purposely injury herself for the money or did it out of complete negligence.  Sure, in hindsight, there could be plenty of ways to do it over to prevent it, but at the time, in a parked car with no cup holders, putting the coffee between your knees sounds reasonable and harmless.  The average consumer is probably unaware of the hot temperatures used when serving this coffee.

            For her request of $11,000 from McDonalds to pay for her medical bill and nothing else, they offered $800.  That’s just under 14% of this retired women’s medical bill.  It doesn’t seem right or logical.  Then she got a lawyer involved, but it really shouldn’t have come to that.  McDonald’s should have agreed to pay the $11,000 for her medical expenses at her request instead of the trying to snuff her out in court.  That being said, I still don’t agree with suing, especially frivolous lawsuits, but I also won’t stand by the corporations who run groups with names along the lines of “citizens against tort reform.”  The civil court system needs to be used responsibly, and with extreme caution.  If you have ever sat on a jury for civil court, you can see how idiotic things can get.  Been there, done that, and got my $17.50 on the way out the door.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Manufacturers Responsibility

     There are times where a product is found to be potentially harmful to customers before reaching production to the public; this is something that all businesses will run into at some point in time. When this time comes, a choice has to be made about what to do.  Redesigning, replacing, and reworking all become factored into how much it would cost to fix the issue.

     This process makes sense to me. What doesn't make sense, is how the potential-harm-done is weighted.  I understand the the technical process of determining liability costs based on what the doctor or hospital treatment would cost given different injuries, but what I don't understand, on an ethical level, is how that becomes acceptable standards to use. My thought is that you CAN'T put a dollar value on a hand, limb, or human life.

     To say that your product will likely hurt "x" number of people and to STILL BE ok with it seems beyond me.  I know that the numbers can show one thing, but people aren't numbers. The life and experiences of human beings cannot be measured or quantified and to attempt to do this, especially in order to save yourself a buck, seems ridiculous.  There have been many cases where products have severely harmed and even killed great numbers of people, such as the Ford Pinto and the Chevrolet Corvair.  Somehow though we still see and hear of cases where people are harmed from manufacturers making a wrong decision of releasing a dangerous product.  All injuries can't be predicted or prevented, but it seems to me that any case where danger is recognized before production that the product should be modified.

     I feel like most people would tend to agree with me that it is the manufacturers responsibility to only distribute products that would cause harm during regular use, but I'll leave it open; do you think most people agree, or would you say I am the minority?


Friday, November 9, 2012

Product Liability and It's Effects on Production

In my mind product liability plays a very abstract role in the design, manufacturing and use of a product. However I recently learned that product liability must be considered at every stage of the service or product development. It is included from the conception of the primary design and is extended through all stages including the development  testing of prototypes, manufacturing, negotiations with suppliers, packaging, labeling, instructions, product service and distribution. Regardless of the work you are trying to accomplish or the product you are producing or service you are providing product liability will play a role in at least one if not all stages of the development cycle.

Sure, having a safe product or service that is of high quality, easy for anyone to use, and safe is import but are legal terms and precautions truly necessary? After my research and study, the answer is yes. Even if you remove the philosophical aspect out of the equation and remove the good of the many for the injury, harm, or neglect of the few you are still impacted by moral and ethical decisions that in most cases has high cost and legally implications. Why would you be willing to be responsible for any harm indirectly caused to one of your customers or the pain and suffering. Personally, I would prefer to not have to worry about these harmful aspects of a design and would prefer to just design them out, eliminating all possible injuries from ever occurring in the first place.

For this reason I would conclude that product liability is extremely necessary and if you ever have any doubt I would suggest you ask McDonald's Managers or the Engineers of the Ford Pinto for whether or not the customer's safety needs to be considered during design. In both of these examples I am almost positive that from their experiences, product liability is a much needed consideration for any work you plan on implementing, product you are designing or service you are suggesting to provide.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Motivating Workers Through Quality Costs

After spending a considerable amount of time at an organization with very strict policies in regards to safety and quality, I was better able to understand how costs can be used not only to gauge quality, but it is also a powerful tool to motivate employees.    Costs are everywhere in the process.  There are costs for labor, prevention, costs for equipment failures, costs for raw materials, etc.  This list could go down to the floor, or it could be as simple as two or three costs. I found a direct correlation with these costs and customer quality. I observed that if mistakes were made that directly affected the price that the final product costs to produce, the managers were notified and the problems were pinpointed and corrected.  These costs were a good way to set a standard of quality and monitor the entire system.  If the costs to produce the product and get it out the door outreached the standard cost set up by the management when they signed the contract, this was a considered a quality failure.  
After observing this strict management tactic, it made it more to clear to me that everyone involved in this small-mid-sized company was already aware of the costs and the values of the final product.  If scrap was run, the individual who ran the material was penalized.  On the contrary, if the worker buys into the cost of quality philosophy and builds his/her awareness, he was rewarded with gainsharing based upon quality production rates.  By setting up this golden line of quality throughout the facility, it motivated the employees and gave them the responsibility as both the labor worker as well as a quality inspector.  A great way to reduce labor related wastes.  Being both accountable for customer quality, as well as  consistant production levels allowed these employees to set obtainable goals for themselves.  It made their job more realevent to the big picture.
For the company that I spent my time at, this tactic opened my eyes to the importance of quality, not only to the customer, but to the workers of the organization.  In conclusion, it is important to find these golden standards of quality by getting out to the floor, estimating costs, and interacting with production workers.  Setting this golden standard for cost of quality is ideal for any organization trying to unite its workforce, eliminate wastes, and provide the customer a quality product each and every time.

Cost of Quality

            When companies manufacture consumer products, they are creating more than just a product. The product is a representation of the company as a whole. It is a companies’ reputation. That being said, it is obvious as to why a company would implement a process to ensure a quality product is produced. This is when the concept of Cost of Quality comes into play. The cost of quality metric compares the costs of making sure a product is sufficient to the costs incurred for a poor product. CoQ says that it is beneficial for a company to spend a short time ensuring the quality of a product; rather than produce a poor product that causes internal and external costs that will result in a larger cost.
            It is clear that creating a quality product greatly benefits a company. However, on rare occurrences, companies may actually spend too much time focusing on quality. I am reminded of a quality issue that I encountered during my co-op in which too much time was spent on quality. It was during my time studies that this specific problem arose. In a production cell with two stations and a final quality station, the touch times at each station were the same. However, the quality station was double the time of the previous two which resulted in a significant bottleneck. My boss informed me that the quality station could not be changed because it was a specific checklist sent from the customer. I brought up the fact that if the line could be balanced, the unit production would have increased by roughly 30% per shift. He simply said, “If the customer wants to pay for the long checklist, let them”. This is a perfect example of how a company can spend too much time on quality.
 While there may have been a reason the customer wanted a detailed checklist, the checklist was not made with a fast-paced environment in mind. In the environment the checklist was used, a written explanation for the checklist was a very inefficient method. A wiser, faster solution, which would not affect the quality of the product would have been to have an image checklist.
-MD 11/1/12

The cost of quality through online reviews

In an economy as tough as ours, it is important that companies produce nothing but quality products. Not just to ensure the safety of the users, but to keep the customers coming back.  This "slump" in our economy has brought on a certain level of frugal spending by us, the consumers. Therefore, if we buy a product or item from a certain company, and it fails to operate correctly, we get upset and immediately want a refund.  In addition to that, we often times take our business elsewhere.  Thanks to the internet, we can also post blogs and reviews about the product, so others can see what we experienced, and prevent them from having the same discomfort that we did.  This in turn, can often times cause other possible consumers to be awry of purchasing the same product. This can be a huge hit for companies who rely heavily on the internet for purchasing.
 Because so many companies, like amazon for example, rely on the internet for their sales, the reviews are right on the site for all to see. These are the intangible, hidden costs that can have a huge impact on a company and their sales.  I for one, have used these online reviews for not only posting about products or services I have purchased, but to do research on items I am thinking about buying. With the exceptional quality that most companies have these days, the majority of the time the reviews are positive. But, occasionally things fail and people write their poor reviews on the product.  How much impact this has is unknown, but generally speaking, most reviews are positive.  This is a time where it is impossible to put a number value on any losses that may be incurred by the company. 

Intangible Costs

In class, when discussing quality costs, we broke it down into the following types of costs; preventative, internal failure, external failure, audit, and intangible.  I will focus mainly on the intangible costs, or the costs that are very grey because they are hard to quantify.  Intangible costs can be caused by lack of consumer confidence because of a major failure in a product or service.  The lack of confidence will reduce the number of buyers as well as temporarily ruin a reputation (as BP and Toyota have recovered fairly well from the oil spill and brake issue, respectively), but what is the average time for a company to recover?  Does it take longer for a smaller company to recover their image than a larger company?  To answer these, one would have to do case studies over many of these companies focusing on the balance sheets made public by these companies.  They’d have to look at the revenue before and after the incident, and plot it graphically.  Another way to look at it would be through stocks.  Stocks would be a great indicator of consumer trust with a company, and play into intangible costs.  The biggest limitation with these options is that they are only available for publicly traded companies.  Another problem is that the intangible costs can only be analyzed post incident, assuming the company recovers fully.  The easiest way to overcome this problem of intangible costs would be to avoid it poor quality to start, focusing more on continuously improving the process.


Quality: How Far is Too Far?

Producing a “Quality Product” is an idea that can be debated for hours.  A company can spend endless amounts of money to ensure a quality product; knowing what extents to go to ensure that quality is the million dollar question though.  To me, quality is something that needs to be looked at on a case-by-case basis; one cannot assume every product requires the same level of quality.

For example, imagine you are a company producing medical beds for hospitals.  Parts of the bed, like the legs, need particular care in terms of quality.  They must have a tight tolerance in terms of length, so a patient won’t roll out because of a slant.  They also need to be strong enough to hold even the heaviest of patients.  A failure in that regard could be fatal.  Extensive testing quality checking is vital to ensure that these parts are of the highest quality possible.

Now consider a logger chopping firewood.  What exactly is a quality piece of wood? From experience, I can say that for the most part if it burns, it is a quality piece of firewood.  The money and effort spent on quality should be exponentially less than that of the hospital beds.  Is it necessary to have an employee measure the length and circumference of every piece of firewood down to the thousandth of an inch? Absolutely not.

What I’m getting at is, the customer/intended use of the product is what really gauges the level of quality system needed by the producer.  People commonly talk of the negatives of under-monitoring the quality of a product.  What isn’t often mentioned is that over-spending on quality is expensive and can sink a company.  Finding that happy medium is what’s important if a successful, long-lasting business is desired.

Importance of Safety Over Quality

Though talking to other engineers that I have known it seems to me that engineers focus more on satisfying the customer more than the safety of the customer. This idea to meet deadlines and to deliver a product faster, better, and with better quality neglects but safety seems to be not included in the part of quality. Is this a result of laziness or just a result that money and time limits are more important than the well being of the user?
Shouldn't safety be an important part of the whole process of a quality product? Isn't it amazing that companies have to do recalls for certain products. It seems to me that the product didn't seem to take customers safety into effect. The company instead focused on the quality but not the safety of the product. It seems that safety should be the number one concern in design of the product. If safe along with quality the company doesn't lose on internal and external costs.  Not only that the company losses legally.
The risk of not having a safe product seems to not outweigh the reward. Even though the product is out fast has good quality if the product has any safety risk the company could lose more money then would be made. First, a company could have to recall the product that was created and fix the design flaw. Second if the product harms a customer the company could have a lawsuit filed against them. Through having to fix the problem and deal with all the internal and external cost alone the company will lose money. These problems along with the possible money lost in the lawsuit don’t add up for the little money that could be saved from making a product with great quality and safety. An alternate option to would be to add a warning label to identify the hazard that could happen with the product. These are important things that cost companies lots of money.  The well being of the customer seems to be put behind in design and manufacturing of a product most of the time. Instead, shouldn't the well being and safety of the customer be put first instead of just quality of the product? 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Importance of Cost of Quality

Importance of Containing Quality Cost
            I wanted to provide a blog that is a quick overview explaining the cost of quality’s importance in small businesses. Also, I found that small businesses have to look at more than the standard four categories that bigger companies focus on:
            Cost of Quality is an important business practice. By knowing your Quality Costs it can help business’s find and correct problems and the costs to attain quality. Quality is nearly 20-40 percent of a company’s sale. The basic model of quality costs are divided into four categories, but it is equally important to include hidden costs that may affect quality. A small business should frequently revisit and restructure their quality control process to uncover opportunities for improvement.
            Internal Failure Costs are associated with product failures and defects discovered before the product leaves the company floor. These defects in products occur when the process does not meet a certain specification or requirement.
            External Failure Costs are incurred during customer use and can include defective products, warranty charges, customer complaints, replacement products, recalls, and repairs. External costs are the most apparent. It is important for small businesses to quantify their external costs.
            Appraisal Costs are those associated with actions designed to find quality problems with measuring, evaluating, inspecting, testing and auditing products and product materials to ensure they adhere to the quality standards and performance requirements of a business.
            Prevention Costs are the most important quality cost investment. Prevention costs keep product failure costs to a minimum. Eliminating defects before production begins reduces the costs of quality and can help companies increase profits.  
            Hidden Costs account for the cost of quality in small businesses. It is imperative for small businesses to understand the hidden quality costs such as loss of sales and customer service. Many businesses include warranties in their quality costs, but they often underestimate the full financial impact if the product fails after the warranty expires. Many times the customer incurs the cost of replacing a failed product, the experience may discourage the customer from purchasing from that company again, resulting in loss of sales.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Costs of Quality

When describing the costs associated with providing a quality product or service there a few terms that can be used; these are cost of quality, poor-quality cost, and cost of poor quality.  The cost of quality is the cost of waste which is the price of non-conformance.  In other words it is the money that you waste by not doing it right the first time.  According to Dr. Donna C.S. Summers’ book “Quality Fifth Edition” there are four categories of costs.  These costs are internal failure costs, external failure costs, appraisal costs, and prevention costs.

Internal failure costs are those associated with defects found before the customer receives the product or service.  Internal failures are also considered the costs associated with product non-conformities or service failures found before the product is shipped or the service is provided to the customer.

External failure costs are those associated with defects found after the customer receives the product or service.  External failures are also considered the costs that occur when a nonconforming product or service reaches the customer.

Appraisal costs are those incurred to determine the degree of conformance to quality requirements.  Appraisal costs are also considered the costs associated with measuring, evaluating, or auditing products or services to make sure that they conform to specifications or requirements.

Prevention costs are those incurred to keep failure and appraisal costs to a minimum.  Prevention costs are also considered the money that you invest to enable you to do it right the first time.  Those costs that occur when a company is performing activities designed to prevent poor quality in products or services.


Quality Costs

I believe that there has been a recent shift to the importance of quality. Many companies are focusing their efforts and money towards the quality department. The shift to quality means that companies need to have a better understanding of the associated costs. When I think about the cost of quality I break it down into two parts: the costs to prevent quality issues from happening and the costs acquired when things don’t meet quality standards. Things like the cost of return shipping, warranty claims, retesting, redesign and rework would go into the first category; while, things like preventive measures, quality planning, supplier evaluation, and product review/testing costs would go into the second.
Through the exercise done in class, it was made apparent that the cost of return shipping and rework is quite hefty. I would suggest lowering the costs acquired when products don’t meet quality standards and increase the funds that go toward quality planning, appraisal and preventative measures. By increasing the efforts to prevent non-quality products, there will be less of chance that quality issues will be encountered by the customer decreasing the costs for failures. The extra funds available by not having to pay out for failures can be used to further enhance preventative and appraisal efforts.
 If companies are serious about maintaining customers and having a great reputation while lowering their overall costs, they will explore and invest in their quality departments. Having a positive mindset and implementing a method similar to my suggestion above, they can increase quality and use the dollars they would have spent on failures to further the company and the quality department.