Volume 9, Issue 3 - March 2008

Protect the View

“Less Than One Percent”
We’re Better Than That
by Mike Burk

There is a current television commercial for an insurance company that proclaims proudly that nine out of ten of its customers would recommend the company to someone else. Are company officials really proud that ten out of every one-hundred of their customers wouldn’t recommend them to a friend or relative? Some companies in the door and window industry present the same unintended image when they proclaim that their failure rates are less than one percent. That would mean that out of the last 1,000 windows they manufactured or installed, as many as ten might not perform satisfactorily. I don’t believe it. I know the door and window industry is better than that.

Have you heard the same answer to different quality questions in your manufacturing facility? It’s a great answer and it seems to satisfy most managers and customers in the industry. “Oh, we’re less than one percent.” It seems to work for: What is your field failure rate? How many remakes do you do everyday? What is your argon loss rate? How much of your glass is scraped? How many windows end up in the bone yard and never leave your factory? What is your employee turnover rate? What is your profit margin? Well, it probably doesn’t work for that last one.

When I hear this answer, my next question is always, “Less than one percent of what? What do you measure? When do you measure? Who measures? How do you measure? Do you measure what matters?”

In some cases this standard answer is meant to keep the actual number a secret. Most manufacturers don’t want to share their defect rate with the public. But internally it is a different story. You need to know exactly what the defect rate is. 

We all have read or heard about the many quality programs available to general industry and manufacturing today. Some programs have come and gone while others have been very successful. Programs such as Six Sigma have proven to improve quality and eliminate defects or mistakes. Companies that take full advantage of Six Sigma work toward a goal of 3.4 defects per million opportunities. At the Six Sigma level, the cost of quality is estimated to be less than one percent of sales.

Some recent articles suggest that most manufacturing companies operate between the 3 Sigma and 4 Sigma level. One percent failures in 1,000 windows would be equal to 10,000 defects per million opportunities or a Sigma value of about 3.8. The cost of operating at this defect percentage level is estimated to be “roughly 20- to 30-percent of sales revenues.” In today’s competitive market very few door and window manufacturers could survive with defect costs at this level.

We know that the windows we build are reliable more than 99 percent of the time. We know they are good windows because we back them with extended warranties. Guarantees of product performance for 25 years, lifetime or transferable lifetime are available. In addition, the industry tests its products voluntarily to extreme conditions in order to prove their durability. We also know there is room for improvement. We have all heard the saying, “If something cannot be measured, it cannot be improved.” It’s time to talk about real measurement. You need to see where your manufacturing process stands. Find real measurable meaningful numbers. A Kaizen team or event would be a good place to start. A Kaizen team involving both workers and management will help define where your company stands and find ways to improve.

Start telling the truth. We know that your failure or reject rate is less than one percent, probably much less than one percent. Determine where you stand, then and only then you can begin to improve as you continue to provide high-quality windows that protect the view. 

Mike Burk serves as product manager for Edgetech IG. He may be reached at mike.burk@edgetechig.com. Mr. Burk’s opinions are solely his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of this magazine.


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