Quality in engineering Essay Example



Question 1: Issue analysis

businessfor theIdentify Key Factor of Success(s)

The production of high quality products

Quality problem is the main issues facing the business as outlined in the case study. The company is operating in a highly competitive field where the quality of products is a major issue of consideration and a factor of market competitiveness. For it to be successful in the market, the company must show its willingness and capability to provide its customers with high quality products to create value for their money. When customers take a photo, they do so because they want to remember a certain event. As such, they want high quality photos, which means that Polaroid should provide them with high quality cartridges to enable customers get the best picture. To realise this goal, Polaroid should do the following:

Establish a quality improvement strategy that will help the company to continuously improve the quality of its products;

  1. Create a culture that understands the importance of producing high quality products (Fairfiel-Sonn 2001). As such, employees will be focus on identifying sources of defects and providing solutions for sealing such leaks with the aim of producing high quality products and hence reducing the number of defects on finished products

  2. Establish a continuous quality monitoring and control strategy that requires operators to monitor and control quality at every production stage so that quality defects can be identified early enough along the production line. This will help in identifying sources of defects immediately they occur, which will in turn reduce the number of defects and hence help the company to improve the quality level of its products.

Reduction of operation costs

In particular, the company should reduce its quality control costs to a sustainable level. The case study shows that in 1984, direct cost of quality control amounted to over $4 million without considering costs in terms of labor and equipment utilisation. A deep analysis will show that quality control costs might have exceeded $5 million in 1984 (WheelWright & Bowen 2002). This is clearly unsustainable, and the company should reduce these costs to sustainable levels. The company can do this by establishing an effective continuous quality control strategy that enables quality issues to be detected early in the production process. This will in turn help the company to minimise wastes associated with a defective product being identified at the end of the manufacturing process. Additionally, a continuous quality control strategy will ensure that sources of defective products, such as faulty machine, are identified soonest possible and corrected immediately to avoid the production of high numbers of defective products. The company has already tried this strategy, but it is gaining resistance from various parties including the quality control team and operators. Moreover, it is extremely hard to change the culture in operation, that of failing to record all the sampled products. As such, the reduction of quality control costs will be realised if this culture is changed and a new culture that focuses on continuous quality improvement established.

Research & Development

Polaroid operates in an industry where quality and innovation are crucial for business success. The satisfaction of customers’ needs requires the company to continuously conduct aimed at identifying customers’ needs and whether the company’s products have satisfied these needs. Continuous market research is also required for the company to assess the quality of its products from the consumers’ perspectives. As such, a well established R&D team is required that will conduct research and then incorporate research data into design and production processes to enable the company manufacture innovative and high quality products.

to identify Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and ThreatsSWOT analysis


  1. Large and widespread customer base

The company has a large customer base that is has developed over the years. For example, the Japanese market alone bought about 1 million units in 1984 alone. The company’s customer base is internationally spread with the international market accounting for about 40% of the company’s sales and 60% of the company’s profits (WheelWright & Bowen 2002). Such a large customer base is sufficient to sustain the company only if the company is able to maintain it. The widespread nature of the company’s customer base is another strength because it serves to cushion the company from economic uncertainties in any country. For example, if there are problems in the Japanese market preventing sales in the market, the company can survive on other markets. In other words, the distributed customer base helps the company to distribute its risks over a large market.

  1. Availability of necessary process control tools

Rolfs knew that “R2 had all the process control tools it needed to implement operator-based statistical process control” (WheelWright & Bowen 2002, p. 6). This is a major strength for the company because it is able to develop an effective quality control system aimed at improving the quality of its products.

  1. Sufficient number of employees

Polaroid has several engineers, operators and quality auditors, which means that the company has sufficient talent. If the company can nurture and manage this talent, it can compete effectively in the market.


  1. Quality issues

The company is facing numerous quality issues with its products that have two consequences. Firstly, these quality issues are resulting to high quality control costs, as they require operators and quality control team to increase the number of samples (WheelWright and Bowen 2002). Secondly, quality issues facing the company have already reached customers with Japanese customer already complaining of defective products. If the company does not solve these issues, market competitors will find this as an opportunity to fight Polaroid.

  1. Culture among operators that does not support continuous quality control and continuous quality improvement

The operation team has been accused of failing to support efforts, by the management, to control and improve quality continuously. It appears that operators have already established a culture that works against efforts to control and improve quality of products. Firstly, the control team has been accused of failing to follow sampling procedure that requires operators to pick a certain number of samples for every production lot (WheelWright & Bowen 2002). Under-sampling resulted to failure to get the actual quality level of production, which means that would be extremely difficult to improve production quality. There was also blame game between mechanical engineers and operations engineers with each party failing to take responsibility of poor quality products (WheelWright & Bowen 2002). As such, it was extremely difficult to improve quality since management would not understand if quality issues were resulting from materials or machines.

After the implementation of the Greenlight project, operators were accused of undermining efforts to improve product quality. In particular, some operators were accused of failing to record all sampled cartridges, a scenario that gave the management the wrong impression that quality was improving. Once operators found a problem, they would correct it before informing the management, which made it hard for the management to understand the problem facing the company’s production system.


  1. Increase revenues

This is possible if the company can solve its quality issue problems, reduce quality control costs and utilise its huge market base and well-known brand to increase sales. To increase the quality of its products and hence reduce quality control costs, the company can:

  1. Provide operators with quality control tools

  2. Train operators on continuous quality control and improvement

  3. Specify responsibilities and command structure with respect to quality control

  4. Bring on board highly effective machines, tools and equipments or repair and re-calibrate current tools, machines and equipments to produce high quality products

  5. Reduce the number of sample taken

  6. Automate the quality control process to ensure that the quality control procedure is strictly adhered to

  1. Resistive organisational culture

Production operators are not willing to abandon their already established culture and adopt the new culture of continuous quality control and quality improvement. This is evidenced by their failure to record all sampled cartridges despite being informed of the importance of the quality control procedure (WheelWright & Bowen 2002).

  1. Competitive market

The industry is rather highly competitive, and competitors might take advantage of Polaroid’s quality problems.

companyby theAn issue tree to outline the current issues encountered

Quality in engineering

Figure 1: Issue tree that outlines the quality issue that the company is facing

Figure 1 shows an issue tree that outlines the quality issue that the company is facing. As shown in figure 1, the main issue is high quality monitoring costs that amounted to over $4 million in 1984 alone and which are caused by two issues, inability to control quality at various production points and massive waste due to large number of defects identified by the QC team, as well as during production. The inability to control quality at various production points is in turn caused by operators failing to record quality defects accurately thereby creating a perception that machines and equipments are operating well whereas this is not the case. Operators fail to record quality data that they collect because of lack of time “to take all the samples as required by the procedure (WheelWright & Bowen 2002, p. 3). Additionally, some operators were found to be «salting» boxes (WheelWright & Bowen 2002, p. 5) whereby they were distributing items between boxes in the bid to distribute defects among several boxes so that the management would have the impression that the production team is doing its best to improve quality. As such, operators did not take all the required samples, which means that accurate quality data was never obtained during production.

The other cause of the problem, inability to control quality at production points, was cause by lack of a well established structure that defines who is responsible for quality during product; is it process engineers or mechanical engineers? The two parties were involved in production whereby but it was not clear as to who was supposed to be responsible for quality performance. As such, when quality issues arose, the two parties blamed each other with blames shifting from materials to machines, which means that quality problems during production were never solved.

The other arm of the issue tree is massive wastes due to large number of samples taken mainly by the QC team. Operators also take quality control samples that increase the amount of waste. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, QC is oversampling especially when it detects some defects in some boxes (detection of defects leads to more sampling and hence more waste) (WheelWright & Bowen 2002). Another reason is failure by the QC to address issues of importance to the customer during quality testing, which means that some quality tests are irrelevant.

Decision makingQuestion 3:

What recommendations would you make to Rolfs in order to address both short-term and long-term issues?

The main issues facing Polaroid are low quality products and high cost of quality control. As such, Rolfs should work hard to address these two issues because they have short term and long term effects on the company. In order to fully address the issues, Rolf should follow a systematic approach whose procedure is outlined below.

Identification of the common types of defects

). Rolfs should use this information to identify the most common types of defects. Since assembly operators have already shown their unwillingness to support the implementation of the Greenlight project, Rolfs should consider positioning people from the quality control team at various points of assembly and production so that they can provide actual data on the quality of products. Rolfs should then use this data to get the most common types of defects.WheelWright & Bowen 2002Exhibit 5 shows the common types of defects as determined by quality auditors and assembly operators (

Identification of the sources of defects

). This shows that the reagent addition point of production and assembly is compromised and that machines and equipment doing this operation have a problem. It could also imply that the operator in charge of this operation has a problem. WheelWright & Bowen 2002Data on the most common types of defects will then help Rolfs to identify the source of defects. For example, auditor analysis shows that one of the common types of defects is excessive reagent (exhibit 5) (

Conduct consumer survey

It has already been found that quality auditors have been addressing issues that are not important as far as customers are concerned. Rolfs should consider conducting customer survey to identify quality issues that are of great importance. Although high quality products are required, the identification of the most important quality issues will help the quality control team to focus on issue of great importance, which will in turn help the company to avoid unnecessary quality measures and quality control costs. This will in turn reduce quality control costs.

Conduct training on employees especially operators on the importance of quality control and how to ensure continuous quality control

). As such, Rolfs should change the culture that the operation team has established and the best way of doing this is by training operators on the importance of continuous quality control. Operators should understand that poor quality products not only put the company at risk, but also puts all employees at risk because closure of company due to poor performance means loss of employment. WheelWright & Bowen 2002It is apparent that operators provide the weakest link in the effort to implement continuous quality control strategy, as is the focus of the Greenlight project (

Maintain positive relationship with employees especially operators

Rolfs should realise that his efforts to improve the quality of the company’s products cannot succeed if he does not receive support from operators since they are the ones in control of production and hence the quality of products. It is apparent that some operators fail to record all the sampled cartridges due to fear of being reprimanded for low quality products. Unless these operators develop trust on the management that recording actual data of samples taken and defective sample found will not cost them, they will continue playing hide and seek game. To counter this effect, Rolfs should develop a positive relationship with all employees so that they are willing to present cases of low quality products, identify and report sources of low quality products and then suggest ways of solving these issues (Eby & Allen 2012). In fact, Rolfs should develop an award program that awards operators for identifying sources of low quality products in the production system and then helping to solve such issues. In doing so, Rolfs will be slowly establishing and reinforcing a culture of continuous quality control and improvement.

Establish a quality monitoring program that performs quality checks regularly

Once Rolfs has managed to change the culture among operators from one of hiding quality problems to one of helping in continuous quality control, Rolfs should then do away with the quality control team especially in conducting quality auditing on a daily basis. Instead, the quality control team should focus on training all employees on the importance of quality control, setting quality standards and performing quality checks regularly but not daily. The QC team should conduct regular and random control checks at various production points and compare quality control results with the already established quality control standard. This will enable the QC team to make necessary recommendations, such as machine maintenance and recalibration after which they should follow up to ensure that quality meets set standards.

Benchmarking best practices

Rolfs should study the company, the film industry and the entire manufacturing industry to identify best practices with respect to quality control and improvement (Camp 2006). Rolfs should first read the history of the company from its documents or from other people to understand the company’s previous performance and what it was doing to achieve high quality performance. Rolfs should then adopt such strategies in order to turn things around and achieve high quality performance. Industry benchmarking will involve studying various manufacturing firms within and without the film industry to identify what they are doing to achieve high quality products. He should purpose to learn quality control strategies employed by manufacturing firms within and without the film industry. Afterwards, Rolfs should improve such strategies for adoption at his company or adopt them the way they are (Zairi 1996).


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Harvard Business School.Process Control at Polaroid (A).WheelWright, SC. & Bowen, HK 2002,

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