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«Operator Errors – Time for a New Look J. M. Juran There are good grounds for asserting that our managerial convictions about “operator error” ...»

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Meanwhile, the record is of another sort: Historically, human beings have been fallible, including the champions; historically also, we have reduced inadvertent errors not by motivation but by fool proofing operations. Our factories exhibit masterpieces of error-free processes. The managers properly take pride in them and exhibit them as works of art, which indeed they are.

–  –  –

xx operator’s possible role is significant, even decisive x operator’s possible role can be useful – operator’s possible role is dubious The concept of fool-proofing is not limited to solution of inadvertent errors; it can deal with any subspecies of error, whether due to lack of skill, to willfulness, or still other causes.

Role Of The Operator Elimination of errors, whether operator-controllable or management-controllable, requires

that we go through an invariable sequence of activities:

1. Observe errors by their symptoms.

2. Theorize as to causes of symptoms.

3. Analyze to discover the true causes.

4. Theorize as to remedies for these causes.

5. Analyze to discover the optimum remedy.

–  –  –

The table depicts the usual extent to which the operator can play a useful role in the foregoing sequence.

I have structured the table (published here for the first time) to reflect conditions as commonly found in American practice. Obviously, the table would differ depending on conditions in different plants. In a radically different culture such as the Japanese QC Circles* the table would be remarkably different, since the operators are trained in use of the tools of analysis, and are motivated to take on projects of discovering causes and remedies for all types of errors.

Table I offers a do-it-yourself matrix for any company. (If the table doesn't reflect the conditions in your company, tailor the table to fit.) The point is that it is feasible for any company to judge the useful role of the operator as to the various permutations of subspecies of error and of activities needed to convert symptoms into remedies.

It is significant that the operator can make a useful contribution not only as to operatorcontrollable errors, but also as to management controllable errors. However, in the case of the latter species, his contribution is concerned with identifying the shortcomings in the system of self control. The operator is commonly in a good position to discover these shortcomings, since he meets them at every turn: information incomplete; machines in need of maintenance; instruments out of calibration.

Not only is the operator often aware of these shortcomings; he often brings the matter to the attention of the supervision. Sometimes this is done by the operator taking the initiative in response to suggestion schemes and the like. More usually the operator does it defensively, to avoid being blamed for something beyond his control.

Some of the worst quality morale situations are found in plants where these findings of the operators are not acted on by the supervisors. These inaction’s tell the operators that the management has no interest in quality, no matter what the posters say. In fact, one of the very real benefits of the motivational campaigns is that the supervision is now forced to take action on these same shortcomings in the system of self control.

Conclusion The foregoing is necessarily a limited analysis. Some of the assertions are backed up by ample data; mostly they are not. But they are assertions which can be tested by any practitioner who has a living laboratory in which to conduct a do-it yourself study.

The main burden of this paper is to urge practicing managers to dig out the facts as to:

- the state of self control

- the proportions of management controllable vs. operator-controllable errors

- the proportions of the various subspecies of operator errors.

Any one conducting such a study not only stands to clarify the factual situation in his own Selected Papers nº 11, 1968 7 Copyrights 1994 TPOK/Juran Institute company; he stands to make a contribution to his fellow practitioners as well. His factual data will certainly be studied with interest. But more than this, our experience is that when new data are collected, fresh challenges can be put to long-standing beliefs. We can make good use of a few such challenges.

*See Juran, J.M., QUALITY CONTROL HANDBOOK, Second Edition, pages l0-15 to 17.

McGraw-Hill Book Co, 1982.

** For elaboration see Juran, J. M., QUALITY CONTROL HANDBOOK, 2nd Edition, pages 8-25.to 8-35. McGraw-Hill Book Co, New York.

• Juran, J. M., the QC Circle Phenomenon. Industrial Quality Control, January 1967, pages 329-336.

Dr. J. M. JURAN, Author of eight books and numerous papers on various management subjects, Dr. Juran maintains an active schedule as management consultant, international lecturer, and corporate director. He is a contributing editor to Quality Progress and has been a member of ASQC since 1946.

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