Inspect for Defects

Quality control is looking over that book you're about to buy—for quality of the writing and for defects in its physical production. Every seemingly identical object is not identical. If it's made by human beings there are defects. Maybe you are looking at this book in a store and have decided to buy a copy. Or maybe you have already paid for it, in which case the following exercise may disappoint you.

Take a look at the physical characteristics of the book you are holding in your hand. Check for dog-eared pages, tears in the spine or cover. Flip through the pages and look for stray marks, glued-together pages, and latte damage. Close the book and look at it at an oblique angle so you can see the shine off the cover—this will reveal smudges, fingerprints, and dust. Yech! Look all around the edges of the book and notice dents and gouges indicating it has been dropped.

If you find a flaw, then I hope you are still in the store. Pick up another copy (preferably in the back of the display or on the bottom of the stack) and inspect it. Look at several books. If you look closely, you will find that they all have flaws. Pick out the one with the fewest defects.

You have just performed a process that, in the aerospace industry, is called quality control. Quality control is kicking the tires, taking a test drive, and looking under the hood (even if you're not sure what you're looking for). You can save yourself a lot of money and grief by simply taking a look.

As Yogi Berra said, "You can see a lot—when you observe!"

Senator Lloyd Benson put it this way: "You can expect what you inspect."

Why should you pay for someone else's mistake? You can use this technique of quality control to improve the quality of your life.

In Mission Control, there are experts in charge of all the major systems. You get to see them in the two great films of space exploration, The Right Stuff and Apollo 13. Before launch, the flight director calls on his experts—the capsule communicator, the doctor, the flight dynamics officer, the retro-fire engineer, and the range safety officer. These are the quality control experts who constantly monitor the state of the rocket, spacecraft, and astronauts during countdown.

They observe.

If anything is not up to par, the officer will call out, "No go!" when the flight director does his roll call. If "Flight" (the flight director) gets a single "No go!" he will put a "hold" on the launch until the problem is solved. (For the inside story, see the New York Times bestseller Flight: My Life in Mission Control by Chris Kraft.)

The experts have call names for space-age efficiency, so what you hear just before launch is the flight director calling and the officers responding:

Capcom?

Surgeon?

Retro?

And we are "go" for launch.

That is one of the ways rocket scientists beat back errors in their attempt to ensure success.

You can use the approach to improve life here on planet Earth. When you find a product or service lacking, let the manager know.

Chapter 22 Inspect for Defects

She'll send the defective product back to the manufacturer or chide the lackluster employee. You're not the only one who benefits when you apply quality control (although you may be the first). Companies respond to their customers' expectations—or they go out of business. When you expect the best for yourself, you improve quality for everyone.

Quality control isn't just for rocket scientists.

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