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Quality Practices that Deliver for the IndustryWeek Best Plants

Do you ever wonder what techniques your neighboring facilities use to improve quality? Or what your competitors do?

Such information can be hard to come by. Since 1990 IndustryWeek has collected such information as part of the IndustryWeek Best Plants competition, our annual salute to manufacturing excellence across North America.

Given that November is World Quality Month, it seems an appropriate time to share some of the quality information we collect as part of the competition process. Specifically, as a component of the IW Best Plants competition, applicants are asked to identify, among a list of options, the quality techniques they have implemented extensively.

The request is made not because certain techniques or tools are considered better or more appropriate than others. It is requested to help the IndustryWeek Best Plants judges better understand the overall quality efforts underway in a facility. This information helps paint a picture, so to speak.

Nevertheless, the data provide a snapshot of the tools and techniques the IndustryWeek Best Plants winners and finalists use in their quality pursuits. Direct comparisons can be misleading, because facilities, products and processes may be quite diverse. Moreover, the quality challenge typically determines the methods IW Best Plants winners and finalists use to address that challenge.

With these cautionary words, the following charts illustrate data collected over the past five years with respect to quality techniques. The very first illustration provides the broad overview of quality techniques deployed extensively over the past five years. As the data show, employee problem-solving teams are vastly engaged in the pursuit of quality improvements, with fully 98% of all Best Plants Plants winners and finalists reporting extensive engagement of such employee teams. 

A Closer Look at Quality Techniques

The broad overview provides a perspective that isn't available when the quality techniques are examined at a more granular, yet still aggregated, level. The following charts provide that greater detail. In many instances, there is little in the way of obvious trends - although Taguchi methods have not caught on, at least at the plant level.

Poka-yoke, also known as mistake-proofing, is used extensively by some 80% of all the IW Best Plants winners and finalists over the past five years. But as the chart below indicates, the percentage has been dropping since 2011.

Employee problem-solving teams easily are the quality technique most widely implemented among the IndustryWeek Best Plants winners and finalists, as the chart below shows.

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