Quality – Cost – Delivery: The Basics

Look it up, it is a basic teaching of Lean Techniques. I am inspired by Grant’s article which was inspired by my article on made in the USA . My premise was to buy American if you want to save American jobs. Grant added a caveat to buy American when it is a quality American product. I say for the most part he is right but my factory training says otherwise.

What is Quality – Cost – Delivery? Well let’s break down each component. Quality is typically how well a product is made and how long a product will last. In my few years in industry the person that best defined quality to me said quality is simply making a product to the customer’s specifications. That is the best definition that I have ever heard. Cost is well how much a product cost or actually how much a consumer is will to pay for something. Sometime ‘Cost’ is replaced with Quantity or Value. Quantity being the cheaper something is the more you can make. Value being how much something is worth verse the quality of the product. Both are really just other ways of interpreting ‘Cost’. Last is delivery, which is either the period of time to make the product or the period of time it takes a product to reach a consumer or both.

A basic Lean ideal is the relationship of Quality, Cost, and Delivery. In an ideal world we would only make and purchase items that perform equally on all three topics, but in the real world we will typically end up with only two. I will try to portray a few examples. Let’s take Ferrari for example. Ferrari’s tend to be of high perceived quality and therefore costs ridiculously high and tend to deliver when the car is done not when you want the car done. How about nuts and bolts at the hardware store? They tend to be cheap, they’re there when you want them, and most (not all) people could care less how nice they are as long as they hold stuff together. How about ordering gifts online? You want something to get to someone on time, and may be willing to give a little on cost and quality just to make sure it get there.

There are truly not lots of items that truly hold the benefits of all three. The closest that I can see would be Craftsman hand tools, which are sold at a decent price (more than Walmart, less than Snap-On), backed with a lifetime guarantee (read as quality), and typically in the store when you need it.

So what does America do? Well I have covered this before (the re-use post), but it needs to be said again. Somewhere America went for price above all else. So much so that our super stores, shopping centers, and landfills are littered with the fruit of that thinking. Not to mention our society borrows (or maybe now it is borrowed) irresponsibly in order to get more crap to better fill their lives.

So think about the things you purchase. Do you need that iPhone or will a LG do just fine? Do you need cheap milk or are you willing to support a local dairy? Do you need a new car or will a used car suffice? Will a Bowflex make your life better or did you just purchase a nice towel rack? I am not saying that buying cheap crap is always that bad, we all have done it (maybe bologna over roast beef), but think about what you can afford, what you are using it for, and how long it will last. Think of how it will impact the world around you, how it will impact your very own world and your neighbor’s.

What happened to American manufacturing (in addition to the whole dollar versus yen or pound or euro or whatever) was that somewhere the American Dream became I need all this crap and lots of money so I can get more crap instead of I need to live well and comfortable. Quality, select products at a fair cost was given up for everything at the cheapest cost possible. My hope is that this economic correction (that is my p.c. way of saying disaster) will teach us all a lesson of what we really need and really are willing to pay for. I hope I am right or history is bound to repeat itself.

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