At a recent lunch in a Chinese restaurant with our vice president of Technical Services, one of the topics on our plate was quality control in plants. We spent a considerable amount of time talking passionately about quality standards in the precast concrete industry, the NPCA QC Manual and other related topics that the diners around us probably found esoteric and boring. Not to us.
Are the expectations spelled out in the QC Manual clear and consistent? Does the quality message filter down to the production floor where it is so critical? Or does it get lost somewhere in between the front office and the front lines?
Discussion turned to other topics. Eventually we were presented with the bill and two fortune cookies. And there it was: a metaphor for our quality discussion was staring us right in the face. We looked at the two fortune cookies, individually wrapped in the traditional cellophane packaging. One cookie was perfect. Just what you’d expect. The other was only half of a cookie. The other half was simply gone, but the cracked cookie had somehow made it through the factory unnoticed and was packaged and sent on its way.
The irony of this QC failure was too much to ignore. Normally I’d be wondering about the little strip of paper with my fortune. But now, with failure staring me in the face, my first thoughts were these: was somebody at the fortune cookie factory asleep at the switch? Looking the other way? Stepped out for a break while the line was running? Is that lack of attention to the packaging of a partial cookie a sign that there may be other problems baked into the design of the offending cookie? Is it safe to eat? I don’t know. But what I do know is that somebody at the cookie factory failed the QC minimum standard and the result was a seriously sub-par product.
Which fortune cookie is more like your company? Do you deliver the perfectly packaged cookie that meets expectations and may even come with an inspiring message? Or do you deliver the less-than-perfect cookie that triggers a frown and a host of QC questions when it arrives at its destination. Expectations are higher than ever among our customers, who believe that high quality and good looking product is not just a “nice to have” It is required. The phrase used to be: “Low price, high quality, great service…pick any two.” Those days are long gone. Now you have to deliver all three, and exceed expectations along the way. For companies that do, good fortune lies ahead. For companies that don’t, the fortune inside the cookie may be less than optimistic.