Don’t sacrifice quality to the deity of the bottom line

Paul Apsey, Deep Sea Electronics Inc.

In the power industry these days everyone is talking quality: The buyers want better quality and the manufacturers want better quality. It’s one of the goals both buyers and sellers can agree on in an otherwise unsteady market.

New products are introduced into the marketplace every day, but how many of those products can actually back up a claim of quality?

Deep Sea Electronics has set standards of quality with its line of engine, generator, and transfer switch control modules. The following guidelines may be applied to any company and are accomplished by detailed efforts—starting with design and carried through to final packaging.

A general outline

The first step is establishing a definition of quality and then researching your own company’s ability to meet that goal. A few questions to start with include:

“- What level of quality would be considered acceptable to your company?
“- Would that same level of quality be acceptable to your customers?
“- Will you be able to retain those customers if you do not produce a quality product?
“- What are you willing to invest to achieve that goal?
“- Do you have the personnel to accomplish this goal?
“- Do you have the free time available to focus on this level of quality?

You must be prepared to make the full-time commitment to produce the best quality products possible. If you are not, you are simply giving the idea of quality a bit of lip service, which will get your company nowhere in the end. Customers are quite savvy these days, and they can spot true quality.

This begins with the drawing board—with the early design and engineering of the products. Careful thought and consideration to what the product is designed for and what environments it will be exposed to are an absolute must. The initial product specification must encompass what has been learned from years of experience. (If you’re a young company, hire personnel with that experience, both corporate and in the field. Low cost interns are not always a better choice than a higher-salaried, experienced industry professional.)

Engineers must pay attention to detail, exceed specifications and add features that will insure customer satisfaction, which means you must talk to the customer. Find out what they want, what they need, and what problems they are identifying. Listen. Take notes. Put your itch to pitch on the back burner; think about sales when you have that quality product in hand. Showing them that you truly understand their needs with a highly featured, cost effective product will put you well ahead of the salesmen simply talking the talk.

A specific example

To look more closely at a manufacturing process focused on quality, let’s follow a circuit board through assembly at Deep Sea Electronics. Once the circuit board has been assembled, an inspection of the finished board must be accomplished. To be successful according to our goals for quality, every single board must be fully inspected. We do not inspect a sampling to get an overall look at batch quality; we look at each board. Deep Sea Electronics utilizes custom computer test assemblies to test components, circuit traces and all connections.

Once a board has passed this phase, assembly is completed by skilled assemblers. When assembly is completed, we then connect to the same terminal blocks our customers use. Again we test all control modules with a computer test assembly checking all operations, all LCD and LED indicators and all pushbuttons and switches. Once these tests are completed and everything is perfect, only then is the unit stamped approved and boxed for shipment.

Deep Sea Electronics believes quality is one of our foremost goals and that quality should be a goal for everyone in the industry, whether they manufacture electrical components, turbines and boilers or put together service packages and software. When a generator is called upon to produce power, this is a critical event and each product or service that is connected to that power generation should instill a sense of trust. Quality products bring that to the table. For Deep Sea, failure of the control module is not an option. Someone’s life may be depending on us—either literally, if we’re powering a hospital, or figuratively, if we’re powering a corporate environment where workers bring home a paycheck to support their families. Being able to think of the product all the way through the consumers application makes a company more aware of what they have been entrusted to accomplish.

Apsey is vice president and technical sales manager for Deep Sea Electronics Inc. (www.deepseausa.com). He can be reached at paul@deepseausa.com.

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