QC (my soap box - skip if not interested)

Winslow Yerxa writes - 

>    >Also, the cost of a factory doing it could be cheaper if the
>    >design focused on improving the right areas, rather than
>    >trying to fix them during final QC or re-work, as you implied
>    >in your price discussion.
>It's not a question of "fixing" anything that's wrong "discovered
>deficiencies" as you put it elsewhere in your post. The design is
>not in question - it's a question of execution in the stage of
>final adjustment, which is a matter of highly skilled hand labor.
>There is no way of reducing the cost of this kind of labor. If
>you pay people less or give them less time to do it (same thing),
>they will do less, and quality will suffer. AS with the
>complaints on today's list about badly adjusted Marine Bands. Not
>a problem with design, just with execution.
>Automation is little help. Most of what comes off Hohner's new MS
>production line ends up being hand finished. However, they've
>bungled the job of automation pretty badly. I'd be curious to
>find out how Tombo and Suzuki are handling it.

I don't know the  process so I didn't know how much of the finishing was
by-hand nor how long it takes or the automation processes (I would be
interested though -- is there some marketing blurb put out highlighting
this?), but there are tool and die mechanical engineers whose reason for
employment is to design assembly methods that reduce or eliminate the
'badly adjusted' or 'problems ...with execution'. This includes manual
fixturing as well as automation. the fact that you indicted that they
'they've bungled the job of automation pretty badly' leads me to believe
that they may be living with production problems at final assembly and
finishing that actually are caused by the automated processes and may be
the root cause of some of the problems reported. 

Designing for Quality is not new (ref. Deming, Juran, Taguchi) and it
reduces cost (cycle-time, re-work, returns).  It was the saving grace for
Harley Davidson in the 80's -- they were in terrible shape quality-wise,
but came out of the ashes as the premier 'bike' company in the world, and
now are riding high  marketing-wise (globally), on their history,
pop-culture mystique and quality image.  More than a few parallels can be
drawn between the two industries, IMHO, and all this chatter about a few
reeds being out-of-whack on first use can be dealt with by the end-user, or
their pro set-up person -- also at a "cost" -- or Hohner, the Harley of
Harmonicas -- or the other manufacturers will (or have  - I can't really
tell from the list nor do I own any of the market leaders models

In all fairness, it is hard to assess the real 'falure rate' from a list
such as this, but it sounds like there is a good geographic sampling and a
general consensus that a few reeds out of whack would constitute 
'dissatisfaction' enough to warrant a return.  Very rough calculations
(factor of ten) would suggest that the failure rate is between 1% to 10%
for those that have responded recently to the list (not 0.1% to 1% and not
10% to 100%).  *IF* this is true, it is  still very high from a warranty
return / business analysis standpoint -- enough to drive companies out of
business in some industries (many companies target 0.01% to 0.1% for
commodity products and 0.1% to 1% for complex products, 'zero
defects'obvioulsy being the ideal). 

I'm not saying it is true, nor that Hohner is a bad company,  and I may be
distorting the reactions that are bound to happen any time something
somewhat bad is reported publicly - all the  "oh yeah, that happened to me
once" come out, and the "I haven't had problems and have purchased over 500
harps in the last year" don't get reported.... 8)  

But it is interesting that there does seem to be a pattern of responses
from some players, esp. the part about the 'not returnable due to health
laws' -- would there be more if it were easier to return it at the store or
thru the catalog  ??  It would be even more interesting to talk to Hohner
(or Tombo or Suzuki or Huang  -- did I miss any?) about it  -- what's their
return rate, what's the main reasons for return, how many are 'fixable'
defects, has it stayed steady for years or is there something going on
recently, what are they going to do about it, etc.

Design is not just 'new products' (eg. SBS, other special tunings) or 'new
features on old products' (eg. thicker reed plates for better tone, or
putting sliders on diatonics for overblowing/more notes) it is also for
'better quality'      (eg. CX12, single-reed replaceable) and I believe
that there is room for improvemnt in the latter based on the recent posts.

Harvey A. Andruss, III                  email: haandruss@xxxxxxx

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