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"Zero Defects" is Step 7 of "Philip Crosby's 14 Step Quality Improvement Process" [1]. Although applicable to any type of enterprise, it has been primarily adopted within industry supply chains wherever large volumes of components are being purchased (common items such as nuts and bolts are good examples). Zero Defects was a quality control program originated by the Denver Division of the Martin Marietta Corporation (now Lockheed Martin) on the Titan Missile program, which carried the first astronauts into space in the late 1960s. It was then incorporated into the Orlando Division, which built the mobile Pershing Missile System, deployed in Europe; the Sprint antiballistic missile, never deployed; and a number of air to ground missiles for the Vietnam War.

Principles of Zero Defects 1. Quality is conformance to requirements Every product or service has a requirement: a description of what the customer needs. When a particular product meets that requirement, it has achieved quality, provided that the requirement accurately describes what the enterprise and the customer actually need. This technical sense should not be confused with more common usages that indicate weight or goodness or precious materials or some absolute idealized standard. In common parlance, an inexpensive disposable pen is a lower-quality item than a gold-plated fountain pen. In the technical sense of Zero Defects, the inexpensive disposable pen is a quality product if it meets requirements: it writes, does not skip nor clog under normal use, and lasts the time specified. 2. Defect prevention is preferable to quality inspection and correction The second principle is based on the observation that it is nearly always less troublesome, more certain and less expensive to prevent defects than to discover and correct them. 3. Zero Defects is the quality standard The third is based on the normative nature of requirements: if a requirement expresses what is genuinely needed, then any unit that does not meet requirements will not satisfy the need and is no good. If units that do not meet requirements actually do satisfy the need, then the requirement should be changed to reflect reality.

4. Quality is measured in monetary terms the Price of Nonconformance (PONC) The fourth principle is key to the methodology. Phil Crosby believes that every defect represents a cost, which is often hidden. These costs include inspection time, rework, wasted material and labor, lost revenue and the cost of customer dissatisfaction. When properly identified and accounted for, the magnitude of these costs can be made apparent, which has three advantages. First, it provides a cost-justification for steps to improve quality. The title of the book, "Quality is free," expresses the belief that improvements in quality will return savings more than equal to the costs. Second, it provides a way to measure progress, which is essential to maintaining management commitment and to rewarding employees. Third, by making the goal measurable, actions can be made concrete and decisions can be made on the basis of relative return.

History While Zero Defects began in the aerospace and defense industry, started at Martin Marietta in the 1960s, thirty years later it was regenerated in the automotive world. During the 1990s, large companies in the automotive industry tried to cut costs by reducing their quality inspection processes and demanding that their suppliers dramatically improve the quality of their supplies. This eventually resulted in demands for the "Zero Defects" standard. It is implemented all over the world.

Criticisms Criticism of "Zero Defects" frequently centers around allegations of extreme cost in meeting the standard. Proponents say that it is an entirely reachable ideal and that claims of extreme cost result from misapplication of the principles.


The Concept of Zero Defects

When would a product be acceptable to a customer? It would be acceptable when it meets or conforms to the requirements of the customer - it is not just about being good. In short, when a product is built to specifications without any drawbacks, then it is an acceptable product. In terms of defects, a product will be acceptable when it is free of defects. When considering the concept of zero defects, one might want to know what that zero defect level is, if acceptable levels can be achieved for a product. Attaining perfect zero defects may not be possible, and there is always a chance of some errors or defect occurring. Zero defects means reaching a level of infinity sigma - which is nearly impossible. In terms of Six Sigma, zero defects would mean maximization of profitability and improvement in quality. A process has to be in place that allows for the achievement of zero defects. Unless conditions are perfect, the objective of zero defects is not possible. It is possible to measure nonconformance in terms of waste. Unless the customer requirements are clear, you will not be able to achieve the product that matches these requirements and is not short of them or exceeds them. Advantages The advantage of achieving a zero defect level is waste reduction. When time is spent on manufacturing quality goods and services according to customer requirements, it will also lead to cost reductions.

By conforming to requirements, customer satisfaction is achieved - and that means improvement in customer loyalty and retention and an increase in profitability. Possible Drawback of Pushing For Zero Defects Some experts argue that if there is an overemphasis on efforts to create a situation of zero defects, there may be an increased allotment of time and expense on building the perfect process, which in reality is not entirely possible. It may be detraction from the realistic culture of successful continuous improvement. In the same line of thought, if for zero defect there are tests and checkpoints at various places, it will result in an increase in the costs on these activities. There is also a probability of losing a good product due to overly strict criteria. Impact on the Workforce and Supply Chain Employees are aware of the need to reduce defects, and they strive to achieve continual improvement. However, overemphasis of zero defects levels may be demoralizing, and may even lead to non-productivity. Unless a level of zero defects is achieved, it would be regarded as an unacceptable level. When the zero defect rule is applied to suppliers and any minor defects are said to be unacceptable, then the company's supply chain may be jeopardized - which in itself is not the best business scenario. It may be acceptable to have a policy of continuous improvement rather than a zero defect one. Companies may be able to achieve decent reduction in costs and improved customer satisfaction levels to achieve a bigger market share.

How can it be used ?

The concept of zero defects can be practically utilised in any situation to improve quality and reduce cost. However it doesnt just happen, as the right conditions have to be established to allow this to take place. A process, system or method of working has to be established which allows for the achievement of zero defects. If this process and the associated conditions are not created then it will not be possible for anyone involved in the process to achieve the desired objective of zero defects. In such a process it will be possible to measure the cost of none conformance in terms of wasted materials and wasted time. Any process that is to be designed to include this concept must be clear on its customer expectations and desires. The ideal is to aim for a process and finished article that conforms to customer requirements and does not fall short of or exceed these requirements. For example, in recent years many financial organisations have made claims regarding how quickly they can process a home loan application. But what they may have failed to realise is that in spending a great deal of time and money reducing processing time they are exceeding customer requirements (even if they believe that they know them). In these cases they have exceeded the cost of conformance when it was not necessary to do so.

Advantages and Disadvantages


Cost reduction caused by a decrease in waste. This waste could be both wasted materials and wasted time due to unnecessary rework Cost reduction due to the fact that time is now being spent on only producing goods or services that are produced according to the requirements of consumers. Building and delivering a finished article that conforms to consumer requirements at all times will result in increased customer satisfaction, improved customer retention and increased profitability. Possible to measure the cost of quality


A process can be over engineered by an organisation in its efforts to create zero defects. Whilst endeavouring to create a situation of zero defects increasing time and expense may be spent in an attempt to build the perfect process that delivers the perfect finished product, which in reality may not be possible. For example, a consumer requirement may be a desire to buy a motor car that is 100% reliable, never rusts and maximises fuel consumption. However, in this instance, in practice, if an organisation doesnt have some kind of built in obsolescence it will have a more limited life.