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After squabbling for several years, the American automakers adopted the zero defects approach of the Japanese carmakers

After graduating college in 1968, I started my first professional job as a production engineer at a major electronic instrument company. Here's a story I heard early on.

When it came to ordering hardware like bolts, nuts and fitting, it was common practice to order the parts to military specifications—Mil Specs. About this time, we were beginning to order parts from the Japanese and, of course there were some cultural differences.

We had placed an order with a Japanese company for one hundred bolts of a special steel according to a Mil Spec. Built into the Mil Spec was a Quality Control requirement that the shipment could be rejected if 4 out of the 100 failed to meet the dimensional requirements.

Well, here comes our first shipment—and what is this? Two packages—one with 96 perfectly made bolts, and one with 4 that did not conform to the dimensional requirements.

"What is going on here?" questioned our manager of Quality Control. It turned out that the Japanese had no idea about the American concept of Quality Control or the meaning of a four percent rejection rate. They only understood that quality meant 100 per cent perfect, not 96 percent acceptable.


To the Japanese quality meant "quality." To Americans, "Quality" was something you controlled—it was supposed that too much quality meant unnecessary cost.

What the Japanese had done was to make 96 perfect bolts, and then make a special run of 4 imperfect bolts to meet the requirements.

And most people remember, back in the 1960s, when you bought a new car, it wasn't unusual to find a couple of odd parts in the trunk, and perhaps after a couple of days, when the car was having problems, return the car to the dealer and have the parts installed.

Not so with Japanese cars. And so, pretty soon, Toyota, Dotson, Mazda and a host of Japanese carmakers began taking market share from the American automakers. And after squabbling for several years, the American automakers adopted the zero defects approach of the Japanese carmakers.

Why do I tell this story—because the same thing can be applied to America's Health Care mess. The U.S. has inherited a dysfunctional system.

It's time to change. How? See "Outcome, my proposal for replacing mismanage care with science and technology. Outcome— (I'll hold this for awhile).

~ Al Zagofsky















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