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Fact Control

“When you see data, think of it as uncertain (or dangerous).”

Kaoru Ishikawa, father of Total Quality Control (TQC)

A powerful quote by Ishikawa, often forgotten by many.

He, just like many, has emphasized the importance of the facts. He has included a “Fact Control” concept inside Total Quality Control.

This “Fact Control” connects directly to TPS.

How do we structure the shop floor or Genba management around “Fact Control”?

When we talk about “Total Quality Control” or “Total Quality Management,” we often run into statistical tools like the “Seven Tools of QC.” Those are great statistical tools, but they require preconditions. The precondition is “Fact Control.”

Kaoru Ishikawa, the father of TQC, has written the following in “What is total quality control?: The Japanese way (1981)”.

“The first important thing is the fact. The fact must be recognized correctly. Then, describe the facts with proper data. And last, by applying statistical methods to these data, estimate or judge, and then take action. [p.154]”

“First, investigate the facts carefully. Engineers, without looking into the facts, tend to think in their heads or play with data. They should go inside a process and silently observe for a week or ten days. The first step is to know the facts and phenomena. [p.155]”

“When you see data, consider it uncertain (or dangerous). When you see a measurement device, consider it uncertain (or dangerous). When you see a chemical analysis, consider it uncertain (or dangerous). [p.155]”

“Fake data. Wrong data. No data. [p.155]”

Dr. Ishikawa is hitting so many sore spots…….

A few years ago, I ran into a quality manager working remotely. Did he ever take care of the above? No, none. Fake data, wrong data, and no data everywhere.

But making fun of the remote quality manager makes no sense. Because, to some degree, all managers are “remote.” They may be inside the building but not at the specific location where the facts are. Or not always at Genba. That doesn’t mean we must forget what Ishikawa called “Fact Control.” “Fact Control” is crucial; how do we structure the shop floor or Genba management around “Fact Control”?

1️⃣ Responsibility of “Fact Control” belongs to management.

This might be such a fundamental point, but I will emphasize it. The responsibility of “Fact Control” belongs to management. The operators might notice some things. Inspectors will find defects. These findings should be captured, but the manager must understand whether these are facts. If everything reported is fact, then all SNS and media are facts. We don’t need fact-checks. That is not the case, and we (should) have fact-checks. This does not mean that operators and inspectors should not be involved. Their daily reports are training to capture the facts. It is not like someone is appointed as a manager and suddenly gains the know-how of fact-checking. It takes some practice. Also, facts such as “I made a mistake” are hard to confess. It requires trust to admit such mistakes. The management is responsible for creating such a trusted environment.

Many IT systems have pushed responsibility for capturing the facts to the operators. And, when fact collection goes wrong, they blame the discipline of the operators. Before blaming, look at their standardized work. Do operators have time to capture the facts? Are they trained to capture the facts? Does such work fit well with other tasks, which are cyclic, since most are related to abnormality? They will feel the abnormality, but capturing or converting it to data is another task. TPS asks operators to pull the Andon and notify the management when any abnormality is detected.

2️⃣ Facts are fragile

We need to keep in mind that facts are fragile.

There are some facts that, unless you capture the “moment of truth,” are hard to recall. There is a saying that it is hard to remember what you ate last night. This will become even more complicated when you must recall what you ate a week ago or longer. On top of it, most productions are working on the same process for hours, repeating. Remembering what exactly happened on a particular cycle is almost impossible.

Even with some physical facts, such as defects, they could change if mishandled. Defects accumulated might damage each other. Heat can deform the defect. Additional dirt and dust might attach. Without proper care, such evidence might change the investigation's direction. An essential responsibility at Genba is to preserve the facts.

3️⃣ Distance between fact and management: the shorter, the better

If we understand the above two points, we should consider reducing the distance or the gap between facts and management. Such distance or gap could mean;

Physical distance




Ishikawa’s book talks about the psychological distance that could manipulate the data. If a manager can’t accept the facts, people will move to fake or wrong data.

Here, it is essential to relate to standards. We often have situations where data is based on people’s opinions. Some places had different results based on inspectors. Then, the discussion was about who the better inspector is. When quality was a hot topic, the one who rejected more got praised. When cost became a relevant topic, the one who accepted less was praised. Such discussion based on acceptance/reject rate is wrong. The two should be evaluated based on their checking according to the standards. Very often, when we check based on standards, we find that both are not checking something critical for the customer. Every fact should be compared against the standards.

4️⃣ Management with your own eyes of facts

There is this concept called “Management with your own eyes.【目で見る管理】” But what should management see? Many interrupt as see the data. Then, they focus on looking at data only. Posting a bunch of data on the wall became the trend.

But what Ohno meant by “Management with your own eyes” is not looking at data. He mentioned that he sees the data, but the fact is more important. He is saying to observe reality directly【現実を直視】. He explains, “Management with your own eyes【目で見る管理】” that “surface the defect. In terms of volume, visualize the progress towards the plan. It is not only about machines or lines, how materials are located, in-process stocks, circulation of Kanban, and how people work. It is a thinking that applies to everything.” Direct observation is a shared message between Ishikawa & Ohno—and then data. I have been to a plant with 80-page KPIs checked by managers, spending the entire day in the meeting room—no direct observation. The result was a disaster.

5️⃣ Cost of fake data, wrong data, and no data.

TPS allocates team leaders and group leaders on the Genba with a significant ratio compared to the direct workers. These team leaders and group leaders are heavily trained, not only in theory but also in practice. On top of the high amount of fully qualified personnel, the entire management and staff spend considerable time at Genba.

When this comes up, many management resists by saying it is too costly. But what is the cost of fake data, wrong data, and no data? What is the price of not capturing the facts? Many places are dancing with fake defect data, wrong OEE, no idea about over-production, etc. Expensive managers spend hours and days inside a meeting room and making decisions based on fake data, wrong data, and no data. If we calculate the cost of such data, it will be significant. The life and death of an organization depends on the health of data, which should be based on facts.

“Fact Control.” The powerful concept mentioned by Ishikawa is often forgotten. Many of Ishikawa’s students say that Ishikawa frequently mentioned, “When you see data, think of it as uncertain (or dangerous).”

Is your data based on facts? How do you make sure it is based on facts?

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