What is the cost of quality?

Failure costs generally exceed appraisal costs and may exceed both prevention and appraisal costs depending on severity of the failure.

Cost of quality is a phrase that’s widely used, but widely misunderstood. The cost of quality isn’t just the planned cost of creating a quality product or service. It can also be the additional cost incurred from not creating a quality product or service and having to correct it later.

Poor-quality products and services waste time and money and may threaten our reputation or even cause injury. The cost of quality can be represented by:

Total Cost of Quality =
Prevention + Appraisal + Failure

Prevention costs include planning, training and fool proofing. Appraisal means inspecting, testing or calibrating. Failure is failing to meet specified requirements.

The cost of quality is a balance between investing in the appropriate prevention and appraisal actions and the cost to correct a nonconformance. Preventive activities that eliminate unplanned and costly corrective actions can easily be implemented.

At Fermilab, for example, a greater investment in prevention may have eliminated costly rework required at Wilson Hall due to building construction specifications not being followed. Likewise, a greater investment in the appraisal may have lessened NuMI target failures, which caused operational delays for both the MINOS and MINERvA experiments.

The next time you plan a project, consider if the cost of planning a design review outweighs the likelihood and cost of rework. Think about whether a peer review would outweigh the embarrassment and cost of releasing a document with errors.

Your Quality Assurance Representative and the Office of Quality & Best Practices can serve as a resource for directing you to those who have experience identifying and implementing defect reduction activities in your specific area within Fermilab, the DOE complex or other government agencies.

Mike Pakan