There are worse things than low-quality products and services. Invalidity and death, for instance. On the other hand, if you think about it, one thing often leads to the other. A deficient electrical installation in the bathroom might electrocute you and do you in. Long-term consumption of poor-quality food is likely to cause serious damage to your body.
Low-cost ways to improve your life
A world of perfect quality does not exist,
not even in an industrial environment. This does not mean that we should
just give up, specially in our private life. During the last thirty
years, engineers have developed techniques to render mistakes impossible
These systems are known as "poka-yokes." The Japanese
term "poka-yoke," which means "fail-safe," has been taken over in other
languages to identify these principles, since many of them have been
created by companies in Japan.
In our days, techniques for
preventing human mistakes are spreading to all kind of manufacturing
operations around the world. What is amazing is that, outside the
industrial environment, those techniques are seldom used: How do you
make sure that don't forget to take your car to the garage for the
annual maintenance? Do you ever run out of milk at home?
Making mistakes impossible
years ago, it was relatively common that, when you bought a new car, you
expected the dealer to have it fine-tuned for you before delivery.
Vehicle assembly at factories in those days was fraught with random
How did engineers solve this problem? By designing each
mechanical part to be unique in size or form, they made sure that each
element could be mounted only one way: correctly. By making non-matching
parts impossible to fit together, engineers excluded the possibility of
"Poka-yoke" techniques are one of the reasons behind the
relatively high quality of contemporary cars and washing machines. Is it
possible to apply fail-safe techniques to make also our private life
better? Yes, I do believe so. Let me put forward two examples:
A reminder you can't possibly miss
Write a reminder for yourself on a sheet of paper and use it to wrap up
your car keys before you go to bed. When you pick up your car keys the
following morning, there is no way that you are going to ignore the
reminder you wrote for yourself.
Keeping a buffer stock
Keep at home some extra
units of essential products, such as shampoo or tooth brushes. When your
stock becomes too low, lay an empty box of the product on the corridor
floor, next to the front door of your house. There is hardly a better
way to make sure that you'll remember to replenish your stock.
you get used to thinking in terms of zero-mistakes, you will find many
ways to apply fail-safe principles in your daily life. Just imagine how
much time you could save if you never made the same mistake twice.
systems to ensure perfect quality in factories keeps engineers busy and
customers happy. It is not high time to start applying similar
principles in our private life? The result will be, if not quality, at
least peace of mind.
For more information about rational living and personal development, I refer you to my book The 10 Principles of Rational Living
[Image by Aussigall under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]