Friday, 31 October 2014

The guaranteed way to prevent a massive amount of problems

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 in factories. 

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?

Rationality is the way to happiness
Making mistakes impossible

Sixty 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 mistakes.

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 error.

"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:

Consistency: The key to permanent stress relief
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.
The 10 Principles of Rational Living
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.

Once 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.

Developing 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]

Rational living, rational working