Lean Manufacturing

Quality & Law Enforcement: Detection vs. Prevention

By Jon Miller Published on July 15th, 2004

During a kaizen workshop the kaizen team identified the lack of value-added content in a final inspection process. This lead to an interesting comparison of quality systems that do not practice Lean manufacturing principles, with the American criminal justice system.
In Lean thinking, final inspection is bad. You find the problems after they have happened, and if you are batching chances are you have more than one defect that needs to be scrapped, reworked, or otherwise dispositioned. As a general rule of thumb, the cost of correcting a defect increases by 10 times when it is detected each step later in the process.
Lean thinking says you check and guarantee 100% quality in-process. You feedback information about poor quality as soon as possible. You do root cause analysis and put in countermeasures, such as pokayoke devices (mistake-proofing). The focus is on defect prevention rather than catching and locking up the defects.
Our criminal justice system takes the non-Lean approach. With a few notable exceptions (such as Victim Offender Reconciliation Programs and Restorative Justice Programs) law enforcement seems to be about catching and locking up the criminals (people with defective, or unlawful behavior) rather than early detection, root cause analysis, and prevention.
Lean practitioners know how much more expensive final inspection and correction is than early detection and mistake proofing. Perhaps the cost of our criminal justice and incarceration systems would be lower if the focus was on prevention rather than detection.

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