Funny episode about quality

A strategy focused on quality is the best way companies can respond to competition. And surprisingly, an emphasis on quality is one of the most effective ways to control costs.

John A. Young, President and CEO of Hewlett-Packard

Hewlett Packard was famous for their focus on quality. The following story found in the HP Measure magazine May/1971 illustrates that.

From the president’s desk

We talk a great deal to people outside the company about the quality of our products, and within the company we continually stress the necessity to maintain quality. As a result, all of this tends to get routine to the point that we lose perspective on the subject. Every now and then, however, something comes along that in a simple and dramatic way emphasizes that quality is not just bunk but something very real.

In January of this year, a 9100 calculator was stolen from the high school in Petaluma, California. Perhaps in an effort to dispose of incriminating evidence, the calculator was thrown into the brackish waters of Petaluma slough. In due course it was recovered by the local police, and through a salvage company was returned to our service center for repair. It was covered with sand and muck, and believe it or not on the inside was found a small crab (practicing up on his digital logic, no doubt). The instrument was washed out, the crab sent on for further education, and the calculator returned to Loveland to determine the actual extent of the damage. When it arrived in Loveland, only one transistor had to be replaced to have the calculator in perfect working condition.

I don’t recommend long-term water immersion as a standard test for HP equipment (getting the bugs out is one thing; getting the crabs out is something else). But, this experience with the 9100 is good testimony that the care we put into the design of our equipment and the skill we use in assembly really do payoff.

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