Quantity Engineering v/s Quality Engineering

quantity engineering

We often run after quantity for improving our scorecard. May it be at school or the playground or the office or in society, this is true for all different matters in life. We remain focused and concerned about quantity. “How Much” is the question of everything done in life.

Engineering is not left out from this gimmick. Engineering has many disciplines and each discipline demands the highest quality for sustainable performance of action taken.

  • How many projects are executed and completed?
  • How much length of welding is done today?
  • How much production could be achieved today?
  • How many circuits are completed today?

Answers to all these questions are necessary for a complete report or daily progress report. Their accumulation helps to improve Confidential Report (CR) of an Engineer which is reviewed at the time of the elevation process in the Organization.

Answers to these questions end up in only one dimension and that is “quantitative”. The executor and Senior Officer are happy if these “figures” are attractive as per expectations and better than your competitor. They are often attached to a target set for the organization. Targets are more often than not related to figures. Fifteen projects or Five hundred centimeter long weld length or Seven hundred MT of production or Three KM of circuits completed in the stipulated time is what is desired by the authority or Management.

It is indeed extremely important to achieve the target. Best figures and many of them contribute to an attractive “Bottom Line” for any Organization. Targets must be achieved with all-out efforts for any Organization to survive amongst steep competition prevailing today in every sector. Achieving the set targets is often linked with Organizational / professional discipline, character and culture of the Organization.

With all the importance attached to quantity, figures, and targets, it is equally important to attach similar or little more importance also to quality. The precision with which the targets are achieved, perfection in each action/performance and adherence to standards set for respective activity while making efforts for achieving target are vital and unavoidable for comprehensively better performance of any activity.

Why quality?

There is always some benchmark or standard for carrying out of an activity or to perform a task. Task or activity performed without adhering to the standard practice leads to poor quality of the final product and will lead to rejection. May it be welding of a pipe joint or construction of slab with concrete or manufacturing a chemical, benchmark for each of them is set by competent authorities. Anything below these set procedure or test result becomes “unacceptable”.

Image of welding pipes

At times, the pressure of achieving the target is hard and time which is necessary for performing that activity falls short for achieving the target. A balanced attitude to achieve the target with benchmark quality is the task of an Engineer. Improper quality of the ultimate product goes for rejection. In that case, it goes for remanufacturing. That will consume additional cost and time (which was once incurred for its first time manufacturing) and ultimately target is achieved with cost and time overrun; spoiling the “Bottom Line” for the Organization. So even after the target is achieved, the Organization is not benefitted at the end.

The quality which is being addressed here relates to overall quality for the entire assignment and not limited to few sub-activities like the execution of material selection or some special detail. It starts at the conceptualization stage. Finalization of production Technology followed by production methodology and ultimate product for the environment in which it has to perform should all be done with quality attached to every aspect of the assignment.

A classic example that happened at one of the chemical complexes in India will make it clear.

The Management of that Organization decided to install a manufacturing plant for one chemical. Its Technology knowhow was obtained from one European country.

A Technology transfer was done.

Its detail Engineering was entrusted to one of the reputed Consultants for chemical industries in India.

Construction of the plant was carried out as per detail Engineering.

Just within three months after the plant was commissioned, civil structures generated a specific weakness. Lumps of concrete from beams and slab started dropping down the floor everyday making the structure unstable and unsafe.

Detail study was made to find out the reason of such failures in such a short time of commencement of production.

Opinion from the Technology supplier was obtained. They informed that four such plants were operative in European countries since long where no such damages were observed.

Construction practices and various construction material test reports were examined. It could be confirmed that construction was done exactly as per the standard procedure.

Then what was the problem?

A Forensic study was helpful to find out the reason of such happening.

The Summary of this finding was like this.

  1. A product that was to be manufactured was hygroscopic (in addition to being aggressively corrosive for concrete) in nature so it was going to attract moisture from the atmosphere.
  2. Technology from where it was obtained was a cool and dry country having very low humidity as compared to very high humidity in India.
  3. Accordingly, neither Technology supplier nor detail Engineering consultant could realize that manufacturing this product in Indian conditions would need special care to protect civil structures against chemical corrosion which could be enhanced under the hygroscopic nature of the product.
  4. The process of concrete damage was also identified based on these observations. Due to its hygroscopic nature, the product became fluid after attracting moisture from the atmosphere and then it was easy for the product to penetrate inside concrete members in a liquid state. Floor and other concrete members were neither provided with any protective measure nor slope so penetration of this corrosive chemical inside concrete surface happened conveniently.
  5. Once the product penetrated inside concrete elements, they depolarized concrete mass due to which concrete became heterogeneous, lost its integrity and started falling on the floor.

It must have been noticed that the reason for this serious damage to important civil structure housing the plant was Technology Transfer without appropriate correction on account of change in atmospheric conditions between its place of origin and place of installation. Had the process of this Technology Transfer been examined with the highest degree of quality with comprehensive considerations in detail, such gross lapse could have been avoided.

In other words, quantity Engineering (in terms of project implementation with the desired magnitude) was achieved but quality Engineering was missed out resulting in serious consequences.

It is hence of utmost importance to address quality Engineering with due importance to mitigate failure opportunities due to lapses encountered on the path of achieving targets or quantity Engineering. Abilities to achieve the target with quality Engineering give rise to Engineers of the highest calibre and potential.

Let us strive to strictly adhere to quality Engineering at par with quantity Engineering.

Chirag K Baxi, General Manager, K K Retroflex Solutions, Ankleshwar, Gujarat 393002