A flood of confusion arises from the two principal meanings of the “zero defects”:
- Defect Free products, which is the literal meaning
- A slogan to be used during “drives” to improve quality
Defect free product has value as a long-range goal, since it implies the need for never-ending improvement. The concept rejects the idea that we can relax our efforts short of perfection.
In contrast, if we decree defect-free product as a short- range goal, such a goal is in the great majority of cases not attainable. In such cases the risk is that the decree will be counterproductive by shutting off efforts to reach attainable goals.
Zero defects as a slogan means the term is adopted as a kind of banner to fly during a company ”drive” to improve quality. In its best usage this is comparable to adopting an appealing brand name to help sell a product. In such cases much depends on the substance behind the drive. Is the drive is well conceived (a “good” product), then a good brand name is an aid to selling is to the internal customers. If the drive is ill conceived (e.g., an attempt to solve the company’s quality problems by exhorting the workforce), then it will fail no matter how clever the slogan.
– Dr J M Juran
In his book ‘Juran on Planning for Quality’