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Quality vs Speed

November 7, 2010

Some Qantas engineers are charging they're being asked to sign off on maintenance and inspections on aircraft they have not actually seen. I think this is the whole dichotomy of do you want it fast or do you want it right. Sometimes your maintenance staff is so competent you want to trust them to do the procedure without an engineer breathing down their necks. Other times you don't want to wait for the engineer. Still others it's not a flight critical component or is for a test. So I understand the need to push along production and maintenance procedures.
 
Still, it's disturbing a production-level passenger aircraft would be shooing asides the concerns of its engineers. I'm sure Qantas being publically listed on a half dozen European stock exchanges has something to do with the CEO, Alan Joyce, accusing the engineers' union of making false claims. He said/she said and maybe their stock prices won't take a dip. He then tried to back it up saying 92% of "heavy maintenance" operations are done domestically, which is not where the complaints are coming from (they are complaining about foreign sites). But heavy maintenance doesn't sound like some all encompassing description. I'm sure a great number of flight critical maintenance is occurring at these foreign locations.
 
I'm not saying don't fly Qantas or don't buy their stock right now, but it's extremely disheartening when one of these cases pop up. As an engineering staff member, it's not easy to make these kinds of allegations or claim due diligence was not done. Those kinds of complaints get you fired or transfered to the Siberian office. Or margianlized to where you can't make those complaints anymore. It's easy to dismiss unions as being useless or costly, but I hope people appreciate that in this case it was the engineer's union who had the clout to make sure these complaints were heard and no illegal backlash happened. I understand wanting faster turnaround times and lower costs but the CEO should know when management goes against engineering recommendations in favor of a quicker and cheaper product they are risking lives. I'd like to think an enlightened, scientific society will someday have criminal courts to deal with those kinds of managers.
 
For more along the lines of quality inspector in the photo above, see the History Channel's Women Factory Workers of WWII gallery.
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