Super Widget: What is the Limit of Supplier Quality?

When it comes to analyzing supplier part quality, it's often easy to spot imperfections with the naked eye -- or at least measure quality within prescribed tolerances and metrics. But what if a part had to fit into the concept of the Platonic ideal, a truly perfect object? This part -- let's call it super widget -- would have to be precisely built with absolutely no margin of error (or at least one that would be virtually impossible to measure). If you're wondering if what I'm positing is just a philosophical construct, guess again. Courtesy of Tony Poshek, I came across this article from Australia's Daily Telegraph which posits that it is not only possible to create a perfect object, but also to set a standard for measurement in the process.

According to the piece, Australian scientists are attempting to create the perfect spherical bar as part of "an international hunt to find a new global standard kilogram ... Ever since scientists discovered that the current standard -- a bar of platinum and iridium held in a French vault since 1889 -- was slowly deteriorating, the search has been on for a replacement."

How are they going about this task? "Using a single crystal of silicon-28 grown by Russian and German scientists over three years, a team of Sydney scientists and engineers will grind and polish two silvery balls, each weighing precisely one kilogram, with imperfections of less than 35 millionths of a millimetre." According the scientist in charge of the process, "we are doing everything to really create a perfect object. It's not only near-perfect in roundness, but also the crystal purity, the atomic species and so on." So next time your suppliers push back when you tell them to improve their PPM data, suggest that it is possible to achieve true perfection.

Jason Busch

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