By Kevin Meyer
So there I am this afternoon, sitting with my wife on the last plane flight of the day, returning from a two week long trip to deal with a difficult situation with her family. Perhaps more on that at a later date, but for now let's just say Hospice is one incredible organization. Wearily I go to stuff the boarding passes back into my backpack when something jumps out at me.
Uh, wait a minute. We're both Meyers, at least we have been for fourteen years. Why is her maiden name on her boarding pass? Momentary panic. I must have been so wrapped up in the issues on her side of the family that when I made the one-way return reservation yesterday I used her maiden name. At least that's what I surmised after reviewing the boarding passes from the previous two flights that showed the same incongruity.
Then it hits me. The drivers license she uses as ID says Meyer, not Kitts. And that ID was used when we checked in at United, went through TSA, and then right before this final flight went through an unusual US Air gate check that also required ID. In fact, she went through TSA twice as she forgot to remove an item from her backpack that couldn't be carried on and went back out of security to go to the gift shop to mail it back to herself.
A United ID check, two TSA ID checks, and a US Air ID check. Four checks, and not one of them noticed the glaring discrepancy in last names. Her first boarding pass even had the check marks next to the various things they check – flight, date, first name, and last name. So much time was spent looking for holograms, hidden lines, microprint, or whatever that the glaring problem was missed. At least by the TSA. I'll give the United and USAir agents a pass because, well, nevermind.
Should I be relieved that my tired mistake didn't create havoc on our trip, or worried about security?
Those of us in the manufacturing world, or at least the slightly evolved manufacturing world, know that inspected-in quality isn't real quality. Quality has to be built in. Once you get to the point that you need a final inspection it is too late, and if that is a human-based inspection it is basically meaningless. How often do you do a "re-inspection" before you realize you re-inspect for one thing and find another, and so on?
Inspection, especially human-based inspection, simply isn't effective, even if you kid yourselves with AQL levels and other statistical nonsense. You still have the human factor. A factor that can overpower robots with creativity and improvement ideas, but still has the potential for incredible, erratic, variation in performance.
The same concept applies to inspecting in control. As the TSA did today. Twice.