News Letters 

Here you will find letters written by Mr. Onderstall himself about the different things he finds a good topic of discussion.

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Newsletter 18.

Quality Assurance 

Quality assurance is about doing things correctly. If everything is working people fail to see the dire necessity of recording the exact procedures used for everything to work. 

When things stop working, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to determine what went wrong. There are probably several staff members who know exactly what went wrong. They tend not to come forward and say, “Hey boss, I know exactly what went wrong; I took a short cut to make my job less work.” 

If you do have a good Q&A system, at least on paper, I find that when things go wrong it is a compound failure of several people not following the procedure. 

I am a laid back lenient boss who rarely firs staff. When I do, it is either for theft or failure to follow procedures.


I found someone putting the wrong chemical in the container. A terrible mistake but I have also made mistakes. I chided him, and instead of apologizing he said it didn’t matter. I fired him immediately and suffered the consequences at the CCMA. If I hadn’t our 30 year old hard won reputation for impeccable quality would have been jeoprodised. 

Many companies follow standardised Q.A programs which are not tailored to their operation. I have seen operations following a standardised Q.A system which will pass an audit, yet it adds little value to their quality. Most businesses have their strengths, deriving largely from the character of their owner. (Without an owner, eg. Corporations, there are no strengths.) Pay attention to their presentation, it is important. If they claim to offer the lowest prices, don’t expect any service, quality or accountability. 

Personally, I place accountability first. At the bottom of their data sheets my competitors state: “Disclaimer : the above data is typical and must not be regarded as a specification.” Or some such indemnity. At the bottom of Keramicalia data sheets it says the opposite: “ Claimer : The above data better be correct because Dave Onderstall stakes his reputation on it.” 

Since I value accountability as my highest priority, I like to do business with companies who also stress accountability.

In my industry I know who they are. Outside of my industry I have no idea who are they are. In their advertising they make claims, but these are not necessarily true. A lot of companies have very good reputations earned over decades, but in the case of large companies, public companies and international corporations, these reputations are no longer deserved. 

Public companies hire CEO’s on the basis of the profit made under their tenure their last company, and pay them a fortune if they made huge profits for shareholders consequently, CEO’s take no interest in running a public company, other than squeezing the last drop of profit from it to please the shareholders. The rape the corporation to please shareholders , then find another job as a CEO, because they certainly don’t want to be stuck with a shell which they have bled dry. The next CEO must be even more ruthless, so that he cannot worry about the long term or ethics etc. 

So how do you determine the state of a large company/public company/ corporation? Their public image is not an indication. (They employ the services like Christopher Onderstall to ensure a good reputation. He is truly brilliant, with a fascinating career) 

I have found the answer! It is quite easy. Just phone them and ask to speak to the CEO. If you get through to him you may confidently do business with that company. If the CEO care about customers, his attitude permeates through the whole organization. If he builds up an impenetrable firewall, nobody will care about the customers, because they know that they will suffer no consequences for treating the customers badly. 


I see this is becoming two editorials :1) C 2) Accountability. 
I will carry on regardless.

My second priority is service. I try to give impeccable service to everybody, whether they deserve it or not. Why? Because most of our customers come from referrals. My staff see the extent the extent of my service and follow my example.  
Back to Q&A 

Customers who ask me to help them with their problems are usually ones with ZERO Q&A. They have chemicals and minerals unmarked containers. They don’t know their processes: “ Jabu does it.” Jabu says he doesn’t know the name of the chemical, he gets it from the store. The storeman is not sure what it is, he just phones Simon when he wants some more. Simon says its Borax, but he hasn’t got any he sends Calgon instead. Never had a problem. 

“I’m not sure, the guy who usually does it is on leave.”
When somebody’s process has gone haywire, my advice is: you are not likely to solve it today, so rather document the processes that are working. 

When the customer describes his problem, I often tell him what I suspect he usually says “No that’s impossible, it will never happen.” Often I have to show him the evidence that is exactly what happens. 
I want to give reams of examples, but I don’t want to get the culprits fired.

Q&A experts like to start with “What is your mission statement.” The boss usually flies off the handle and off the handle and says “I didn’t contract you for bullshit like that.” The Q&A expert says “OK, we will get to that in a week’s time.” After a week  of turmoil of frustration the boss says “ You were right, we have to start by priorities.” 

Materials Q&C 

We have a collection of raw material samples in poly top bottles. When raw material delivery arrives, a sample is put in a poly top bottle and taken to the Q.C reference collection. If it looks the same as the standard it is accepted. 

This may sound dodgy, but it is rather reliable, and extremely fast. In only 4 seconds, you can compare;

1)    Colour 
2)    Grain size
3)    Grain size distribution
4)    Grain shape 
5)    Impurities 

Fine Powders are rotated, and they show a wide variety of behaviors in this inspection. 

Certain Materials, particularly sands, need to be rubbed between fingers to distinguish “sharp” sand from round sand. Other materials, particularly lightweight 
aggregates are weighed in volumetric containers. In some cases, density ranges get different mix formulations to obtain the density specified on the data. 

Published 2020/02/26