SpaceX: Taking Quality Improvement to New Heights

I’m very happy for Elon Musk’s “SpaceX”, in that they have done what the aerospace giants of yore – with all their history, skills, knowledge, and experience – could not do. In recent days, they brought a launch vehicle (booster rocket) safely back to earth.

The vision of SpaceX is “to revolutionize space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets.” Among their main objectives is controlling the cost of space travel, thereby reinvigorating the US space program.

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Liftoff of Falcon 1 from SpaceX launch site on Omelek Island, Kwajalein Atoll, 14 July 2009 (SpaceX photo)

How will SpaceX control the cost of space travel while maintaining high levels of quality and safety? It’s really quite simple. They will:

  • Reduce process and product variation;
  • Reduce the amount of waste typically associated with space travel;
  • Control operating costs;
  • Increase reliability, repeatability, and reproducibility;
  • Improve efficiency and effectiveness;
  • Improve response to – and even anticipate – customer requirements;
  • Understand, identify, and manage risks.

Whether or not they planned it this way, what SpaceX has is a quality management system. Without knowing all the details of their operations, and never having conducted an ISO 9001-based audit of them, I still am left with the impression that they have an effective management system in place.

And if they’re going to continue growing, SpaceX will continue to change and evolve, which they will enhance by continual improvement of their quality management system. Success doesn’t just come to you – you have to go after it.

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Posted in product innovation, Quality improvement, Quality management, space travel

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