Let's get real here. Is it truly necessary to go for "zero defects"? Why isn't 99.9% defect-free good enough?

Those are questions often posed to quality consultant Jeff Dewar, of Red Bluff, Calif.-based QCI International, when he argues for eliminating defects altogether. To make his point, Dewar has come up with some examples of what life would be like if things were done right 99.9% of the time. We'd have to accept:

* 1 hour of unsafe drinking water every month;

* 2 unsafe plane landings per day at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago;

* 16,000 pieces of mail lost by the U.S. Postal Service every hour;

* 20,000 incorrect drug prescriptions per year;

* 500 incorrect surgical operations each week;

* 50 newborn babies dropped at birth by doctors every day;

* 22,000 checks deducted from the wrong bank accounts each hour;

* 32,000 missed heartbeats per person per year.

Suddenly, the quest for zero defects makes a lot of sense. . . .

-- Martha E. Mangelsdorf