We’ve all had some version of that experience of opening a door only to be unceremoniously awakened by a squeak that sounds like the foghorn on a cargo ship. After letting our heart rate return to normal, we head to the shelf where that trusty can of WD-40 sits. Without reading the label or giving any thought to what WD-40 might actually stand for, we affix the little red tube and silence that obstreperous hinge.
For the technically curious, the “WD” in WD-40 stands for Water Displacement. In 1953, a small company called Rocket Chemical Company embarked on developing rust-prevention solvents and degreasers for the aerospace industry. After 40 attempts, scientists perfected the water displacing formula, giving the product its surname of “40.” That formula is still in use today.
To the millions of people across the globe that have one or more of the company’s numerous products on the shelf, WD-40 stands for silent hinges, rust-free tools, clean and precision-performing machine parts and rusty screws removed with ease without having to swear. However, ask anyone in the organization and they will say without hesitation that WD-40 stands for quality.
The product inside that iconic blue and yellow can is held to a lofty standard of quality, which is regarded as the key to the company’s enduring success. In a recent video, several staff members at WD-40 shared their thoughts on why quality is the company’s number one priority.
“Quality is not a word; quality is a way of being at WD-40 company,” said Garry Ridge, CEO at WD-40. Ridge explained that the quality-first posture is the company’s way of keeping its promise to end users — every time the product is used, it will invariably deliver the results customers have come to expect.
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WD-40 is effectively removing rust and corrosion and silencing squeaks in 176 countries. That said, WD-40 products are manufactured by a geographically dispersed group of contract manufacturing organizations (CMOs) in China, Australia, South Korea, the United Kingdom, Europe and Latin America. Under these circumstances, ensuring that every drop of product meets the WD-40’s specifications and high standards of quality can be a tall order.
“When working with contract manufacturers, it's important that WD‑40 staff and the contract manufacturers are on the same page when it comes to how to make the product, what goes into the product, and what must not go into the product,” said Jeff Cole, director of operations. “Cost is super important, but we will certainly take on extra costs if quality is in jeopardy.”
Overseeing the many moving parts and supply chains functioning in a variety of countries presented some challenges to the company’s ability to maintain its standards of quality. One issue involved guaranteeing consistency. The CMOs all have differing cultures, environments and manufacturing techniques. Still, the level of quality must be equal across the board.
WD-40 has a long-standing tradition of being a trusted brand in the marketplace, which is largely attributed to the high standards of quality infused in every product. To avoid breaking stride, WD-40 implemented MasterControl to help keep quality intact and consistent across all manufacturing entities.
“Everyone was kind of doing their own thing. But by having one common quality management system like MasterControl, we were able to pull everyone into the same orbit and get them all on board” said Rob Busacca, vice president of global quality. “There are no bits of paper; there’s no confusion. We can go back and look at anything, anytime, so we have programs that are consistent.”
Working with CMOs means there are many different components, reports, data analytics and other processes to oversee. Also, because each company has its own unique production flow, an accurate, error-free bill of materials is extremely important. Given that WD-40’s product manufacturing is primarily done by CMOs, MasterControl Bill of Materials (BOM)™ has been a valuable asset. “Our manufacturing sites, our aerosol fillers have come to appreciate our bill of material system, have come to rely upon it, and in fact, have come to insist upon it,” said Jeff Cole, director of operations.
Elsewhere throughout the organization, there are numerous details to keep an eye on. The WD-40 product lines have formulations that require precision procedures to follow to ensure the integrity of the product. In the event of a nonconformity, there needs to be a way to resolve issues up and down the supply chain with minimal delays.
While WD-40 isn’t a life sciences company developing regulated products, the staff feel their focus on quality is a differentiator. They have a scientific approach to quickly identifying problems, resolving them and controlling them long term. “MasterControl gives us a good common tool to communicate and help change the culture,” said Mike Starzman, field director of quality. “People out in the field stocking a shelf would have wondered who to call if they saw something wrong. Now they know they can just go in and start an event, and they will have the assurance that we’re going to follow up on it.”
WD-40 has a rich legacy and a variety of trusted products on the market. Still, the staff recognizes that they need to keep pressing on the accelerator, keep innovating and keep effective quality management at the forefront of everything they do.
“The world is changing and things are changing — whether it's technology or materials. So, from an innovation perspective, we're constantly thinking about the trends that are going to shape our business in the future,” said Patricia Olsem, division president, Americas. “So, the quality group, the R&D group, if we're not lockstep, we won't be that company who is going to be here in another 66 years.”
To WD-40, establishing a culture of quality means the quality management emphasis also includes continuous improvement. “How can we make this better tomorrow than it is today? It's really the core of what quality is all about,” said Ridge. “There’s a difference between the finite game and the infinite game. We’re playing the infinite game. We’re about building an enduring company over time.”
View the entire WD-40 video here.
David Jensen is a content marketing specialist at MasterControl, where he is responsible for researching and writing content for web pages, white papers, brochures, emails, blog posts, presentation materials and social media. He has over 25 years of experience producing instructional, marketing and public relations content for various technology-related industries and audiences. Jensen writes extensively about cybersecurity, data integrity, cloud computing and medical device manufacturing. He has published articles in various industry publications such as Medical Product Outsourcing (MPO) and Bio Utah. Jensen holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from Weber State University and a master’s degree in professional communication from Westminster College.