Aiming to limit defects for the customer is a good idea. Organizations should continually improve products and services. They should applying mistake proofing concepts to eliminating mistakes internally (in your organization) and in the design of your products and service so your customers avoid potential problems. However, zero defects is not a good strategy.
W. Edwards Deming, New Economics, page 10:
A problem I have with zero defects (that I am not sure if Dr. Deming shared) is that there is a flaw in the thinking. Defects are really tied to current conditions. What is ignored today, if improvements are made, will be seen as a defect tomorrow. In addition, it gives an impression of focusing on improving to perfection but that is not the case. Even if you eliminate all defects (however you choose to count them) you can still have plenty of waste in the system. And as Deming stated it ignores innovation. The proper goal is continuous improvement not just eliminating a condition that is negative.
Another problem with focusing on defects is the tendency to then treat defects as special causes rather than treating them as one data point to be considered as part of a system - as a common cause. This is not an inevitable consequence of aiming at zero defects but rather a risk. Failing to determine the capabilities of the process, and to accurately determine what the data shows can lead to less effective improvement strategies.
So Dr. Deming believed in improving the system, of which one outcome would often be reduced defects. Using tools, such as mistake proofing, to reduce defects is a good idea. But lowering defects should be seen as the results of a part of a system to improve and not as an end goal.Related:
Dr. W. Edwards Deming's management ideas have greatly influenced modern management practice. Many quotes and thoughts are attributed to W. Edwards Deming's system of management. Sometimes these represent his ideas accurately, and sometimes they do not. Here I attempt to clearly indicate what he actual said and include some of my thoughts on what he meant.