Have Opinion, Will Blog
A quick quiz: What do Brazilian bikinis and Toyotas, squirrel-free bird feeders, and the quality battle between Ford and GM have in common?
Answer: they're all topics of blogs written by some very succinct, creative Internet authors of the quality profession. The blogging phenomenon hit the Web hard about two years ago; now everyone seems to have one. This is great because the Internet is a model of democracy. It's an even playing field in which just about anyone with a computer and a couple of hours a day can become a published author, complete with real, live readers that can give real-time comments. It's a perfect system for getting and receiving news, and for sharing thoughts and opinions quickly and on the cheap.
It's also very efficient, which is one reason it might appeal to those in the quality profession. Currently, there are dozens of quality-related blogs online, and the topics discussed are as varied as the authors. One of the most popular--with approximately 2,000 hits a day--is Evolving Excellence, which last month featured the Brazilian bikini and Toyota topic, written by site founder Kevin Meyer. In it, Meyer discusses Brazilian airplane maker Embraer's lean journey, pondering if Brazilians are just naturally "lean" enough for those famous bikinis.
The topics on the site revolve around lean and quality improvement, but the user-defined nature of the space allows for some frank and funny discussions. Some recent topics include the quality paths of Ford and GM, the importance of people management in effective quality management, and the "pay for availability" notion, in which people pay for their products only when those products work as advertised.
Meyer never thought Evolving Excellence would get as big as it has. The founder and president of Superfactory Ventures (which also maintains an active Web site), Meyer started the Evolving Excellence blog about two years ago as a kind of experiment.
"I figured I had an opinion about things, and I'm a wordy guy, so why not?" he laughs. "It's just ballooned from there."
The blog had just a couple of hundred readers a day for its first year, but grew exponentially about a year ago when Meyer brought in Bill Waddell as one of the site's regular posters. Evolving Excellence now has 1,200 subscribers; in January, Meyer collected some of the site's most popular postings into a 450-page book, Evolving Excellence: Thoughts on Lean Enterprise Leadership (iUniverse Inc., 2007). The site accepts ads, and although they pay for the maintenance of Evolving Excellence, Meyer says it's not a profitable business on its own… yet.
"That's not why we did it anyway," he says. "It's just a way to get ideas out there and maybe learn from other people. It's just mainly for fun."
Making connections and ruminating about the state of quality is the focus of The Quality Curmudgeon, written by Scott Paton, former publisher of Quality Digest. Paton, now president of Paton Professional, adopts the "curmudgeon" handle as a way of complaining--in an entertaining way--about poor service and product quality. Recent topics include Paton's brush with less-than-stellar service during a trip to a local pharmacy, his thoughts about the impending demise of GM and a hilarious You Tube clip of Alec Baldwin--yes, the actor--discussing Six Sigma. It's a must-see.
Blogs can also be great places to troll for improvement ideas to copy. For example, on the Daily Kaizen blog, physician Ted Eytan recalls seeing a wall-sized chart in a colleague's office that showed long-term quality trends in the hospital they both work for. It was an "ah-ha" moment.
"I think he had the idea to present the work this way before we began our lean transformation," Eytan writes. "Either way, it came together nicely. One wall was better than 100 e-mail messages."
Sharing business improvement ideas and experiences is one of the main reasons why Dennis Arter, known online as The Audit Guy, likes blogging so much. Though an auditor by profession, Arter's blog includes his ruminations about everything from building a squirrel-proof bird feeder to getting free Wi-Fi at airports.
"I like to write about things that interest me, and that might be any number of different things," he says. "That's what's so great about blogging; if you run across something that catches your eye, you can get online and write about it, and create a new conversation about it."
To check out these blogs and join the fray, visit www.evolvingexcellence.com, www.qualitycurmudgeon.com, www.dailykaizen.org or www.auditguy.blogspot.com.
Do the Math!
Last month's "Do the Math" obviously wasn't as subtle as we thought it was. We referred readers to a Dec. 13, New York Times story about the city's Board of Health requirement that restaurants list Calories on their menu items. The story contained the following paragraph:
"For the record, a calorie is the amount of energy needed to raise one liter of water by one degree Celsius. Applied to food, it means the unit of energy produced by food when it's used by the body."
Almost all "Do the Math" participants caught that a "calorie" is the amount of energy needed to raise one milliliter (or gram) , not one liter, of water by 1° C. The calorie the author was referring to was Calorie (capital "C"), which is actually the kilocalorie referred to when talking about the number of Calories in food. The capital "C" convention is not universally used, however. At the least, the author should have described the difference.
This month's "Do the Math" winner, randomly selected from all correct answers, is Ray Mainer. Congratulations Ray; you win some sort of strange prize of our choosing from woot.com.
New York Post: www.nypost.com/seven/12192006/gossip/pagesix/keith_faces_salary_shock_pagesix_.htm.
This one comes from the
Describe the error and give us the right answer. Send your response by clicking on the Feedback link at the bottom of this page.
To keep "Do the Math" going and sending out these marvelous prizes, we need some help. Send us an example of any math murder that you see in the newspaper, radio or television. Tell us when and where you saw it. If we select your entry to use in "Do the Math," you win a terrific prize; heck, act now and the first usable entry will win
California Goes the RoHS Way
California recently joined the growing ranks of governments regulating hazardous substances in electronic devices.
In 2003, California's legislature directed the state's Department of Toxic Substances Control to issue regulations similar to the European Union's Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive, and the resulting law almost mirrors the E.U.'s RoHS. As in Europe, the California directive restricts the presence of six hazardous substances (among them lead, mercury and cadmium) from electronic and electrical products sold in the state. However, the range of products subject to California regulation is narrower than in the European Union. For example, only certain video-display products with screens larger than four inches measured diagonally qualify for scrutiny, and the European Union's restriction of flame retardants doesn't apply in California.
The DTSC's regulations establish maximum concentration values (MCV) at 0.1 percent by weight for lead, mercury and hexavalent chromium, and at 0.01 percent for cadmium.
Noting that new regulations could significantly affect California's manufacturing industry, the legislature moved to make the rules apply only to products manufactured after Jan. 1. This allows existing products in warehouses and stores to be sold with no problems.
The regulations are subject to change. The DTSC has announced that it will tweak California's RoHS throughout the year. For more information, visit www.dtsc.ca.gov.
No More Hazardous Substances
Getting and maintaining a hazardous-substance-free workplace will be the topic of an upcoming symposium.
The HSPM2007 Seoul International Leadership Symposium will be held May 7 in South Korea. Sponsored by the International Electrotechnical Commission, Electronic Components Certification Board, National Standards Association of Ireland and The Salot Bradley Group International, among others, the symposium will deliver a thorough overview of QC 080000 IECQ HSPM. The standard concerns hazardous-substance management for organizations that produce electrical and electronic products, and helps demonstrate compliance with the European Union's Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) and Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directives, and other hazardous-substance regulations around the world.
The symposium will also feature speakers from companies from a variety of industries that have achieved certification. For more information, visit www.hspmsymposium.com.
The Perfect Audit
According to end-users, the perfect certification body audit would include better price and value, and provide an experienced and insightful auditor who works seamlessly with the organization's management. The trouble is, competition in the auditing industry is so tough that meeting these expectations is very difficult.
Those were the findings by the International Register of Certificated Auditors from an informal open space meeting it had in London recently. Attendees--representatives from companies that have been audited to ISO 9001 and the like--reported feeling underserved by auditors, mainly because of the considerable pricing pressures on the industry.
"The value-add that we end-users want cannot be delivered by certification bodies because certification bodies generally compete on price," reports IRCA in a summary of the meeting. "This means that auditors often do not have adequate time for things like audit planning and preparation. This seems to be a chicken-and-egg situation: We end-users need to pay more, but we won't because we do not foresee increased value."
"With the commoditization of certification and the resulting price drop, auditors seem to be doing more for lower day rates," the report continues. "This means that more competent auditors are discouraged from remaining in the industry, and those that are left burn out working up to 4.5 days on site each week. This is no career, let alone a profession."
What are the most important skills of a good auditor? IRCA reports the following characteristics:
• Understands business issues
• Commands respect
• Has maturity, credibility, and industry knowledge
• Feels comfortable but not overconfident
• Can leave the standard behind when required
• Has excellent written skills
• Can analyze and make clear conclusions
• Is analytical, yet engaging
• Has experience
• Is a good listener
• Is prepared to challenge and not be intimidated by senior managers
• Can rank findings in terms of the business benefits/risk reduction
• Is sensitive to the "vibe" of the organization
The ability to audit a company systemically, rather than to a specific standard, is also important. Respondents reported being willing to pay more for effective, value-added audits that measurably helped the organization. The least-desirable auditor traits were:
• Too much tunnel vision--auditors that focus on a specific knowledge base while ignoring other issues
• Too much reliance on their own interpretations of standards rather than industry-accepted interpretations
• Too much talking, too little listening
• Too little documentation, or inaccurate documentation
• Too rigid--auditors that know only the standard and follow it to the letter
• Too little time--auditors with poor time-management skills
The report has been discussed on IRCA's online forums for several weeks, and has generated some pithy comments and suggestions. One reader suggested better communication between auditor, certification body, and client might result in better audits and more satisfied clients.
"Price competition may happen by the commoditization of a product or service or, in this case, by a misunderstanding of product or service benefits, which has to do with the auditor's competence, and certification bodies' competence," the poster wrote.
For more information, visit www.irca.org/downloads/ThePerfectCertificationBodyAudit.pdf.
Good Genes Make Good Coffee
South American and French researchers have found the key to a good cup of coffee: quality genes.
The French Agricultural Research Center for International Development and the Agricultural Institute of Paraná in Brazil recently began comprehensive research into coffee quality, and found that the concentration of sucrose synthetase, an enzyme, is responsible for the accumulation of sucrose in the coffee bean. The enzyme also exists in two similar proteins that are coded by different genes, SUS1 and SUS2. More sucrose synthetase equals better-quality coffee.
Armed with this information, the researchers mapped the genes for early markers to see if they could predetermine coffee quality before the beans are harvested. The best-performing beans were grown more in the shade, which seemed to stimulate enzymatic activity in sucrose metabolism enzymes, which correlated with an increase in SUS2 gene expression.
However, the final sucrose content of the shaded beans wasn't generally higher, and the research is ongoing. For more information, visit www.cirad.fr/en/actualite/communique.php?id=610.
Source: The Aberdeen Group, "Compliance and Traceability in Regulated Industries."
The March 2007 issue of Quality Digest featured our annual State Quality Awards Directory. New Hampshire's award information was provided but was mistakenly left out of the directory. We regret this omission. The information for New Hampshire should have appeared as follows:
Granite State Quality Award
- Granite State Quality Council
- Ph. 603-223-1312 Fax 603-821-4587
The Granite State Quality Award and Recognition Program includes the Baldrige-based Granite State Quality Award and four levels of recognition-- Interest: with an organizational profile and action plan; Commitment: with a category-level application; and Achievement: with an item-level application. Organizations completing Baldrige-based self-assessments are also recognized.
Achieve Excellence in Manufacturing
The Manufacturer LIVE conference and trade show will make its U.S. debut this May 30-31 in Chicago.
Already a success in Europe, The Manufacturer LIVE offers an opportunity for manufacturing professionals to meet and interact with leading experts in the industry. Case studies, exclusive workshops and seminars will be presented. Speakers include Albert Frink, former U.S. Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing and Services; Ken Murtha, vice president of business operations for AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals; and Brian Habacivch, vice president, consulting, for Fellon-McCord & Associates Inc.
For more information, including registration details, visit www.themanufacturer.com/us/live.
India’s booming information technology sector created more than 1 million jobs during 2005–2006, according to new research.
That country’s 2006–2007 Economic Survey found that the number of Indian information technology professionals grew from an estimated 284,000 in 1999–2000 to 1.2 million in 2005–2006. Software and services exports were estimated at $23.4 billion—a 32-percent increase from last year.
Significantly, the survey noted that Indian companies’ adherence to standards and methodologies such as ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and Six Sigma has given the region additional credibility as a premier outsourcing destination for international organizations.
For more information, visit http://indiabudget.nic.in/es2006-07/esmain.htm.