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News Digest

This Month in News Digest

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ISO Plans to Produce Social Responsibility Guidelines

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Presidential Approval Shelters Standards Developing Organizations

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ASQ Targets China for Quality Venture

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Effective IT Implementation Improves Health Care

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U.S. Government Aims to Boost Manufacturing With Partnership

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ISO Committee Prioritizes Public Participation

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New ISO Standard Established for Satisfying Unhappy Customers

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Project and Program Management Processes Boost Profits

ISO Plans to Produce Social Responsibility Guidelines

The International Organization for Standardization will develop a standard for social responsibility, although it’s not intended for formal certification.

The decision was made at a senior ISO management meeting this June in Stockholm, following an international conference in the Swedish capital. The conference provided a platform for stakeholders to give their views on whether ISO should address the social responsibility of organizations and, if so, what form that assessment would take.

Stakeholder feedback was overwhelmingly positive for ISO to develop social responsibility guidelines. Because the feedback was so supportive, ISO decided a further feasibility study was unnecessary and the work should be undertaken immediately.

“ISO’s decision is based on a thorough analysis of trends and initiatives relating to social responsibility and the active involvement of all interested groups of stakeholders,” says ISO Secretary-General Alan Bryden. “The consensus achieved on the way forward for an ISO contribution illustrates the broadening of the scope of our work and the recognition that today, ISO not only provides a growing portfolio of technical standards, but may also supply solutions and guidance on social and environmental issues in the global economy. This new venture is obviously of great interest to stakeholder groups such as consumers, NGOs, labor and regulators whose participation and input ISO both needs and values.”

To develop the standard, ISO will set up a new working group answering directly to its Technical Management Board. The board will oversee the activities of the organization’s 186 standards-developing technical subcommittees. It has already formed a task force to propose the terms of reference and operating processes for the group’s consideration at the TMB meeting in September.

Currently, ISO’s worldwide national standards institute members are asked to submit candidates for a dual leadership and secretariat to the SR working group no later than Aug. 15. Group members will be appointed by ISO members from all stakeholder categories, although related international and broadly based regional organizations will also appoint members.

ISO intends the new guidelines to add value to--but not replace--existing intergovernmental SR agreements such as the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, those adopted by the International Labor Organization and other UN conventions.

The ISO SR conference drew 355 participants from 66 countries, including 33 developing nations. The attendees represented all the principal stakeholder groups: business, government, labor, consumers, and international as well as nongovernmental organizations. ISO’s advisory group on social responsibility--established in 2003--provided the bulk of the discussion at the conference, which consisted of its extensive report on worldwide SR initiatives and the identification issues that should be addressed in ISO’s work on SR.

“The extent to which the issues raised by the different stakeholder groups at the conference mirrored those identified in the advisory group’s report confirms the value of the work it has carried out for ISO,” comments ISO Deputy Secretary-General Kevin McKinley. “Now it is up to ISO to address these issues and face the challenge of developing guidelines that benefit all the stakeholders in social responsibility.”

For more information, visit www.iso.org.

 

Presidential Approval Shelters Standards Developing Organizations

President George W. Bush recently signed into law the Standards Developing Organizations Advancement Act of 2004 (HR 1086), providing new shelter for standards developers from treble damages liability in current antitrust laws.

The approval amends the National Cooperative Research and Production Act of 1993, which addressed the antitrust treatment of certain joint ventures, such as standards development organizations. The new bill recognizes the assistance that SDOs provide to government agencies in developing standards for regulatory and procurement functions and allows SDOs the opportunity to submit a notice describing the scope of their work with the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission. That filing may avoid unnecessary and costly litigation against organizations that have no commercial interest with regard to the technical specifications contained in the standards. The act provides that the federal antitrust “rule of reason” apply to SDOs while they are developing standards. It also limits attorney’s fees in any antitrust case challenging an SDO’s work.

“Standards development organizations develop technical standards that are essential to the efficient functioning of our national economy,” explains R. Hewitt Pate, assistant attorney general in charge of the antitrust division. “Congress has determined that the threat of treble damages pressures SDOs to restrict their standards development activities at a great cost to the United States. (This act) relieves SDOs from certain antitrust concerns and facilitates the development of pro-competitive standards.”

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers, ASTM International and the National Fire Protection Association spearheaded the effort, which was applauded by the American National Standards Institute.

“ANSI congratulates the work of many in the standards community that has culminated in the passage of HR 1086,” says David Karmol, ANSI vice president of public policy and government affairs. “The Institute will continue to support the needs of standards developers and edify our constituency on the intent of the legislation.”

For more information, visit www.ansi.org.

 

ASQ Targets China for Quality Venture

The American Society for Quality recently partnered with a Chinese training company and a Chinese government-appointed organization to widen the quality movement in that nation.

The effort is a product of ASQ’s 1998 International Position Statement, a document that focuses on the deployment of the quality movement around the world, especially in manufacturing-heavy countries such as China. However, for the effort to be successful in the unique legal, business and social climate of China, it requires an approach different than that deployed in other parts of the world. The solution is the establishment of a limited liability operating unit--ASQ China LLC--in a partnership with Plexus China and a Chinese government-appointed organization called CCIC. Together, these entities will form a joint venture known as ASQ-CCIC Service for Quality Co. Ltd. The organization will provide operational oversight for ASQ’s quality training and certification activities in China.

The Chinese National Certification Administration, which has responsibility for all areas of quality in China, approached ASQ about the opportunity. The administration became acquainted with ASQ through discussions with the China State Bureau of Technical Supervision, which translated ASQ’s CQE exam into Mandarin.

Although the Chinese venture holds much promise for that country and its trading partners, it also has some specific challenges, such as:

Protecting intellectual property

Handling financial transactions into and out of China

A government bureaucracy whose transparency can vary from region to region

Obtaining reliable information on market needs

Language and culture differences

A memorandum of understanding addressing the basic elements of the relationship between the CNCA and ASQ will be signed at a ceremony at ASQ’s annual Quality Congress. The partnership initially plans to introduce ASQ CQE and HACCP training and certification, although other training and certification programs could be offered in the future.

Anyone wishing to become involved in quality training or certification activities in China would be required to complete ASQ’s Registered Training Provider or Registered Exam Provider training.

For more information, visit www.asq.org.

 

Effective IT Implementation Improves Health Care

The adoption of information technology alone will not have a major impact on the quality of health care most Americans receive, according to recent testimony at a key House subcommittee by David Schulke, executive vice president of the American Health Quality Association.

Doctors need support and information for their quality assurance efforts to succeed in delivering safer and more effective care, said Schulke. He stressed that information technology can be a valuable tool for improving processes of care--if applied effectively.

“The promise of IT will not be realized by simply automating current practices,” Schulke testified. “The most important work to be done is to help physicians use IT to see how they can improve and then lower the barriers to make those changes.”

The subcommittee will hold a July 17 hearing to examine ways the federal government can encourage greater use of IT in health care.

Studies show that physicians can use IT to track patient outcomes, analyze whether care is actually being delivered as intended, help doctors more reliably provide quality care and highlight inefficiencies. Despite this potential, only about 8 percent of practices have invested in IT. Major barriers include an assumption that physician practices don’t need to improve, concern about the financial investment required and perceived initial loss of productivity while personnel learn how to use new technology, Schulke testified.

“Providers and practitioners need support that goes far beyond what IT vendors can and typically do provide,” he noted. “They need support from health care systems change experts who can help office practices re-examine the way they provide care and help them implement solutions.”

The national network of quality improvement organizations will begin next year to focus intensively on promoting the adoption, implementation and effective use of health care IT in every state--an effort endorsed by the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians and other key national organizations.

For more information, visit www.ahqa.org.

 

U.S. Government Aims to Boost Manufacturing With Partnership

A memorandum of understanding signed by top government officials this month should make it easier for small manufacturers to tap into Department of Defense technologies and expertise.

The MOU, signed by Under Secretary of Commerce for Technology Phillip J. Bond and Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Advanced Systems and Concepts Sue Payton, is aimed at stimulating job growth and technology transfer in the manufacturing sector through the Manufacturing Extension Partnership. The MEP is a program of the Commerce Department’s Technology Administration. It’s a nationwide network of resources managed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The new partnership will help small manufacturers become more competitive.

“The president has long underscored that strong national security provides for strong economic security,” Bond states. “By developing synergies in defense programs, our manufacturing sector will have greater economic opportunities for development and expansion.”

Potential projects covered in the MOU include:

Using the national MEP network to accelerate the transfer of technologies and technical expertise from the DOD to manu-facturers to reduce costs, increase the warfighter supplier base, expand direct relationships with smaller manufacturers and grow awareness of new technology

Identifying geographic concentrations of defense manufacturers to assess the specific needs of the marketplace as they relate to urgent defense needs

Assessing critical manufacturing processes for defense production capabilities

Supporting the development and de-ployment of a set of specific performance- based standards for high-tech defense manufacturing processes and supply chain interactions

Other areas likely to be addressed under the MOU are workforce training and supply chain rapid response.

Download a copy of the MOU at www.nist.gov.

 

ISO Committee Prioritizes Public Participation

A recent workshop hosted by the International Organization for Standardization’s Consumer Policy Committee (COPOLCO) examined ways the organization can maximize public participation and satisfaction with internationally standardized products and services.

The workshop, “Regulation, Co-regulation, Self-Regulation--Who’s at Risk? Legislation and Standards: Partners in Consumer Protection,” explored the ways voluntary standards and services meet consumers’ expectations for safety, performance, fitness, pricing and redress. Additional topics addressed were: ways in which consumers participate in the decision-making processes of international standardizing bodies and public policy deliberations; the differing benchmarks for public participation in terms of national and international standards; and whether an international process standard on consumer and public interest participation would be beneficial.

Agreeing that public participation is generally beneficial to the formation of standards, the committee agreed to form an electronic working group to examine consumer representation as part of ISO’s effort to revise its Horizon 2010 strategy document. The group will collect information from members on existing standards regarding public participation and consider benchmarking consumer representation in ISO.

In conjunction with this effort, COPOLCO also agreed to establish a liaison with the Consumers International group on global governance. CI representatives provided COPOLCO with an overview of their research project, which explores the degree to which consumers participate in the world and influence the work of ISO, the Codex Alimentarius and the World Trade Organization.

For more information, visit www.iso.org.

 

New ISO Standard Established for Satisfying Unhappy Customers

The International Organization for Standardization recently announced a new standard to help organizations gratify dissatisfied customers.

ISO 10002 is a complaints-handling process designed for easy integration into established quality management systems--especially ISO 9001:2000, which requires top management to focus on customer satisfaction and continual improvement. It provides instructions on the delivery of a complaints-handling process that provides responsive treatment to unhappy customers, and focuses on problem areas for improvements and cost savings for organizations.

“At the same time, the standard is complete enough for stand-alone implementation, or in support of other quality management and customer satisfaction tools,” says Bill Dee, a member of the working group that developed ISO 10002. The standard gives complete guidance--including principles, issues for consideration and structural aspects--for the management of the overall complaints-handling process, with numerous checklists, sample forms and practical examples.

For more information, visit www.iso.org.

 

Project and Program Management Processes Boost Profits

Effective program and project management doesn’t just make work easier, it also contributes to a healthier bottom line. That was the finding in a recently released study which reports that organizations with project and program management processes in place are more profitable than those without them.

The survey revealed that of those organizations which systematically align projects and programs to their overall business strategy, nearly 75 percent reported they are either very profitable (exceeding goals) or gaining momentum and increasing profitability. The finding confirms that companies which consistently prioritize and manage projects for maximum organizational value realize greater financial returns and/or exceed business goals.

Additionally, organizations with infrastructures able to manage and oversee major initiatives also realize tangible results. Sixty-two percent of companies with active project management offices reported “healthy” or “very healthy” profitability.

The survey was performed by project management firm Robbins-Gioia both online and with senior-level IT professionals at the META Group conference this spring.

For more information, visit www.robbinsgioia.com.