Belinda Jones’s picture

By: Belinda Jones

As energy prices continue to soar and the public—with increased awareness and concern for the environment—continue to demand environmental accountability from manufacturers, companies are looking long and hard at ways to decrease their influence on the environment. But there are competing goals. On one hand, there’s social and environmental accountability, on the other there are cost and quality issues associated with managing energy consumption.

By teaming with EnerNoc, a company headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts, that helps institutional and industrial organizations use energy more intelligently, one large equipment manufacturer is reaping the benefits of both worlds.

Tammi Cooper, Ph.D. and William H. Denney, Ph.D.’s default image

By: Tammi Cooper, Ph.D. and William H. Denney, Ph.D.

Second only to leadership, strategic planning has been likely more written about than any other management subject.

In studying leadership, we seek to learn the emotional characteristics that define a successful entrepreneur. What makes Bill Gates or Jack Welch succeed when so many CEOs struggle? We often begin with the cult of personality, but soon discover that organizational success is intricately tied to planning and execution.

So we look at strategic planning and too often find chaos. Studies have shown that up to nine out of 10 strategic plans fail. An analysis by Fortune magazine found that:

  • 60 percent of organizations don’t link strategy to budgeting

  • 75 percent don’t link employee incentives to strategy

  • 86 percent of business leaders spend less than one hour per month discussing strategy

  • 95 percent of workers don’t understand their organization’s strategy

But why do good intentions fall short?

Thomas R. Cutler’s picture

By: Thomas R. Cutler

Respecting a quality manager’s opinion is meaningless unless there’s enterprisewide buy-in to ideas and quality initiatives. Rarely do the individuals serving on a lean initiative, continued process-improvement team learn the scientifically proven communication techniques that will persuade others to change their perceptions about quality.

Often a lead quality control professional is perceived as a police officer rather than a trusted advisor within the team or an established guru in the field. Reminiscent of Rodney Dangerfield, more than 72 percent of quality professionals surveyed by my company recently reported they receive too little respect from others within their organization. The same survey revealed that all 392 North American quality managers surveyed wished to be seen by other managers as having a proactive and valuable opinion on how to make the company successful, and wanted to break down the walls that separate quality from other departments.

Driving buy-in from the organization for valuable quality initiatives—such as failure mode and effects analysis, good manufacturing practices, continuous improvement, ISO 9001, ISO 14001, the Baldrige Criteria, and governmental compliance or regulatory requirements—is much easier when quality professionals function effectively.

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By: Frank Gray

In sports, it's always the fundamentals that your coaches emphasize, like the techniques that you first learn when you’re starting to play baseball—how to hold the ball properly, how to stand and hold a bat, or how to field a grounder. The basics about the sport, if performed perfectly, yield a positive outcome and add to the whole game experience. It's the same with calibrations. With all the new technology and advancements that come with calibration tracking and performance, we tend to overlook the basics, which in the long run, may lead to an unfavorable outcome during an audit.
Calibration documentation is a function of your quality unit. Engineering, metrology team, vendor, or production personnel may perform the task of calibration, but the documentation review, verification, and follow-up is a quality function and should be treated as such. Whether you use upscale calibration software that complies with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 21 CFR part 11, or a paper documentation trail, your systems still may seem to lack the required quality functions to keep the systems compliant. Why is it that during an audit, the auditors always find a documentation or traceability issue within your calibrations? It's those little issues that make it seem like you have no control of your systems.

Thomas R. Cutler’s picture

By: Thomas R. Cutler

When every product manufactured is unique, clients often accept quality risks in order to deliver the project on time. Testing time is limited by the project nature of a manufacturing process and the metrics of quality change when compared to repetitive manufacturing. “Fixed delivery times, prototype manufacturing, and small enterprises lack the staff depth to monitor quality identically,” says Dennis Parass of Burlington, Ontario-based Questica, an engineer-to-order (ETO) technology firm.

Quality, often defined as the absence of any defect, must have the characteristics of a system that conforms to an original design. ETO products are unique and there’s often no original design. There are data from previous projects that possess similarities and help to guide quality and accuracy, but the notion of simply rerunning a job doesn’t exist in the ETO world of manufacturing.

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By: Tom Travis

Do you know what’s really going on in your overseas partners’ and suppliers’ plants? Are you sure? Many companies are unable to answer with a confident yes. That’s bad news. In a time when companies are focused on getting more for less, it’s time to remember your Ps and Qs—“P” is for product, and “Q” is for quality. If you aren’t certain that everything possible is being done to ensure the quality of your products overseas and at home, your brand is at risk. So are your profits. In fact, so are your customers, not to mention their children and pets.

Just ask the companies involved in recent scandals: Menu Foods, the Canadian pet food company whose contaminated products affected numerous cats and dogs; Colgate-Palmolive Co., whose brand was sullied due to a contaminated “counterfeit” version of its toothpaste; and various retail stores that had to pull some popular Chinese-made toys from their shelves due to the presence of lead paint. In all of these cases product quality slipped, resulting in public-relations nightmares and real risks to public health.

Joe Caliro’s default image

By: Joe Caliro

Many companies include a variation of the goal “Provide world-class service” in their mission statements. These same companies have well-planned business strategies and comprehensive marketing strategies. But ask them about their customer-service strategy and you’ll find it’s often nothing more than a bullet point in the mission statement.

A customer-driven service platform allows a company to place a dollar value on customer satisfaction, thus enabling management to tie financial results to customer satisfaction and employee performance. The keys to building a strong customer-driven service platform include collecting and managing the right customer- and employee-satisfaction data; including call-monitoring data, customer and employee survey results, daily internal metrics, and then using a variety of advanced analytics and predictive modeling techniques to bring everything together to track and predict the success of business and marketing efforts.

For many companies, it makes sense to outsource some or all of the process of developing a successful quality program and building a robust customer-driven service strategy. The results can have a dramatic effect on brand loyalty, day-to-day marketing efforts, and the long-term bottom line.

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By: Peter Cappelli

Failing to manage your company’s talent needs is the equivalent of failing to manage your supply chain. Supply chain managers ask questions like ”Do we have the right parts in stock?“ “Do we know where to get these parts when we need them?” and “Does it cost a lot of money to carry inventory?” These questions are just as relevant to companies that are trying to manage their talent needs. The principles of supply chain management, with its emphasis on just-in-time manufacturing, can be applied to talent management.

This is a fundamentally different paradigm for thinking about talent. HR practices have typically been about meeting individuals’ needs, figuring out what psychological profile they fit and what should be done to help them grow and advance—touchy-feely, squishy stuff with little applicability to business problems. But if you’re an employer who is worried about issues like the finances of the company, you would like HR to think about personnel from the perspective of money and costs, and what happens if you don’t have the right people in place to do the necessary jobs.

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By: Joseph OBrien

A few months ago, I received training on ISO 9001 process auditing. It was very thorough and put on by a very enthusiastic man. I was really enjoying the training, and I planned to take my newfound knowledge and begin to process audit my division.

One of the last things the trainer said to me before we finished for the day was, “Remember, as a quality person, you are only to point out nonconformances and areas for improvement. You are not to personally get involved in fixing them.” That was music to my ears as I was one of the few engineers at my company. I figured this would lessen my workload now that I wouldn’t have to worry about process improvements or any other direct work on production.

As I headed back to my office, I encountered the division manager (my boss) in the supervisor’s office. He asked me how my training was going and then said, “By the way, go take a look at press 3. Its output has been lagging behind. We think it may be a mechanical problem.”

Jeffrey A. Miller’s default image

By: Jeffrey A. Miller

Elevated systemic anxiety can have severe effects, and most organizations are at risk. The good news is that it takes only one person to break the cycle and turn the company around.

If you’re a leader, you feel it in your gut: Stress is at an all-time high, and no wonder. The uncertain economy keeps even those who work for successful companies slightly off-balance. Doing more with less has become a way of life: fewer dollars, fewer employees, and what feels like fewer hours in the day (The only thing there seems to be more of is competition). And now that working virtually is de rigueurand globalization has truly taken hold, we must collaborate with people at the proverbial four corners of the Earth. It all adds up to anxiety overload and that can be deadly for an organization.

Helping your organization manage excessive, chronic anxiety is your No. 1 job, because it means ensuring that employees operate on principles rather than emotions. When people stay in low-grade panic mode, they can no longer think clearly, creatively, and flexibly. They make irrational decisions, and when irrational decisions start adding up, the company isn’t long for this world. (See the tip sheet below to find out if you work for an anxious organization.)

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