Quality Digest’s picture

By: Quality Digest

Question: Who has mountains of data needing to be tamed into information?

Answer: Nearly everyone in health care, manufacturing, education, basic research, and service industries, including Six Sigma and ISO 9001 organizations and anyone who needs to demonstrate conformance to standards. (Anyone left?)Since the days when data were collected and maintained manually—on cards or in ledgers—to the electronic age, the sheer amount of data generated has increased exponentially. Hospitals and health care providers, for example, must maintain data on everything from prescriptions delivered, to infection rates, to C-section deliveries and Medicare payments. Just as the manufacturing process was simplified by technology during the Industrial Revolution, it’s hard now even to remember the tedious and laborious manual processes that preceded software data collection. On shop floors and in hospital corridors, clipboards and pencils have been supplanted by PDAs, computers, and voice recognition equipment to ensure accurate collection of data from processes.

Craig Cochran’s picture

By: Craig Cochran

Customer feedback is the single most important type of communication an organization can receive. It is confirmation of the organization’s purpose in life and its ability to deliver on this purpose. Feedback can ultimately determine whether the organization lives or dies. Despite the highly critical nature of customer feedback, organizations often treat customer feedback as an afterthought, something that they might get around to, if time allows. The processes for gathering and using feedback must be moved to the forefront of the organization’ strategy. It’s not optional. Let’s take an inventory of the issues organizations should focus on as they develop and improve their customer feedback process.

Unsolicited customer feedback is a rare gift
Every now and then, a customer will contact you and let you know how they feel. I’ve even done it a time or two, usually when I was really angry or really ecstatic. In other words, I was highly motivated by my customer interaction. That’s the trouble with unsolicited customer feedback—it requires a very motivated customer. Most customers have opinions, but they’re rarely motivated to contact you to tell you their thoughts. They’re too busy, too preoccupied or don’t feel it’s their place to offer feedback. You must reach out to them and ask, “How are we doing?”

Thomas R. Cutler’s picture

By: Thomas R. Cutler

Is enterprise resource planning (ERP) software helping or hindering quality? Many companies that purchased their first ERP package years ago now find that the system is hindering their efforts to adopt new quality initiatives, including lean manufacturing and Six Sigma. Since the purchase several years ago, the business has changed, and the ERP system wasn’t flexible enough to keep pace. Perhaps it was the wrong system. The wrong ERP system selection is more apparent than in the engineer-to-order (ETO) manufacturing sector.Following are some areas of ERP deficiency for the ETO manufacturing environment:

Mike Micklewright’s picture

By: Mike Micklewright

Why don’t registrar auditors audit clause 7.4 Purchasing of ISO 9001 when it comes to purchasing their services? After all, they’re providing a service that affects the quality of your operations, processes, and eventually, products.ISO 9001 states that your company “Shall evaluate and select suppliers based on their ability to meet your requirements.” Do you ever state your requirements to your registrar? Probably not, because it’s their contract that you sign. And even if your company issues a contract to the registrar in the form of a purchasing order, it’s unlikely that you add any of your requirements. The registrar normally has complete control of the contractual relationship, and you have no way out until the contract is up. Have you ever thought about what you and your company really want from an audit? Do you just go through the motions?

What if you wanted to try out a registrar’s services for only the initial audit? A company may evaluate sample parts from a potential supplier as part of the initial selection process. Why does your company have to be locked in to a three-year contract? What if you don’t like your supplier’s performance? How can you get out of a contract that doesn’t even state your specific needs?

Bill Kalmar’s picture

By: Bill Kalmar

In 1957, the Soviet Union launched the world’s first orbiting satellite, Sputnik. This elliptical sphere the size of a basketball took 98 minutes to encircle the earth and emitted a faint beep as it made its momentous trip. It provided no information back to mother Earth and yet it became a symbol of dominance in space exploration. Various workplaces have "human Sputniks" wandering aimlessly throughout the workplace, providing little, if any, important input when they’re ensconced at their desk or workstation. Yet they somehow manage to stay under the radar screen when it comes to cutbacks.

David Zatz’s default image

By: David Zatz

Chrysler is stepping up their use of team-based manufacturing, moving away from the “Fordist” approach that’s been continually embraced and rejected by global automakers. Their approach brings up memories of the many other companies that have gone to teams, including some that were successful and some that ended up reverting. While dividing work into teams is always an attractive idea, many organizations miss the key success factors. People like to work in teams, but quality and productivity gains may be left on the table.

Quality Digest’s picture

By: Quality Digest

Corporations throughout the world are losing billions in wasted quality-project spending, and this waste is carefully hidden from both management and investors. A new global research report by Business Improvement Architects, a provider of consulting solutions and customized training in leadership development, quality management, project management and change management, shows that one of the biggest contributing factors for this waste is the lack of executive alignment of quality projects with corporate strategy. A billion dollar problem

Quality Digest’s picture

By: Quality Digest

As China’s automotive suppliers rush to meet the demands of the world’s fastest-growing automotive market, an overcapacity problem already may be brewing, according to a new study written by Economist Corporate Network and released by the Automotive Industry Action Group and IBM Business Consulting Services’ Institute for Business Value.

The quest to add manufacturing capacity is taking place at a faster rate than expected market growth, raising overcapacity concerns and the possibility of a shakeout within five years.

In pursuit of lean operations, automakers worldwide have focused on technology investment. The China Auto Suppliers Survey looked at how China’s automotive suppliers make use of process and production technology.

The study found that information technology spending by automotive suppliers in China was generally low, with more than three-quarters of respondents investing less than $100,000 per year. It also examined major concerns, including an overwhelming need to find and retain reliable staff, which was cited by survey respondents as a barrier to successful development. With regard to automated operations, less than a quarter of respondents use enterprise resource planning systems.

Craig Cochran’s picture

By: Craig Cochran

Internal auditing is one of the most routine improvement tools available to organizations. In fact, it’s so ordinary that auditors sometimes forget the underlying principles of auditing. Auditors must be periodically reminded of these underlying truths or the entire audit process can begin to backfire. Keep these in mind as you audit and you’ll nearly always be successful. Principle 1: The customer of the internal audit is the one being audited
That’s right, the people you’re auditing are your customers. Internal auditing is a service you perform to help make your organization more successful and identify problems before they spiral out of control. The quality of your product depends on how well the audit is planned, the type of training provided to auditors, the level of engagement of top management and the way auditors behave during the audit, among other factors. You must conduct the audit with the same level of professionalism and diplomacy as if you were being paid by an outside party.
Little things that indicate the auditors have forgotten who the customer is include:

Ken Levine’s picture

By: Ken Levine

Lean Six Sigma and other continuous improvement initiatives require effective teamwork, and effective teamwork requires good meetings. Ineffective meetings are the reason many organizations fail to improve continuously. Therefore, effective meeting management should be an integral and early part of companywide training. Lean applications in the office environment have highlighted the significant rework and waste inherent in the majority of company meetings. Some of the tools and actions suggested to improve meeting quality include:

Establishing a mission statement
Determine the purpose of the team, get a consensus, identify metrics that will help to determine if there’s a problem and how success should be measured.

Using temperament instruments
Tools such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or Keirsey Temperament Sorter help managers assess the decision-making propensities of the individuals on the team. For example, it’d be good to know that everyone on the team is predisposed to making quick judgments or that the reverse is true.

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