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.

Bill Kalmar’s picture

By: Bill Kalmar

You see and hear them everyday--signs and commercials heralding “Customer service is No.1,” “We treat you like family,” or “The customer is always right.” The other day I came across a particularly revealing motto: “We’re better than we used to be!” Whatever the slogan or motto is, people expect extraordinary customer service. If you’re like me, you also want to experience customer service beyond your expectations.

Some organizations have realized that to have an advantage over the competition, extraordinary customer service must become the norm. This means having an articulate, well-trained staff who is congenial and empowered to make customer service decisions without having to confer with management all the time. Unfortunately, some organizations have such stringent guidelines that there’s no flexibility for employees to respond independently to consumer complaints or problems. These rigid, impenetrable processes are the reason why customers react aggressively and never become loyal customers.

I recently experienced a situation in customer service that’s almost beyond belief. I call it the demise of customer service.

Craig Cochran’s picture

By: Craig Cochran

Customer focus doesn’t evolve on its own. It’s carefully cultivated over time through a variety of processes. At the forefront of this effort is leadership. The organization’s leadership has the primary responsibility of making every decision and every action based on customer focus. Customer focus can’t be relegated to lower levels in the organization. It must start at the top and be regularly refreshed from the top. When organizations fail to achieve customer focus, it’s usually because leadership was never properly engaged in the process. In other words, top management failed to lead. Leadership must embrace a number of realities related to customer focus. These are fundamentals that should be a priority in each top manager’s to-do list. Following is an examination of each fundamental and an analysis of how top management can deliver on one of its most important duties: driving customer focus.

Russell T. Westcott’s default image

By: Russell T. Westcott

Early on you recognized the economic effect of shipping defective products to customers and/or providing inferior services. You countered this deficiency with elaborate inspection proceduresIn more recent times, you’ve focused on improving your organization’s processes and decreasing inspections. You have embraced continual improvement and implemented systems to prevent defects. You’ve gleaned and leaned your organization to reduce production-cycle times and respond to competitive demands for rapid order fulfillment and lower prices. You have recognized that employee satisfaction within a positive and progressive working environment translates into better customer satisfaction. You’ve correctly linked better training and support of self-development as a strong factor in retaining good employees, and furthering the goals and objectives of the organization. You’ve even begun to look at processes other than those directly pertaining to the delivery of products and services (e.g., marketing, product development, sales, supply-chain management, financially-oriented processes and processes relating to human resource management).

Quality Digest’s picture

By: Quality Digest

"Es ris!" (“It’s snapped!”) This apocalyptic line from Richard Wagner’s Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods) referred to the thread of fate or destiny that the three Norns, or Fates, had woven since the dawn of time. This ill omen portended the opera’s inevitable tragic conclusion. This year’s events paint an equally nonexistent future for General Motors Corp. If cutting worker benefits and closing plants are the best solutions the company can offer, I can’t see how it’s going to stay in business or continue to pay dividends. GM’s chief problems are the cost of company-paid health care and an antiquated product-distribution system that adds 20 percent or more to the price of every new car. Getting the United Auto Workers union to agree to shift some health care costs to workers and rewarding blue-collar workers for their cooperation by cutting 30,000 jobs addresses neither issue. Henry Ford would probably have considered these actions evidence that the company’s management team really doesn’t know what to do.

Thomas R. Cutler’s picture

By: Thomas R. Cutler

Many organizations are turning to outside operations-expense management companies due to the recognition of billing scrutiny as a key quality control and quality assurance issue. “When performing bill-auditing and rate-analysis services, many utilities in the United States have errors on at least one to three percent of the bills they send to their customers and have at least some of their customers on the wrong rate. Sometimes finding and fixing these quality mistakes translate into small incremental savings, but other times it’s a quality error that can add up to a major erroneous expense,” says Jeffrey Hart, CEO of Cadence Network, an operations-expense management firm.

When most customers receive their utility bill, they go through the following steps:

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