Davis Balestracci’s picture

By: Davis Balestracci

Editor’s note: The following browsable offering from Davis Balestracci represents a good chunk of his knowledge base. If you’re looking for improvement ideas, motivation, or a swift kick in the pants for yourself or your team, you’ll find them in this collection of his most popular columns.

In the current “generational handoff” of the quality reins, it’s time to stop recycling and reinventing, and as a result, diluting conventional wisdom. Rather, it’s time for a discriminating, critical eye and developing an ability to change conversations to motivate acting on the diluted bromides. Perhaps one or more of the following will help get those conversations going.

Harish Jose’s picture

By: Harish Jose

In today’s column, I’m looking at Weber’s Law. It’s named after Ernst Heinrich Weber (born June 24, 1795, died Jan. 26, 1878), a German physician who was one of the pioneers of experimental psychology. I highly recommend the Numberphile YouTube video that explains this in detail.

A simple explanation of Weber’s Law is that we notice things more at a lower intensity than at a higher intensity. For example, the light from your phone in a dark room may appear very bright to you. At the same time, the light from your phone in a bright room may seem insignificant. This type of perception is logarithmic in nature. This means that a change from 1 to 2 feels about the same as a change from 2 to 4, or 4 to 8. The perception of change for an increment of one unit depends on whether you are experiencing it at a low intensity or a high intensity. At low intensity, a slight change feels stronger.

Bruce Hamilton’s picture

By: Bruce Hamilton

This year marks the 35th anniversary of a remarkable and unfortunately also singular event in my career: In 1985, my employer, United Electric Controls (UE), elected to remove time clocks from the factory.

At the time of this unusual decision, I had already been employed at UE for 14 years in a variety of office jobs. I worked in a building a couple blocks away from the factory, and “punching the clock” had never been a part of my day. From my first day of employment, my attendance was tracked by exception—sickness, personal time, or vacations—pretty much on the honor system. But in 1985, coincidentally around the time I transferred into manufacturing, the idea to remove the time clocks was floated. I weighed in as member of the management team on this idea, but I was pretty much a bystander, a new kid on the block, still unaware of significance of the change.

Steve Yacovelli’s picture

By: Steve Yacovelli

Remember in The Wizard of Oz how the Cowardly Lion, when he finally got to see the wizard, was like, “What? I already had courage? WTH?” It was kind of not cool that the wizard made the poor guy go all the way through that drama, only to say, “That gift you want? You already got it!” Well, leadership courage is a lot like that. Often when leaders ask, “How can I get more courageous in my leadership?” the answer is—as it was for the lion—you already got this; just tap into that which you already have.

At its core, it’s easiest to think of courage as that adrenaline-filled action hero you see in the movies or when you’re home Netflixing and chillin’. Amazon warriors like Wonder Woman, death-facing young wizards like Harry Potter, countless soldiers and sailors entering the massive battle to win the war: You see these images in media and get an idea of what “courage” is supposed to be. But if you’re not a Navy SEAL or a wand-wielding wizard or an immortal Amazonian princess, you’re in luck! Courageous leadership doesn’t require you to be any of those. Being in that leadership role within your organization, there’s a strong argument that you already have some semblance of courage up your sleeve. The challenge is to build and harness that courage to be even more effective as a leader.

Liana Burtsava’s picture

By: Liana Burtsava

Resistance to change is baked into our biology, but the ability to overcome it can be strengthened with the right regimen.

When you change your mind, you change your habits. When you change your habits, you change your life.

When Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “The only constant is change” about 2,500 years ago, he could not possibly envision the radical pace of change in the 21st century. Today’s rate of technological development creates exponential change in all areas of our life, including the way business is conducted. Business leaders’ ability to survive—and thrive—directly correlates to their ability to adopt new skills, stay on top of technological advancement and the latest business practices, and adjust to the changing demands from employees and customers.

In a way, it is the new survival of the fittest.

Paul Foster’s picture

By: Paul Foster

If you’re new to layered process audits, it’s critical to make sure everyone on your team is on the same page with basic terms. Here we provide a guide of 16 essential terms to know when launching your LPA program and getting your team up to speed. Don’t forget to directly download your own copy of this guide to keep as a reference for yourself and your team.

5 Whys

1. Why is final assembly downtime higher than our target? Because operators must repeatedly adjust Machine A.
2. Why do operators have to repeatedly adjust Machine A? Because the machine has constant alignment problems.
3. Why does Machine A have constant alignment problems? Because its seals are worn down.
4. Why are the machine’s seals worn down? Because they aren’t being replaced at the proper frequency.
5. Why aren’t they being replaced at the proper frequency? Because seal replacement wasn’t listed on the needs assessment as part of preventive maintenance.

Vaishali Gopi’s picture

By: Vaishali Gopi

Data, analytics, surveys, IoT, artificial intelligence, and automation are the leading buzzwords in retail and customer service. But what is the point of having all these data about our customers? The business implications can be overwhelming and never lead to anything meaningful.

However, for Amazon, the answer and the outcome seem simple: to remove friction, to make it easier for people to become and to remain loyal customers:
• They developed algorithms to help customers only browse only those items of interest to them.
• They introduced Prime, free same-day shipping, to reduce the friction of online shopping (and as an incentive to always choose Amazon).
• They introduced physical stores without cash registers and cashiers.

Read on, and you will learn how to use your existing data like Amazon to drive better customer experiences and reduce friction.

Donald J. Wheeler’s picture

By: Donald J. Wheeler

Lean production is built on the explicit assumption that each step is operated predictably and capably. Predictable operation can only be achieved and maintained by using process behavior charts. But short production runs make it hard to see how to use process behavior charts in a lean environment. So what can be done? Last month I presented the zed chart for individual values. This month's column will illustrate the difference chart for individual values.

Short run charts

Process behavior charts are primarily concerned with characterizing process behavior rather than estimating process parameters. Because of the conservative nature of three sigma limits we can make these characterizations using relatively small amounts of data. This was illustrated last month with the zed chart. This column illustrates the difference chart for individual values. 

Dirk Dusharme @ Quality Digest’s picture

By: Dirk Dusharme @ Quality Digest

What a year.

No matter your job, your industry, or your political beliefs, this year has been a heck of a ride. The (still ongoing) trade war with China, manufacturing gains (and losses), the 737 MAX, Hong Kong riots, North Korea, Brexit, impeachment. What a mixed bag of ups and downs that has influenced all aspects of our life. Including our work. (For insight on how our editorial director deals with all this on a personal level, read her op-ed here.)

But on a workaday level, we each continue to do our job as best we can. That’s what we are paid to do. We take pride in the product or service we provide and try our best to deliver what our customers want when they want it, despite what turmoil swirls around us. And quality professionals are critical to that effort. Whether you are an inspector, auditor, calibration tech, metrologist, quality manager—or for most of our readers in small companies, all of those—the economy would suffer without the work you do to oversee quality. A robust economy is built in large part upon the quality of the products and services it produces.

Taran March @ Quality Digest’s picture

By: Taran March @ Quality Digest

’Tis that time of year, when the elves at QD set down their chisels, hammers, and stone slates for a week. We’ll be grinning in sweaters and clutching beverages somewhere, like the rest of you. Then we’ll be back, bright and early at the crack of January, to begin another year of reporting on all things quality. And all that sounds fine, but somehow I’m not feeling it. At the moment I’m having myself an unsettled little Christmas.

Being of relatively sound mind and with a bent toward practical action, I decided to treat this distress like any other work problem. So I made a cup of tea, sat down at the computer, and stared out the window while the tea wreathed steam beside me. Ready, set, think. After a bit I realized the unease wasn’t moving from the inside out but rather from the outside in. Usually it’s the other way around. I’m my own worst enemy in most cases but can generally course-correct without much fuss. In this case, however, I was still lost at sea.

Maybe a few 5 Whys were in order? Certainly they couldn’t hurt:
If it’s not you, then why aren’t you feeling it?
Because the atmosphere of the country seems fractured, glum, and uneasy.

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