Bill Kalmar’s picture

By: Bill Kalmar

As the holiday season approaches, several inevitable occurrences will try our patience. Along with people jostling in lines, the NASCAR-like jockeying in the parking lots, out-of-stock merchandise and interminably long lines for Santa, we also have to endure the banes of holiday shoppers—temporary help in stores and holiday-decorated “tip jars.”Let’s start with temporary help. Most temps receive only perfunctory training year-round, not only during the holiday rush. Why spend time thoroughly training people who will only be employed for a short time?

Bill Kalmar’s picture

By: Bill Kalmar

As the cool, crisp air of autumn begins to make its annual appearance here in the Midwest, and the trees on country roads are aflame with color, it’s time to make some wardrobe decisions. Should I select the fur-lined parka over the Gore-Tex windbreaker? Are the Eddie Bauer boots warmer than the L.L. Bean mukluks? And which hat provides the best cover for my receding hairline? Although the goal is to keep warm, how will I look to my friends?Similar questions and choices surface when organizations begin their journey to quality and performance excellence. Which process will insulate us from error? Which process will reduce red tape? Which process will have a good effect on the bottom line? Which process will help us exceed the expectations of our customers?

Depending on the industry and organizational intent, quality practitioners must choose from myriad processes such as, AS9100, BS7799, EN46000, EN9100, FS9100, ISO 14000, ISO 9001, ISO/TS16949, JIS Q 9100, Baldrige criteria, Six Sigma, the joint commission on accreditation of health care organizations (JCAHO), Q9000, QS-9000, kaizen, lean manufacturing, Q9858A, MIL STD 45662A, the U.S.A. Quality Cup, MIL STD 105E, TL9000, Juran’s, Deming’s, and the various state quality awards.

Douglas C. Fair’s picture

By: Douglas C. Fair

Last month’s column, “The Top 10 SPC Mistakes,” outlined five mistakes to avoid when building a successful statistical process control (SPC) system. Here they are:

10. Training everyone
  9. Charting everything
  8. Segregating control charts from manufacturing
  7. “Pinching” the SPC coordinator
  6. Using SPC because it’s a “good thing to do.”

Now, here are the remaining five SPC mistakes:

Bill Kalmar’s picture

By: Bill Kalmar

Conversation at a business luncheon tends to be focused on work. The meal and service are secondary concerns. Still, clumsy service or a poorly prepared meal can ruin a productive business meeting, and a delightful meal and impeccable service can make such an experience enjoyable.
Recently, I had a luncheon meeting with a friend at a nationwide restaurant chain that prides itself on exemplary service.

I ordered first—a cup of soup and a small Greek salad. The waiter asked me if I wanted the soup and salad combo—a bowl of soup and a salad. I passed on the combo. My friend ordered the combo with a Caesar salad.

Bill Kalmar’s picture

By: Bill Kalmar

Rather than travel to Pamplona, Spain, for the annual Running of the Bulls, one need go no further than the parking lots of many U.S. companies. Here people described in many company brochures as “our most important asset" are being herded and unceremoniously told to go home after years of service. The psychic goring of these employees often has already been done by an inept management team, and for some the wounds will last forever. There’s a remarkable, and bizarre, parallel between Pamplona and corporate America: long ago potential buyers of the bulls always ran ahead in order to be well placed for the purchase that followed the event. In corporate settings, management stays behind in the shadows, not wanting to confront the victims as they’re led to their "psychological slaughter."

Douglas C. Fair’s picture

By: Douglas C. Fair

Bill Kalmar’s picture

By: Bill Kalmar

Being retired affords one the opportunity to relax periodically in a hammock on a hot summer afternoon, doing a crossword puzzle and contemplating quality and customer service. While trying to think of an eight-letter term for "a person used as cover," my thoughts wandered to several topics:

  • Commercials, billboards, Web sites and newspaper ads for organizations seem to gravitate to the same term—"world-class." I have become immune to the term, because I don’t understand what it means anymore. How does a "world-class Greek restaurant" differ from a "world-class automobile" or "Geno’s World-Class Dry Cleaners" on my corner? Hasn’t this phrase worn out its use? Many products and services seem to rely on that cliché whether it’s justified or not.
  • Douglas C. Fair’s picture

    By: Douglas C. Fair

    According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, deaths, injuries and property damage from consumer product incidents cost the nation more than $700 billion annually. There are severe costs to the business involved in the recall, in addition to potential costs of civil and criminal penalties.Read news headlines on any given day and thousands of products will have been recalled. Focus on any single item and its cost and dangers become instantly obvious: automobiles, children’s toys, medicines, food products and more. The following example illustrates such a scenario:

    Audi North America

    Background

    Audi North America assumed responsibility for its quality monitoring in 2002. Soon after, failure rate in their 4-cylinder engine exceeded 50 percent. Audi recalled many cars and replaced ignition systems.

    Problem

    Bill Kalmar’s picture

    By: Bill Kalmar

    In a recent Volkswagen Jetta commercial, a pleasant conversation between two friends is abruptly interrupted by a horrific accident. Fortunately there are no injuries thanks to the air-bag system in the Jetta. Similar experiences are provided by Allstate Insurance warning us to buy a policy to protect our automobile investment. And certain hospitals have warned us that, by not using the services of their doctors, we could place our lives in jeopardy. I can hardly wait for the bird flu pandemic to strike so I can find out which new product will prevent me from growing webbed feet. We recently drove across the heartland of America to visit four grandchildren in St. Louis, Missouri. The changing scenery with the early blossoming of tree buds and tulips gave us a short respite from Michigan’s frigid winter, and we got to listen to a myriad radio stations. Coming from the Rust Belt, I enjoyed hearing the hog belly reports and the noon price of soybean futures, instead of the latest unemployment percentages.

    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.

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