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The Complications of Quality

I had to laugh (to keep from crying) as I read "Internal Auditing for ISO/TS 16949" (Radley M. Smith, Roderick A. Munro, Ph.D., and Ronald J. Bowen, June 2006).

The U.S. automobile industry is clearly in free fall. The question is why. There are many reasons, but one is that Ford and General Motors continue to ignore the lessons they should have learned with QS-9000. Just look at the performance of the automobile industry since the inception of QS-9000. Declining market share, billions of dollars in losses and thousands of layoffs are the legacy of this quality system. To succeed in business today, companies must be nimble, lean and creative. (See Toyota.) Instead, U.S. organizations continue to push these bloated bureaucracies that exist only to shuffle paper. Instead of streamlining QS-9000, they complicated it even more. Turtle diagrams, octopus diagrams, lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

I'm afraid that the executives running the U.S. automobile industry are incapable of changing. I fear that our days of being the leading manufacturer of automobiles are gone, never to return. I blame our so-called quality professionals for leading the charge over the cliff.

--A. Huffman


Two Views of Orbitz

Regarding the article "Stellar Customer Service" ("Quality Curmudgeon," Scott M. Paton, June 2006), I recently had my first and last experience with Orbitz. I had a question about the billing on a "package deal." Three e-mails and two phone calls later, I am still waiting for an answer. I waited on the phone for more than an hour and never got through. Obviously they are badly understaffed in the customer service area.

--Thomas M. Box

The article "Stellar Customer Service" was very good. I kind of feel the same way about American Express Corporate Card service. Once again, nice article. I'm sure that Orbitz employees were very happy to receive such a stunning endorsement.

--Jim Parnella

From Zero to Six

"Zero Defects vs. Six Sigma" ("Inside Six Sigma," David C. Crosby; read it online at www.qualitydigest.com/ sixsigma ) reminds me of how a past radio talk-show host would begin his dialogue with an outrageous comment such as, "Women are not as smart as men," which would generate a tremendous response for the next two hours from women who were determined to tell this guy what they thought about his comment. Needless to say, here goes.

The subjective, eleven-category opinion of Zero Defects vs. Six Sigma is a sad but typical analysis that businesspeople use to make decisions every day. While this approach may sell many books in China, it should not be expected of professionals in today's competitive society. We should expect quantifiable data as opposed to subjective data to support our arguments. So, in short, women are smarter than men.

--C. Johnson

Mr. Crosby talks about the zero defects concept as "Work right the first time and every time" and the performance standard is that "No defects are acceptable." This gives one the impression that without this program, inept engineers are creating poor quality products and if only they had this quality training.... Well, things aren't that simple. The number of defects in a design relate to the state of knowledge of the technology. No defects are possible when the state of knowledge is high. However, for many systems, the state of knowledge is not high enough to design a product with no defects and the standard and most efficient development process is to go through a test and improvement loop until the number of problems reaches an acceptable level and this number is not zero.

--Jan Krouwer

Not Left Wanting

I don't always read Quality Digest's newsletters, but sometimes a title in the e-mail catches my eye. "For Want of a Nail" ("Inside Standards," Denise Robitaille; online at www.qualitydigest.comhref="http://qualitydigest.com/standards/index.lasso") did just that. I read the article, and it is excellent. We're a division at a community college in Michigan, on our third year of ISO 9001 registration and still struggling to make it a relevant part of our business operation. I will share this article with all of my coworkers.

--Adrian Bass


Calling for Progress

"Progress" ("Quality Insider," A.P. Porter; online at www.qualitydigest.com/qualityinsider ) is a great article! However, as an employee of an organization that has an attitude similar to that which you wrote about, it's not always up to us to "think."

When we try to think about our customer, product, etc., we always get a backlash from management. I've been in the hot seat many times by taking the side of the customer and trying to "improve" their experience. Unfortunately, quality management isn't practiced by enough companies. Before, when a customer needed service or support, it came via one phone call directly to the proper person. Now, it goes to a call center and, if the customer is lucky, they'll get who they need within three bounces.

--Judy P.