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News Digest

This Month in News Digest


Job Satisfaction at Record Low


Count Down to ISO 9001:2000 Transition


Poor Health Quality Translates to Lost Dollars, Work Force


Synchronization Issues Dimming Electrical Industry Profits


Report Reveals Pharmaceutical Best Practices


NIST Aims to Improve Metal Stamping for Manufacturing


APQC Conducting Three Best Practice Surveys


Industry News

Job Satisfaction at Record Low

According to a recent survey from The Conference Board, less than half of all Americans are satisfied with their jobs--the highest level of discontent since the survey was first conducted in 1995. The decline in job satisfaction is found among workers of all ages across all income brackets and regions.

“The level of job satisfaction has been steadily on the decline since reaching nearly 59 percent in 1995,” says Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board’s Consumer Research Center. “As technology transforms the workplace--accel-

erating the pace of activities, increasing expectations and productivity demands, and blurring the lines between work and play--workers are steadily growing more unhappy with their jobs.”

The survey found that Americans are most satisfied with their commutes, a finding that mirrors last year’s survey results. Only one in five workers is satisfied with promotions and bonus plans, and only about one in three is content with wages. Educational and training programs are also near the bottom of the list.

Those aged 45 to 54 express the least amount of satisfaction. Only 46 percent say they’re satisfied with their employment. Those 65 and older claim the greatest level of satisfaction, 54 percent.

The survey shows that satisfaction levels tend to rise with earnings. Households earning less than $15,000 are less satisfied with their employment than those earning in excess of $50,000. Among high-end earners, the overall level of satisfaction has fallen over time.

In 1995, 66.5 percent of households earning more than $50,000 claim to be satisfied with their jobs compared to 53.4 percent today.

Regionally, the differences are very pronounced. Workers expressing the least amount of satisfaction (about 43 percent claiming to be satisfied with their jobs) reside in New England and the West South Central states. Residents of the West North Central states are the most satisfied; nearly 55 percent responded that they are satisfied.

Key findings include:

The largest decline in overall job satisfaction--from 60.9 percent in 1995 to 47.2 percent this year--occurred among workers aged 35 to 44. This group was once the most satisfied. The second largest decline took place among workers aged 45 to 54, with the satisfaction level dropping from 57.3 percent to 46.1 percent. This group recorded the lowest level of satisfaction.

The overall level of satisfaction among households earning in excess of $50,000 has declined from 66.5 percent o 53.4 percent, yet they still remain the most satisfied.

Among households earning less than $15,000, there was no change in the level of satisfaction. Currently, 45.4 percent claim they are satisfied, the same proportion as eight years ago.

With 43.2 percent of households claiming to be satisfied with their current job vs. 59.7 percent in 1995, residents of West South Central region are among the least satisfied in the nation.

New England residents are among the least satisfied in the nation. Only 43.5 percent claim they are satisfied with their jobs, down significantly from 65.4 percent eight years ago.

Promotion policies were the least satisfactory benefit of employment. Only 20 percent claim they are satisfied, down from 23.4 percent in 1995.

Bonus plans received poor ratings. Only 20.1 percent claim to be satisfied with their company’s policies.

Only 29.3 percent claim to be satisfied with educational and job training programs.

The commute to work was rated as the most favorable aspect of one’s job, with 57.9 percent satisfied with their travels. However, there was a decline in the level of satisfaction from the 1995 levels.

Co-workers were given a favorable rating despite a decline of 56 percent from 64 percent eight years ago.

Quality Digest’s Web portal, InsideQuality.com, recently conducted an informal job satisfaction survey among recipients of its weekly QualityInsider e-newsletter. The results show that 36.2 percent of respondents are satisfied with their jobs, and 20.1 percent are dissatisfied. The percentage of those neither satisfied nor dissatisfied was 18.8.

The Conference Board survey, conduced in July 2003, is based on a representative sample of 5,000 U.S. households. NFO WorldGroup conducted the survey. To learn more about the “Special Consumer Survey Report: Job Satisfaction,” visit The Conference Board at www.conference-board.org.

Poor Health Quality Translates to Lost Dollars, Work Force

A new report from the National Committee for Quality Assurance shows that the nation’s health care system is riddled with quality gaps that prevent millions of Americans from receiving best-practice care. These gaps, the results of factors such as poor use of technology and irrational payment systems, lead to more than 57,000 avoidable deaths each year and $11 billion in lost productivity.

NCQA’s annual “State of Health Care Quality” report also documents the enormous financial toll of commonplace failures to deliver appropriate care. Nearly 41 million sick days could be avoided annually if well-known best practices were more widely adopted. The observed quality gaps were not equally prevalent throughout the system--among health plans that measure and report on their performance, clinical quality was higher and showed strong gains.

“It’s not a question of knowing how to treat heart disease, diabetes or mental illness,” says Margaret E. O’Kane, NCQA president. “We know how. We’re just not doing it. We’re literally dying, waiting for the practice of medicine to catch up with medical knowledge.”

Nationwide, about 40 percent of the 31 million Americans diagnosed with high blood pressure have their conditions adequately controlled. An increase to 68 percent (a level already reached by some of the nation’s top health plans) would save an estimated 28,000 lives next year.

The loss of life is compounded by the financial costs the nation pays for gaps in health care. U.S. hospitalizations due to avoidable heart attacks cost more than $1.6 billion a year, according to the report.

The economy also suffers through lost days of labor each year. According to NCQA, the system’s failure to treat five health care conditions--asthma, depression, diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure--is responsible for nearly 41 million sick days. This translates to the equivalent productivity of more than 173,000 workers and annual costs to U.S. companies of more than $11.5 billion.

The NCQA notes that one reason for the failure to apply best practice care is that payment systems may discourage it. Physicians and hospitals are compensated based on the amount of care they provide, thus discouraging the use of new treatments and therapies that may send patients home sooner, the report contests.

“We’re throwing up roadblocks to quality when we should be giving out rewards,” says David F. Durenberger, former U.S. senator and chairman and CEO of the National Institute of Health Policy. “We have to start asking, ‘What are we buying?’”

Peter V. Lee, president and CEO of Pacific Business Group on Health, agrees. “This report underscores that employers and consumers are not getting the quality of health care they’re paying for,” he argues. “The path to saving lives and money lies not in finger-pointing but in finding out who’s doing it right and sharing that information with those who want to do it better.”

The report did find some encouraging statistics. NCQA reports that the quality of clinical care improved for health plans serving the commercial, Medicare and Medicaid sectors. It’s the fourth consecutive year that screening and control of heart disease has improved. Additionally, health plans serving Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries demonstrated gains in cholesterol management.

“The State of Health Care Quality: 2003” is available at NCQA’s Web site, www.ncqa.org. An expanded version of the report will be added to the Web site by the end of the year.

Synchronization Issues Dimming Electrical Industry Profits

Data exchanged between manufacturers and distributors in the electrical industry contain significant errors, according to a report released by the Industry Data Exchange Association. The report was the result of a study to determine the level of synchronization of item data exchanged between manufacturers and distributors in the industry. Its findings are similar to those of an earlier study by the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association that concluded the automotive industry was losing $1.7 billion due to item data errors.

The data synchronization study demonstrates that there’s variance between the trading partners’ item data, causing significant financial supply chain problems. According to the study, 60 percent of the items submitted by manufacturers don’t accurately match those in their trading partners’ files, costing companies hundreds of millions of dollars in increased transaction costs and lost sales.

The study focused on identifying specific data issues between pairs of trading partners (i.e., a manufacturer and one of its distributors). Ten leading manufacturers and eight distributors participated in the study. The trading partners’ data were matched on UPC code, part number, order quantity, unit of measure, distributor pricing and trade pricing.

“We’re glad that we participated in the pilot program because the results have enabled us to take immediate action and create a program to clean up our business data errors,” notes Ron Schlader, vice president of operations and quality for Crescent Electric Supply. “We’re creating processes to ensure that we continuously exchange good quality data with our trading partners, thus saving costs for the whole supply chain.”

Results from data synchronization studies in multiple industries support the electrical industry findings. An earlier report by IDEA and the National Electrical Manufacturers Association revealed that product and pricing inaccuracies cost manufacturers and distributors 1 percent and 0.75 percent of sales respectively. In a study for the grocery industry released last year, AT Kearney announced that 30 percent of items in retailer item files were in error and that the consumer packaged goods industry alone is losing $40 billion in sales every year due to poor product information.

As a result of the study findings, IDEA has implemented a data audit certification program. “The study reveals that the electrical industry faces a significant challenge in achieving and maintaining data synchronization,” says Mike Rioux, president of IDEA. “Recognizing the high cost of this critical business issue, the IDEA board of directors approved the implementation of an audit program. Profile Systems was selected to provide the data audit services for IDEA with the objective of ensuring that accurate, valid data is exchanged between trading partners in the industry.”

Profile Systems, an IDEA technology partner, was authorized to perform the data synchronization analysis to help illustrate the effect of data synchronization on the industry.

To learn more about the study, visit www.idea-inc.org or www.profilesystems.com.

Report Reveals Pharmaceutical Best Practices

The most efficient way to avoid Food and Drug Administration scrutiny in the pharmaceutical manufacturing quality control process is to create well-trained and knowledgeable staffs, according to a study from pharmaceutical research firm Best Practices LLC.

“The Quality Function: Structures, Staffing and Execution” illustrates quality training techniques used by pharmaceutical leaders. Additionally, it reveals benchmark trends in quality organizations, staffing and execution at some of the world’s preeminent pharmaceutical and biotech firms.

For example, one benchmark firm ensures it has a well-trained staff by requiring potential quality auditors to follow a three-month training period with certified auditors to gain experience. Following training, auditors also undergo annual compulsory refresher courses. Additionally, 40 percent of this company’s employees have 11 to 20 years of quality experience.

“Savvy companies recognize that properly trained quality auditors can prevent internal issues from becoming external problems,” says Keith Symmers, vice president of Best Practices. “Trained manufacturing staff can proactively identify potential problems long before a regulatory action or patent safety issue emerges.”

The study also describes ways manufacturers can determine appropriate budgets and resource allocations; implement process improvements; increase productivity and performance measurements; and design a plan of action for quality management systems.

To download a summary of “The Quality Function: Structures, Staffing and Execution,” visit www3.best-in-class.com/rr214.htm.

NIST Aims to Improve Metal Stamping for Manufacturing

The National Institute of Standards and Technology has set out to cut manufacturing costs through improved sheet-metal cutting.

According to NIST, each year millions of dollars are lost on delay-causing errors in the design of dies used to make sheet-metal parts, ranging from car hoods to airplane wings. The U.S. automotive industry spends $700 million on designing, testing and correcting new dies for its latest models, each containing about 300 stamped parts shaped by dies and presses. About half the total cost goes to remedying unanticipated errors--manifested as wrinkles, splits, excessive thinning or other defects.

By fitting NIST’s metal-stamping test station with an X-ray stress measurement system, the Institute’s materials scientists are able to make detailed maps of stresses and strains as sheets of steel and other metals are punched, stretched or otherwise shaped to achieve the desired part geometry.

According to the project leader, Tim Foecke, the system can measure stress and strain behavior in different directions while the sheet is being stretched in two directions simultaneously, a condition most commonly seen in forming operations. Current methods extrapolate from strain measurements taken from tests that stretch the sheet only in one direction. As a consequence, newly designed dies must often undergo successive rounds of refinement to correct simplifications in computer models.

U.S. automakers and producers of steel, aluminum and other metals, including developmental ones, are supplying Foecke’s team with samples for testing and evaluation. The project will result in a database of materials’ properties that designers can feed into computer models for predicting whether would-be dies can form particular metals into specified shapes. Project findings might point the way to new metal-forming methods.

To learn more, visit www.nist.gov.

APQC Conducting Three Best Practice Surveys

The American Productivity and Quality Center, on behalf of the Information Work Productivity Council, is conducting a series of surveys to identify best practices and measurements for three work areas.

Upon completion of the surveys, APQC will analyze the results and develop a set of best practices. The final results will be published in a research report and distributed to IWPC members and organizations that complete one of the surveys. All research data is confidential, and participating company names will not be published.

The three studies are:

Global collaboration within product and service management teams study. APQC will identify key drivers for and challenges to successful global collaboration among geographically dispersed management teams. The study will also provide a model and measures for assessing an organization’s effectiveness in using virtual product or service management teams based on the best practices and benchmarks identified. Furthermore, it will serve to establish thought leadership on the nature of information work for global collaborators and identify enablers and inhibitors to productivity.

Customer feedback study. This study will enable rapid implementation of improvement recommendations by applying best practices and lessons learned. It will also establish thought leadership on the nature of information work for new product developers and identify enablers and inhibitors to productivity. In addition, the survey will help develop a model and measures for assessing a company’s effectiveness in using customer feedback on best practices and benchmarks identified.

Personal knowledge management study. Participants of this survey will help identify the tools and processes that individual information workers use to effectively manage work-related personal information and knowledge. The study will discuss how tools and processes affect how productively workers manage work-related personal information and knowledge, as well as define measures to gauge how information workers manage work-related personal information and knowledge.

To participate in any of the surveys, visit www.apqc.org or call (713) 685-4717.


Stranaska Calibrations Changes Name

Stranaska Calibrations LLC has changed its name to Refmacal Labs LLC. The company still provides the Stranaska series of UV/VIS absorption spectrophotometer calibration measurement standards, which are patterned after and traceable to standards of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Refmacal Labs will continue operations at the same location in Fort Collins, Colorado. To learn more, visit www.refmacal.com.

Sigma Breakthrough Technologies Appoints Executive Directors

Sigma Breakthrough Technologies has hired three new executive directors: Michael Brennan, Richard R. Scott and Ian Wedgwood. Brennan has been a senior consultant and project manager with SBTI since 2002, specializing in strategic planning, training in Six Sigma and design for Six Sigma. Scott has been with SBTI since 1999 as a senior consultant and program manager. He assumed the role of program manager for SBTI’s Master Black Belt Program in August 2003.

Wedgwood has been with the company since March 2001 as a product manager and master consultant.

The executive directors will work with clients, consultants and staff to ensure smooth operations, excellent communications and business development. For more information, visit www.sbti-hq.com.

Six Sigma in Financial Services Forum Coming to New York

Many financial services organizations have begun using Six Sigma to improve customer satisfaction, achieve high levels of process performance and identify cost savings. As a result, many of these companies’ peer organizations are looking toward them as examples. To help explain the process of Six Sigma in a financial services setting, a forum will be held Dec. 1 and 2 at the Marriott Marquis in New York.

Six Sigma Strategy in Financial Services Forum will provide insight into Six Sigma implementation; ways to quantify and reduce defects in the financial services value-chain; strategies to increase productivity; determining whether the organization is ready for Six Sigma; and other topics.

To register, visit www.srinstitute.com/cg102.

PQ Systems Launches Online Advisor Service

PQ Systems will provide immediately accessible quality expertise through an expanded online advisor service. The site offers responses to questions and articles on capability, statistical process control, measurement systems analysis, Six Sigma and design of experiments, among other topics. The quality advisor also offers forums for users with specific questions and an article library.

Visitors to the online advisory service will be able to secure assistance and advice from quality experts such as Michael J. Cleary, Gordon P. Constable, Sally J. Duncan, Jackie Graham and Matt Savage. All experts are PQ Systems consultants with a wide scope of knowledge and experience. To access the service, visit www.qualityadvisor.com.

NIST and SEMATECH Release Statistical Methods e-Handbook

The National Institute of Standards and Technology and International SEMATECH, a consortium of global semiconductor companies, have released the NIST/SEMATECH e-handbook of Statistical Methods. The handbook, available for free on CD-ROM, complements the NIST/SEMATECH Web-based guide released in July 2002. The new CD allows users to view the guide on their own computers without accessing the Web site. The new CD version includes files in printer-friendly format, complementing a comprehensive overview of statistical methods, including experiment design, data analysis and quality control. The problem-oriented approach includes cases studies from the semiconductor industry and NIST laboratories. It illustrates statistical solutions to engineering and scientific problems.

To request the free CD version of the e-Handbook of Statistical Methods, e-mail handbook@nist.gov and include a mailing address. The Web version of the publication is available at www.nist.gov/stat.handbook.

Entela Increases Vibration Capacity

Entela Inc. has announced the expansion of its vibration testing capabilities. Entela now offers additional vibration capacity as a result of its new 6,600 lbf shaker with 2 in. stroke. Entela’s shock testing capability has increased accordingly to 50G, 11 ms pulses with an estimated 200 lb payload in vertical axis. An environmental chamber is being added to the system to allow for rapid-transition thermal cycling during vibration in all three axes.

The shaker is appropriate for industries including automotive, consumer products, furniture, industrial, medical and aerospace. Entela Inc. provides full product, systems and material/component testing, failure analysis, multistandard global conformity assessment, management system registration, engineering services, accelerated testing and failure mode verification testing. Visit www.entela.com for details.