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News Digest

This Month in News Digest

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Homebuilders Lauded for Quality Practices

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Testing and Measurement Mergers Heat Up

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New Food Safety Standard Created

 

 

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Symposium Explores Customer-Supplier Relationships

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Consumer Confidence Plummets

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Hexagon Wins Battle Over Leica Geosystems

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ISO Survey Surprise

 

 

Homebuilders Lauded for Quality Practices

Looking for a quality-built home? The 2006 winners of the National Housing Quality Awards might have just what you're looking for.

The NHQA are patterned after the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, and this year's winners set new benchmarks for customer service and business management. The National Association of Home Builders Research Center administers the NHQ award, and entries are judged by industry experts who evaluate the role that customer-focused quality plays in construction, business management, sales, design and warranty service.

The winners of the NHQ Gold Award are:

Ideal Homes of Norman, Oklahoma

Shea Homes of San Diego

Veridian Homes of Madison, Wisconsin

 

The winners of the NHQ Silver Award are:

C.P. Morgan of Indianapolis, Indiana

KB Homes, Las Vegas division

Pringle Development Inc. of Leesburg, Florida

 

Quality in customer service has become increasingly important in the construction business in recent years. The quality processes that homebuilders use differ depending on the size of the company, but their focus is almost always on homebuyer customer service. Energy efficiency is a big focus, too, and several of the winning companies were recognized for building energy-efficient homes. Ideal Homes, for example, is the first builder in the nation recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for achieving a "Five Star" energy-value rating for homes under $150,000.

"We are proud to recognize this industry's leaders for their exceptional efforts to incorporate quality assurance throughout their daily business practices," says Michael Luzier, president of the NAHB. "Each of these companies has displayed outstanding leadership in the homebuilding arena and a discernible dedication to quality and customer satisfaction."

Shea Homes was also recognized for its community-improvement efforts. The company sponsors a successful children's literacy campaign that encourages parents to read to their kids at least 15 minutes a day, noting the benefits for families and communities at large. The campaign includes book drives, guest appearances by renowned children's-book authors and other outreach efforts.

"This is a tremendous honor that is shared by all of our employees and trade partners, who work together to uphold the highest standards of quality and integrity," says Paul Barnes, Shea Homes San Diego president. "It is especially meaningful to our homebuyers because it gives them added assurance that they can trust Shea Homes to fulfill its unwavering commitment to them."

KB Homes, Las Vegas division was recognized, in part, for its innovative quality assurance partnership with trade contractors.

"We piloted the trade contractor quality assurance partnership in Las Vegas before it rolled out companywide," says Don DelGiorno, KB Homes, Las Vegas division president. "This prestigious award would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of everyone in our division and all of our trade partners."

For more information, visit www.nahbrc.org/quality.

 

Testing and Measurement Mergers Heat Up

Mergers and acquisitions in the testing and measurement industry grew at a record pace this year, according to a new report from Robert W. Baird & Co., a global investment banking company. For the first eight months of 2005, there were 72 testing and measurement (T&M) company merger and acquisition (M&A) transactions, representing a total value of $3.1 billion, according to the report. During the same period in 2004, there were just 45 transactions, valued at $1.2 billion.

Baird attributes the increased M&A activity to several factors:

Automated manufacturing. Testing and measurement equipment improves efficiency by reducing scrap, labor and overhead costs.

Quality control throughout the supply chain. This results in an increased number of users for T&M instruments.

Increasing environmental awareness.
More stringent regulations require the need for constant testing.

Time-to-market accelerations. Faster time-to-market creates the need to replace older and slower methods of production and testing.

Expanded T&M applications. Functional improvements are now offered at lower price points to address a wider range of end markets.

Globalization. There is increased demand for T&M instruments in fast-growing industrial markets such as Asia and India.

 

The report also notes that the high cost to enter the T&M market, global competitive pressures and the attractive financial performance of acquisition targets make M&A in the industry particularly popular. The performance of T&M companies on Baird's index was up 38.2 percent during the last 12 months, compared to just 10.6 percent for the S&P 500 taken as a whole.

Baird's report forecasts continued strong performance for the remainder of 2005 and into 2006.

For more information, visit www.rwbaird.com.

 

New Food Safety Standard Created

The International Organization for Standardization released a new stand-ard this month in response to a significant increase in the number of food-borne illnesses around the world.

ISO 22000 harmonizes regional requirements for managing food supply chains on a worldwide basis. It's designed to allow all types of organizations in the food supply chain to implement its concepts, from primary producers to retail and food service outlets. In addition, the new standard is applicable to producers of equipment, packaging material, cleaning agents and additives.

A major benefit of the new standard is that it will make it easier for organizations to implement the hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP) system for food hygiene in a harmonized way.

Food safety management systems can now be registered to ISO 22000, which answers the industry's growing demand for supplier certification, although it can also be implemented without conformity certification solely for the benefits its provides.

Developed with food sector experts, ISO 22000 incorporates the principles of HACCP and covers the requirements of key standards developed by various global food retailers. The standard also incorporates much of ISO 9001, under the assumption that the most effective food safety systems are designed, operated and continually improved within the framework of a structured management system. Although ISO 22000 can be implemented on its own, it's fully compatible with ISO 9001, and companies already registered to ISO 9001 will find it easy to extend their registrations to ISO 22000, according to ISO.

"Public-sector participation in the development of the ISO 22000 family is also significant, notably that of the FAO/WHO's Codex Alimentarius Commission, which is responsible for the well-known HACCP system for food hygiene," says ISO Secretary-General Alan Bryden.

The ISO 22000:2005 family of stand-ards will include the following:

ISO/TS 22004, which will give guidance on the implementation of the standard.

ISO/TS 22003, which will outline requirements for auditing and certification bodies.

ISO 22005, which will circulate as a draft international standard with general principles for system design and development.

For more information, visit www.iso.org.

 

Symposium Explores Customer-Supplier Relationships

The American Society for Quality's Customer-Supplier Division will host an upcoming symposium to explore best practices and emerging trends in customer-supplier relationships.

The event will be limited to 125 participants to maximize interactivity. Subject matter to be discussed includes:

Challenges and opportunities for mass customization

Involving suppliers in the product-development process

Lean supply chain implementation and optimization

Creation and maintenance of trust in customer and supplier relationships

 

The symposium will be held Feb. 1-2 at the Disney Paradise Pier Hotel in Anaheim, California. Specially priced Disneyland tickets will be available to conference participants.

For more information, visit www.asq.org/cs/conferences.

 

Consumer Confidence Plummets

The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index, which had re--bounded in August, plummeted in September, due in large part to soaring gas and energy prices, and a bleak job outlook.

The index now stands at 86.6, down from 105.5 in August. The Present Situation Index decreased to 108.9 from 123.8, and the Expectations Index fell to 71.7 from 93.3 last month.

"Hurricane Katrina, coupled with soaring gasoline prices and a less-optimistic job outlook, pushed consumer confidence to its lowest level in nearly two years and created a degree of uncertainty about the short-term future," says Lynn Franco, The Conference Board Consumer Research Center director. "Historically, shocks have had a short-term impact on consumer expectations. As rebuilding efforts take hold and job growth gains momentum, consumers' confidence should rebound and return to more positive levels by year-end or early 2006."

Consumers' overall assessment of ongoing conditions was considerably less favorable in September. Those claiming business conditions are "good" declined to 25.2 percent from 29.7 percent. Those claiming conditions are "bad" increased to 17.7 percent from 15.1 percent. The employment picture was also less upbeat. Consumers saying that jobs are "hard to get" increased to 25.4 percent from 23.1 percent, while those claiming jobs
are "plentiful" fell to 20.1 percent from 23.6 percent.

Consumers' outlook for the next six months has turned considerably pessimistic. Those anticipating business conditions to worsen increased to 19.8 percent from 10 percent, and those expecting conditions to improve declined to 15.3 percent from 18.7 percent.

The outlook for the labor market also soured. Those expecting more jobs to become available in the coming months decreased to 14 percent from 16.4 percent, and those expecting fewer jobs increased to 25 percent in September, up from 17.3 percent in August. The proportion of consumers anticipating their incomes to decrease in the coming months rose to 10.8 percent from 8.9 percent last month.

To learn more, visit www.conference-board.org.

 

Hexagon Wins Battle Over Leica Geosystems

Hexagon Metrology has emerged as the winner in the competition to acquire Leica Geosystems.

The Swedish company recently announced that it has acquired 98 percent of Leica Geo systems' outstanding shares.

Hexagon AG made its initial, unsolicited offer for the Swiss company in June, offering 440 Swiss francs for each share. Leica's board of directors rejected that bid, saying that the offer undervalued the company. Soon after, Danaher Corp., a U.S.-based manufacturer of professional instrumentation, industrial technologies, and tools and components, offered 500 Swiss francs in cash--about $386--per share. Leica's board of directors endorsed the deal on the basis of Danaher's pledge to protect Leica's independence and employees. Soon after, Hexagon upped its offer to 440 Swiss francs per share, plus five shares of Hexagon's series B stock, a total package which represents 573 Swiss francs per share.

Bill Fetter, Hexagon chief information officer, reports that Hexagon hasn't yet decided what to do with its newest acquisition. "That will be decided after it's all finalized," he says. "At this point, it's too early to tell."

Hexagon has been on an acquisition spree in recent years. The company acquired Brown & Sharpe in 2001, Quality Ltd. and CE Johansson in 2002, ROMER CimCore Inc. and Sheffield Measurement Inc. in 2004 and The L.S. Starrett Co.'s coordinate measuring machine business in July.

Hexagon is a worldwide conglomerate with businesses in metrology, engineering and polymers. Leica Geosystems is the second-largest maker of measuring equipment in the world.

Mario Fontana, Leica Geosystems Holdings AG chairman of the board, reports that Hexagon has assured the company that it will maintain Leica's current workforce and management structure. "In the course of numerous talks prior to, and after, the launch of the improved offer, both companies managed to build up mutual trust and understanding for their respective positions," says Fontana.

For more information, visit www.leica-geosystems.com or www.hexagon.se.

 

ISO Survey Surprise

The latest edition of "The ISO Survey of Certifications," published by the International Organization for Standardization, has at least one big surprise: The service sector is the largest user of ISO 9001 and ISO 14001.

The number of ISO 9001 certificates worldwide at the end of 2004 was 670,399, up 35 percent from 2003 and up 64 percent from 2000, the year before the transition to ISO 9001:2000 began, according to the survey. Registrations to ISO 14001 also saw dramatic increases. There were 90,569 registrations to the environmental standard at the end of 2004, an increase of 37 percent from the previous year. Certificates were issued in 127 countries, up from 113 in 2003. The increase in the number of ISO 14001 registrations in 2004 is the largest recorded in the 10 surveys in which the standard's use has been measured.

The biggest growth has been within serv-ice industries. Historically, both stand-ards were largely embraced as quality or environmental management system standards for manufacturing environments. The new survey shows that service industries now represent 31 percent of all certificates for each standard, making the service sector the largest holder of certificates compared to other industry sectors.

"One of the development objectives for ISO 9001:2000 was to make it easier for service providers to achieve benefits from the ISO 9000 approach," says Alan Bryden, ISO secretary general. "Therefore, it is both encouraging and highly significant that not only ISO 9001:2000 but also ISO 14001 certification is now highest in the service sectors."

For more information, visit www.iso.org.