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Departments: First Word

  

Incredible Shrinking World

It’s like Pangea all over again.

by Dirk Dusharme

 

Jack be nimble--that’s the rule in business today. As technology takes exponentially larger and larger steps each year, businesses must quickly adapt to the opportunities--and pitfalls--that technology brings.

Take globalization. You may not like it, but our world is shrinking and global outsourcing is here to stay, along with the effect that it has on jobs, energy resources, the environment, and problems with substandard products and services. Although technology has allowed us to easily outsource production and service, businesses are struggling with how to manage the quality of those endeavors from halfway around the world.

The problem isn’t just one of logistics, it’s one of culture. As J.R. McGee discusses in this month’s cover story, “Creating Excellence in a Multinational Team,” developing a cohesive, high-performing, and multicultural team, either here or abroad, isn’t just a matter of including individuals from different cultures on that team. Team members must learn how teammates from other cultures communicate ideas, how they agree or disagree, and how they negotiate. For those of you who ask, “Why should I learn to understand another culture?” how about, “So your company will survive.”

Technological growth has, of course, led to issues with waste management. Led primarily by the European Union, restrictions on electronic waste management, heavy-metal usage, and greenhouse-gas emissions are quickly becoming law in many parts of the world. The United States and Canada will soon be affected as well.

In “It Ain’t Easy Being Green,” Mary McDonald discusses the problems many U.S. manufacturers are facing when deciding what shade of green they need to be. Do they choose ISO 14001, QC 080000, or neither? How do they meet the needs of clients both in the United States and the European Union? What about China? Manufacturers have to consider all or stakeholders--financial and social--when considering how best to tackle green issues.

As William Levinson points out in “Everything but the Squeal,” regardless of which route you take, going green is a way to positively affect the bottom line. Waste of any kind is money up the smokestack. Henry Ford knew this well. Ford was a master of making sure that every bit of raw material got used, not because he was a member of Greenpeace, but because he wanted to maximize profits. Green is green.

Although technology has, in some ways, increased waste streams, it has also given us ways to reduce them. In “Enter the Invincible E-Invoice,” author Thayer Stewart discusses the advantages of e-invoicing--handling all accounting transactions electronically instead of on paper. Not only are there fewer problems but it eliminates paper, saving natural resources.

That’s the macro world. What about the micro world? Incredibly, it too keeps shrinking. The idea of routinely manufacturing parts measured in tens of nanometers was crazy talk 10 years ago. Not any more. Nanotechnology is here and so is the need for the equipment to calibrate and measure it. “The Power of Paperless Calibration Management” by Villy Lindfelt, and “Don’t Think Small: Think Micro,” by Ralph Leseberg, reveal how test and measurement technologies are keeping up (just barely) with fabrication capabilities.

Agility comes with knowledge. We hope that this issue of Quality Digest will help you be more like Jack--the nimble one, not the one that fell down the hill.