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By: Quality Digest

A recent study shows that U.S. workers believe the economy is on the road to recovery.

In the survey, 59 percent of respondents reported being optimistic about the economy and the potential for job growth in the coming year. When asked about their own career prospects, 57 percent indicated they are more hopeful now than one year ago, while just 11 percent reported being less optimistic.

“More and more workers see the glass as half full and are optimistic the economy will continue to recover during the year ahead,” says Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps, which developed the survey. “They also appear to be more confident about their own career prospects than in years past.”

However, there were distinct demographic differences among respondents. Among them were:

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By: Quality Digest

The maintenance problem
Too many times, in lean manufacturing and other lean environments, 10- to 40-year-old equipment is re-deployed, moved and organized into lean cells without adequate concern or attention to maintenance reliability. In a lean cell, unscheduled equipment downtime usually costs 10 to 20 times what the same equipment downtime costs in old traditional batch processing or functional departments. For example, before “lean” we quoted CNC machine tool downtime at $250–$750 per hour for a single 3- to 5-axis CNC machine or robot. Today, automakers with well-configured lean manufacturing plants quote machine tool or robot downtime costs at $2,500 to $5,000 per hour. That is, until a painting robot misses doing its 7th or 8th car. Then the factory is backed up and downtime cost jumps to $3,350 per minute ($201,000 per hour).

As a maintenance engineer for John Deere Co. in the 1970s, I was highly motivated by downtime figures of $250–$750 per hour. By avoiding 4-6 hours of downtime, I had saved the company my month’s salary. I was motivated to find ways to avoid, reduce or eliminate downtime, wherever I could. How much more motivating is lean maintenance reliability today?

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By: Quality Digest

Six Sigma is becoming an increasingly essential practice in marketing and sales because of the revenue growth and savings that organizations experience when they apply the methodology to those functions.

It was with this thought in mind that the International Quality & Productivity Center developed a series of marketing and sales events. This year, IQPC will hold the 3rd Annual Applying Six Sigma to Sales and Marketing event on Sept. 21-22 in Chicago.

The event will include case studies from Johnson & Johnson and Xerox, in-depth examples of price assessment and sales strategies, panel discussions and network opportunities.

Attendees will also be able to learn, through interactive workshops, how to improve revenue, adopt metrics to measure customer satisfaction and evaluate price variation.

For more information, visit www.iqpc.com.

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By: Quality Digest

Michigan businesses will discover the key to success at the Henry Ford Community College event “Surviving to Thriving,” on Sept. 16.

Specialists from local agencies will be there to exchange ideas and offer resources that can vault local business to the next level of success. The event will focus on process improvement efforts to positively affect the companies’ bottom lines. Highlighted topics include ISO 9001:2000, ISO/TS 16949 implementations and transition programs, activity-based quoting, lean strategic business solutions, lean process design, Six Sigma and performance benchmarking.

Representatives that will participate in the event include:

  • Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center
  • Southeast Michigan Community Alliance
  • City of Detroit Workforce Development Department
  • Michigan HRDI
  • Small Business & Technology Development Center
  • Michigan Economic Development Corp.

The event is free and will last from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. To register, or for more information, visit www.mmtc.org.

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By: Quality Digest

Research and Markets recently announced the addition of a comprehensive and easy-to-use set of documents, The Six Sigma Toolbox, aimed at improving the use and adaptation of quality systems.

The set covers principles that can be applied to all types of businesses and provides specific plans for aligning the Six Sigma process with individual needs and goals. Some sections, for example, give suggestions on how to balance potential costs and benefits, clarify objectives and define time frames. The toolbox also focuses on implementation through a detailed and flexible roadmap tied to a company’s key customers, performance, improvement opportunities and future practices.

Six Sigma Toolbox documents include:

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By: Quality Digest

WCBF recently launched the Six Sigma Leading Minds Club, an exclusive Six Sigma and process improvement community intended to facilitate the exchange of information on best practices, new ideas and even corporate management failures.

Membership is based on individual achievement through a strict selection process. The club will promote networking via gala functions, round table discussions and breakfast meetings that will ensure members interact directly within a group of individuals who have similar responsibilities.

Selected members will receive at least four complimentary invitations per year. The next invitation-only events will take place on Oct. 19 at the Four Seasons in Las Vegas, and on Jan. 25 at The Ritz-Carlton in New Orleans.

For more information, click www.wcbf.com/quality/leadingminds.pdf

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By: Barbara A. Cleary

Donald Trump’s dramatic, “You’re fired!” on the reality show “The Apprentice” is just entertainment to most people. To teams of summer interns at PQ Systems Inc. in Dayton, Ohio, however, it meant a challenge for the ensuing work week.

The young interns, faced with the tedious task of contacting the company’s customers to verify contact information, saw a long summer ahead of them when they began in May. Cleaning up databases is a notoriously neglected job. And with the repetitive script, the mountain of names, and the difficulty of making a dent in the task, it’s neglected for good reasons.

That all changed when Larry Knight, a sales representative who had been a PQ Systems intern prior to his graduation from Wright State University a year ago, helped the six interns to develop a team approach to the task. Ultimately, they adopted the model of Trump’s popular television series.

Every two weeks, teams would gather in the company’s conference room and present the results of their activities with respect to numbers: contacts made, fax numbers gathered, e-mail addresses verified, database changes made, etc. An additional category—sales generated—was added after the interns discovered that some customers wanted to talk about the company’s products.

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By: Quality Digest

The American National Standards Institute recently awarded 2004 Leadership and Service Awards to six executives.

The winners were recognized for their significant contributions to national and international standardization activities and commitment to the standards community. The winners are:

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School administrators looking for ways to meet tough federal requirements have found a new ally in a rather unlikely place—the quality profession.

The need for continual improvement is familiar to quality professionals, but it’s relatively new to the education community. The No Child Left Behind Act, signed into law in early 2002, includes requirements for school districts to have improvement plans and processes. That’s where the American Society for Quality comes in.

ASQ’s Koalaty Kid division recently started consulting with school districts looking to both meet federal requirements and improve the quality of their administrative processes. The results have been dramatic.

“The training approach really gives (administrators) the ability to focus on the root causes of problems and the ways to fix them in the short term and the long term,” ASQ education market manager Suzanne Keely says.

The training uses W. Edwards Deming’s plan-do-study-act (PDSA) cycle to show administrators how to get to the root causes of problems. It’s often foreign to them until they see the benefits the methodology brings.

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By: Quality Digest

Improved product design would make manufacturing products less expensive than outsourcing to countries like China, according to a recent benchmarking study.

The authors suggest that U.S. companies should do a better job of integrating cost analysis into product design. With rigorous cost analysis as a foundation for product design, domestic manufacturers would be able to develop innovative products that are more economical in the United States.

The study, co-authored by Nicholas P. Dewhurst and David G. Meeker, says it can be more advantageous for U.S. manufacturers to lower costs by redesigning products rather than by outsourcing production. The study shows this practice saves money and jobs in many instances.

To support this idea, Dewhurst and Meeker identify two principles of best design practices: