Content By Quality Digest

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By: Derrell S. James

Six Sigma. Lean. What do these initiatives have to do with the supply chain? The short answer is everything. The origins of these approaches are based, in Six Sigma’s case, on continuous improvements in quality and variation control, and in lean’s case, on production velocity and eliminating waste. Both Six Sigma and lean can help improve supply chain efficiency, and companies today are quick to take advantage of one or the other approach throughout their organizations. However, few companies realize that while each approach can be mutually exclusive, an interesting thing happens when the two are combined.

Which brings us to our first question.

Have we forgotten what customers want?

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By: Quality Digest

ReliaSoft’s “Master the Subject, Master the Tools” seminar will be held Aug. 9-13 in San Diego.

The seminar will feature intensive training courses ranging from the basic tenets of reliability engineering to advanced subjects in the field. This includes comprehensive examinations of Weibull analysis and introductions to accelerated life testing, and system reliability, availability and maintainability analysis.

Participants will learn how to reduce warranty costs and decrease defect rates, reduce life cycle costs, improve product design, shorten test times, quickly identify trends, assess supplier quality and design changes, facilitate process improvement and optimize maintenance, and reduce maintenance costs. Facilitators will also introduce ReliaSoft’s Weibull++, ALTA, and BlockSim software solutions.

The August conference will be held at the Holiday Inn on the Bay in San Diego. In addition to this event, ReliaSoft is also planning an FMEA/FMECA and an advanced system analysis course for September in Tucson, Arizona.

For more information, visit www.reliasoft.com.

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By: Quality Digest

Consumers who want to give their health care providers a “check up” can easily do so with a new resource accessible in minutes.

Quality Check, a Web-based database of thousands of health care providers, lists their accreditation status, latest performance report and accreditation history, including a summary of how each facility measures up to its competitors. All of the facilities listed on the Web site have been pre-screened by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, which created the service.

Quality Check provides the public with useful information to compare hospitals, nursing homes, home care agencies, behavioral health facilities, laboratories, assisted living communities and ambulatory care clinics based on four levels of care: heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia and pregnancy-related conditions. Furthermore, users can easily see whether health care organizations meet national requirements for preventing medical accidents.

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By: Quality Digest

Alvarez & Marsal and the American Productivity and Quality Center recently announced the formation of a collaborative performance improvement effort.

The Business Consulting Group of Alvarez & Marsal and APQC will offer benchmarking advisory services to companies that participate in PowerMARQ, APQC’s comprehensive database of standardized processes used by clients to identify common measures, assess performance against competitors, and improve performance and efficiency. The benchmarking advisory sessions, jointly led by A&M’s senior team of business consultants and APQC’s measurement experts, identify improvement opportunities based on the PowerMARQ performance report and develop steps to close performance gaps.

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By: Quality Digest

A new partnership between MetricStream and Documentum will integrate two of the companies’ most popular software sets.

The integration will help clients maintain compliance with the content-centric requirements in quality initiatives like ISO 9000 and FDA regulations by combining Documentum’s Enterprise Content Management platform with Quality Stream, MetricStream’s cost-effective compliance solution.

“Documentum is pleased to work with MetricStream in delivering our platform to help global customers achieve compliance with government and industry regulations,” says Rob Tarkoff, executive vice president and chief strategy officer for Documentum. “Partners such as MetricStream are a key part of our go-to-market strategy, helping Documentum extend its reach across all markets and industries.”

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By: Quality Digest

Economists and analysts speculate that a recent rash of recalled high technology products might be due to the poor economy.

In January, Kyocera Wireless recalled 140,000 of its cell phone batteries, citing concerns that they could overheat. In September, 6,000 Segway Human Transporters were recalled because of a flaw that could cause riders to fall. Because high-tech products are very complicated, occasional flaws are unavoidable. However, the recent rash of high-profile recalls might be due to the poor economy. Analyst Rob Enderle told USA Today that as companies conduct fierce price wars, they are often forced to cut quality corners, resulting in poor quality products reaching consumers.

Other recent tech recalls include:

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By: Quality Digest

GE recently announced the development of the world’s best performing diode built from a carbon nanotube, a device the company claims is the smallest functioning tool ever made.

The GE Nanotechnology Advanced Technology program reports that the new device could be used to build the next generation of advanced sensors, which will have unsurpassed levels of sensitivity. For example, they could be used to detect potential terrorist threats from chemical and biological hazards, even if they are present in extremely small quantities.

“Just as silicon transistors replaced old vacuum tube technology and enabled the electronic age, carbon nanotube devices could open a new era of electronics,” says Margaret Blohm, GE’s advanced technology leader for nanotechnology. “We are excited about this breakthrough and we’re eager to start developing new applications for the GE businesses.”

The breakthrough comes very close to the theoretical limits of performance. Measured through the ideal diode equation developed by Nobel Laureate William Shockley, the new diode has an ideality factor very close to one, which is the best possible performance for a diode.

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By: Quality Digest

Preliminary findings from a landmark study on the impact of workstations on employee productivity show clear associations between performance and environmental conditions.

The study was conducted by Alan Hedge, a renowned Cornell University professor and ergonomics expert. He placed miniature personal environmental-sensing stations located next to workstations at the Florida headquarters of the Insurance Office of America. The monitors logged temperature, humidity and ambient light conditions for one month, comparing those with employee’s keystrokes, application usage, mouse movements, Internet activity, elapsed task times and the like. Using Magnitude’s ErgoEnterprise software suite, Hedge was able to track employee task times down to the second.

Hedge reported the following at the 2004 Eastern Ergonomics conference in New York City:

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By: Denise Robitaille

We all love exceptions. They afford us unfettered permission to break the rules. They are the vehicles we use to get around “things”—whatever those things happen to be.

For those of us who attended elementary school in the sixties, the tradition of exceptions reaches deep down to our grammatical roots. Your earliest recollection is probably wrapped around some bizarre bit of nostalgia associated with the recitation of a grammar rule like: “I before E, except after C, and except when pronounced like A.” And that’s the point of this article: even exceptions have rules.

Exceptions are an acknowledgement that not everything fits neatly into the less-than-tidy constructs that we use to define and navigate through our world. They are concessions that things aren’t perfect, but we still have to deal with them.

Failure to have plans (rules) to deal with exceptions pertaining to quality management processes and requirements is an avoidable cause of some of the nonconformances that arise during audits. Too often an auditee will attempt to rationalize away the non-fulfillment of a requirement by saying: “But that’s an exception. We only do that for one customer,” or, “We are just doing it that way until we use up the old inventory.”

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By: Craig Cochran

Lean means doing the most with what you have. It’s efficiency and intelligence. In the modern economy, lean is a fact of life. Management systems must absolutely be lean, or they will be abandoned as impractical dinosaurs. In the October 2003 issue of Quality Digest, we began exploring some of the fundamentals of a lean management system in “Don’t Think Small—Think Lean.” The article addressed lean processes for strategic planning, measurable objectives, business review, documentation and document control. Let’s continue our analysis of lean with some fundamental processes for driving the organization’s success: planning and forecasting, methods for capturing sales and lean techniques for gathering customer feedback.

Planning and forecasting