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Sigma Breakthrough Technologies Inc. recently announced a major quality effort for the health care industry.

The consulting company has developed a strain of Six Sigma and lean principles that apply specifically to health care professionals, an initiative that will increase return on investment and ease implementation. The new project uses the Six Sigma methodology to streamline processes, save resources and improve patient care.

“Typically, the pressing issues facing our hospitals and health systems are [to] lower patient lengths of stay, increase patient satisfaction scores, increase survey scores, increase profit and reinvestment margins, increase patient volumes and [the] restrictive lack of resources to attain these important business goals,” says Ian Wedgwood, Ph.D. and executive champion. “Results vary process by process, but rolled up to a hospital or system level, 5–8 percent of revenue savings in 18 months to two years is not unusual.”

For more information, visit www.sbtionline.com.

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Organizers of the 2004 International Manufacturing Technology Show are calling the event a resounding success and are already planning the 2006 show.

“Everything went exactly the way it was supposed to,” says AMT representative Lucy Coburn. “It was a big success.”

A total of 86,232 people registered for the 2004 show, up slightly from 2002, when 85,071 registered. Both figures are significantly lower than 2000’s IMTS, when 114,675 registrations were tallied. The terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, along with a the slumping economy and generally smaller travel budgets are at least partially to blame for the smaller attendance figures, Coburn suspects.

Two new additions to the show this year—the Emerging Technology Center and the Junkyard Wars exhibit—were big hits, Coburn says. She’s not sure whether they will return for the 2006 show, but she says there has been interest about it.

“They were a big hit. People really seemed to like them,” she says. “They were both really interesting.”

Preparations are already underway for the 2006 IMTS, which will be held Sept. 6-13 at McCormick Place in Chicago.

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More than 100 leading providers of software for supply chain management, manufacturing execution systems, MRP/ERP, logistics and materials management will attend the 2004 APICS International Conference and Exposition in San Diego.

The conference will take place Oct. 10-13 and include product demonstrations on Oct. 11 and 12. Featured session leaders include:

  • Sudipta Bhattacharya, SAP Inc. vice president of manufacturing application solutions, will discuss the effect of supply-delivery cycle times on stock inventory.
  • Mike Dempsey, Red Prairie Corp. product strategist, will speak on the pressures of compliance and competitive positioning.
  • Les Wyatt, PeopleSoft Enterprises vice president and general manager, will demonstrate how to best line up plants and warehouses to accommodate evolving RFIF standards.
  • Rob Leonard, Workbrain Inc. area vice president, will explain how workforce management systems help manufacturers effectively allocate their resources.
  • Dennie Norman, SAS strategist, will offer solutions to help companies become more efficient and reduce inventory.

For more information, visit www.apics.org.

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FARO Technologies Inc. recently released two new and less expensive versions of one of its most popular devices.

The FARO Gage and FARO Gage-PLUS will sell for $12,500 and $19,900 respectively. Both devices provide smaller machine shops with 3-D measurement capabilities.

“Calipers, height gages, etc., have low initial costs, but it’s the hidden, in-process expense that’s costly,” says Simon Raab, FARO CEO and president. “They can’t meet the increasing demand for parts-inspection certification data.”

The devices were specifically created to be convenient for machinists, and intuitive enough for shop floor personnel to produce faster and more accurate results. They can be assembled in seconds and are ready to measure right out of the box.

“Basically, it makes a shop more productive and profitable by making their machinists’ jobs more efficient,” says Shaun Mymudes, FARO hardware product manager. “They don’t have to transcribe numbers, or perform any calculations.”

For more information, visit www.faro.com.

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A new book published by Productivity Press focuses on helping organizations understand and implement Baldrige criteria.

Get It, Set It, Move It, Prove It—60 Ways to Get Real Results in Your Organization, by Mark Graham Brown, provides results-based methods for implementing the Baldrige criteria and teaches how to avoid mistakes in the process.

The book uses simple wording and examples to explain the sometimes complicated Baldrige criteria, and is divided into 60 two-page chapters for easy reading. It works as a reference by topic and can also be used to guide organizations working to implement Six Sigma and/or lean principles.

For more information, visit www.productivitypress.com.

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The National Committee for Quality Assurance will soon release its annual report on health care quality.

This year’s report finds that while health plans participating in NCQA’s voluntary national accreditation program improved their scores substantially, the broader health care system is still plagued with wide gaps in quality. These quality gaps cost the United States tens of thousands of lives, millions of illnesses and billions of dollars, NCQA reports.

The release will include a listing of the nation’s top 10 health plans in clinical care and member satisfaction, and the top five plans for clinical care in each region. The report will be released in a ceremony on Sept. 23 in Washington, D.C.

For more information, visit www.ncqa.org.

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The American Society of Safety Engineers recently announced the availability of a new standard that provides guidelines for protecting workers from potentially dangerous equipment and energy.

“Control of Hazardous Energy—Lockout/Tagout and Alternative Methods,” produced by the Z244 Accredited Standards Committee, provides safety requirements for preventing the unexpected release of hazardous energy from machines, equipment or processes. Lockout/tagout procedures such as the new standard are required by law, and ensure that machines or equipment under maintenance, construction or inspection are properly locked and tagged out from use to prevent accidents.

“The revised standard is significantly different than the 1982 version, providing new sections on design requirements and alternative methods of controlling hazardous energy, which existing federal and industry standards do not specifically address,” says Ed Grund, chairman of the Z244 Accredited Standards Committee.

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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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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.