Content By Quality Digest

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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

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By: Quality Digest

It took upward of two years, but System Improvements Inc. announced recently that it has developed its TapRooT software into an advanced management system.

The new software is written with an SQL database that allows it to be set up for a single user working on a local hard drive, as a group database with 8-10 simultaneous users or as an enterprise database allowing for unlimited simultaneous users across a wide area network. It also provides users with a single program to report incidents, analyze root causes, develop corrective actions, write and approve reports, track fixes, validate the effectiveness of fixes and trend performance—all in a secure, password-protected environment.

New to TapRooT’s investigative management system is the ability to control investigation information, reports and specific software techniques. Its multi-user versions include built-in security and multi-level password protection, advanced search and sort features for incidents and audits and integrated e-mail support.

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By: Quality Digest

Cognex Corp. will host a series of free seminars designed to show how its vision sensors perform automated inspection tasks in the automotive, medical, pharmaceutical, food and beverage, and electronics industries, officials announced recently.

The seminars, Understanding and Applying Machine Vision Sensors, will last a half-day and include demonstrations of the new industrial-grade In-Sight 5000 series vision sensors and ID readers. The tutorial covers how vision sensors work in manufacturing applications to accurately gage, guide, identify and inspect products to reduce scrap costs, inventory problems and achieve a superior product quality.

Participants will receive free In-Sight Explorer trial software, providing hands-on experience in developing vision applications. The CD also includes application examples, preliminary design considerations, a multi-media tutorial on building vision applications, lighting and optics videos, and a utility package to help determine the field of view and resolution requirements of vision applications.

The seminars begin in August and run through December, and will tour major cities in the U.S., Mexico, Canada and Puerto Rico.

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By: Quality Digest

The Society of Manufacturing Engineers recently announced five keynote speakers for its upcoming fuel cell conference.

The conference, which will focus on emerging fuel cell technology and its impact on manufacturing, will feature the following speakers:

  • Ulf Bossel, PhD, director of the European Fuel Cell Forum
  • Spencer Abraham and David Garman of the federal Department of Energy
  • Hiroyuki Watanabe, chief quality control officer of Toyota Motor Corp.
  • General Paul J. Kern, U.S. Army Material Command
  • Steven Taub, director of Cambridge Energy Research Associates’ Emerging Generation Technologies

The conference is designed to help manufacturers become future suppliers to the growing advanced energy technologies industry, and to teach them to implement lean energy principles and reduces costs. In addition to the speakers, the SME conference will feature more than 50 other presentations with topics including: reducing the cost of advanced energy technology, high tolerance materials, scalability of components, designing fuel cells for manufacturability, supplier requirements and lean energy management.

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By: Quality Digest

The American Society for Quality awarded John E. (Jack) West with its Freund-Marquardt Medal for his longtime service to the quality profession and to the organization.

West is a consultant with Silver Fox Advisors in The Heartland, Texas. He mentors senior managers to help them achieve their business goals.

West holds a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics from Emory and Henry College. He’s an ASQ-certified quality engineer and a well-known author and speaker on topics related to quality, quality management and ISO 9000. He is the co-author of ISO 9001:2000 Explained and the co-editor of the ISO 9000:2000 Handbook and ISO 9001:2000, An Audio Workshop and Master Slide Presentation. West is also a columnist for Quality Digest magazine.

For more information, visit www.asq.org.

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By: APQC

In an effort to revolutionize the way worldwide organizations measure and improve organizational performance, the American Productivity & Quality Center recently announced a new alliance with industry leaders.

The Open Standards Benchmarking Collaborative seeks to establish, lead and promote an open, universal process framework with related performance measures and benchmark data, all created by industry and for industry. The initiative also includes the formation of an advisory council to ensure the relevancy of the group’s work. Advisory council members include representatives from the following companies: Alvarez & Marsal, Boehringer Ingelheim, Booz Allen Hamilton, CEMEX, Fuji Xerox, Gartner Consulting, IBM, PeopleSoft, Procter & Gamble, Raytheon, Shell Oil Co., the University of Texas, the U.S. Navy and the World Bank.