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News Digest

This Month in News Digest


Creative Thinking Helps Boeing Improve


New Standard Aims to Control Measurement Processes


Document Management Firm Implements Six Sigma


Interoperability Could Save the Auto Industry Millions


Biotech Firms Can Have Too Few or Too Many Quality Personnel


Countdown to ISO 9001:2000 Transition


Industry News

Creative Thinking Helps Boeing Improve

In the spring of 2001, Larry Larson and his colleague Bob Harms, who help build Boeing 757 airplanes in a factory near Seattle, found inspiration for a new technology in a barnyard.

The two men were a part of the Boeing Co.’s Moonshine Shop factory team, which was charged with discovering new ways to decrease the costs and time required to build jetliners. The Moonshine Shop gets its name from a Japanese lean manufacturing philosophy that describes innovators developing new methods late at night.

That spring, the two colleagues set off on a mission: to find a simpler way to lift passenger seats from the factory floor to the airplane door.

“We stopped at a carnival and watched the way Ferris wheel seats move upward,” says Larson. “We looked at ski lifts and considered roofing material loaders. We went to see how sugar beets are loaded, and then we started looking at farm equipment.”

Larson, who lives in rural Washington, had seen hay elevators operating on neighboring farms--lifting individual hay bales up into barn lofts. He knew the elevators had potential for other uses and began visiting farm equipment dealers and scrap yards to determine what was available.

The quest for one that could be modified to lift airplane parts eventually led to Jack Wheatley, a rancher at the Level Best Ranch. “Once Wheatley got our specifications, he made a custom elevator in three days,” recalls Larson.

To meet safety re-quirements, Harms added guards, top and bottom fixtures, and tracks. The seats, which had wheels attached, could be rolled onto the elevator and up to the airplane.

Before the team’s efficiency efforts, the process for loading passenger seats onto each airplane was cumbersome. After seats arrived at Boeing, wheels were attached to each seat and then delivered to the factory floor in a large container. An overhead crane lifted the container from the factory floor to a mezzanine. Seats were unloaded and rolled through the airplane door, where the wheels were removed before installation. The crane then delivered the empty container to the factory floor, lifted the next container onto the mezzanine. The entire process took 12 hours.

Using the hay loader construct, seats roll across the floor to a holding area near the airplane. When it’s time for installation, the seats are rolled to the seat loader, which carries them up to the airplane door. The process takes about two hours and eliminates the need for cranes, a common factory bottleneck.

Once the 757 seat loader was in operation, word reached the Boeing 737 assembly line in the next building. Soon, members of the 737 Moonshine Shop team came to watch it operate. The team members suggested some improvements to the design, and it wasn’t long before they were using one too.

Soon, Moonshine Shop teams for the Boeing 767 and 777 were working with Wheatley to build seat loaders based on the previous prototypes. Two years later, the airplane production lines are still using the modified farm machines. However, continuous improvement is the goal of the Moonshine Shop teams. Today, Harms is at work on a new seat loader that will cut production time by eliminating the need for wheels to be attached and removed from the seats before they’re loaded.

“The philosophy of lean manufacturing is lifelong improvement,” says Larson. “The need for innovation never ends.”

New Standard Aims to Control Measurement Processes

All the quality processes in the world won’t help a company whose measuring equipment and measurement processes are out of control. Especially in manufacturing, maintaining accuracy in measurement equipment is essential to ensuring a quality end product. The ISO 9001:2000 standard calls for organizations to have some form of measurement process control in place. To help fulfill that requirement, the International Organization for Standardization has released ISO 10012:2003.

The standard specifies the requirements for a measurement management system that can be used by an organization performing measurements as part of the overall quality management system, and for ensuring that metrological requirements are met.

ISO 10012:2003 is useful for organizations struggling to meet the requirements for measurement and measurement process control in ISO 9001:2000 and ISO 14001:1996, although its use is not a requirement of either. It can also be implemented independently of these standards.

“ISO 10012 is intended to support meeting ISO 9001:2000 requirements for ensuring that a product conforms to specifications by measuring the product’s physical characteristics, such as length, width, thickness or other properties,” says Dan Harper of the ISO working group that developed the new standard.

The standard is intended for situations in which customers and their suppliers need to specify product characteristics as a technical reference guide or a tool in assessing and auditing management systems. Its use in third-party certification is not a requirement but a matter of agreement between the interested parties.

The new standard replaces ISO 10012-1:1992 and ISO 10012-2:1997. By merging the scopes of application of these earlier standards--equipment and processes--in a unique document and integrating the process-based approach of the ISO 9000:2000 series, ISO 10012 constitutes a comprehensive measurement management system.

ISO 10012:2003, Measurement management systems--Requirements for measurement processes and measuring equipment includes requirement clauses followed by text boxes containing relevant guidance. It was developed by ISO technical committee 176 and is available from ISO national member institutes. For more information, visit www.iso.org.

Document Management Firm Implements Six Sigma

IKON Office Solutions, the largest independent distributor of document management products and services in the United States, has plans to develop and implement a Six Sigma initiative to drive increased customer satisfaction and process improvement. IKON executive Andrew Twadelle will lead the program as vice president of Six Sigma.

“IKON is focused on the needs of today’s businesses, and we are working to align our internal structure and our processes to best meet our customers’ needs and grow shareholder value,” says Matthew J. Espe, CEO of IKON. “Six Sigma is an extremely powerful methodology that has proven to increase customer satisfaction and overall productivity in many of today’s leading businesses. Six Sigma can be equally effective for IKON.”

Twadelle has experience in corporate governance, reengineering and customer-focused process improvement. In his most recent role as vice president of internal audit at IKON, he applied corporate governance practices throughout IKON while also driving key business initiatives and process changes for the company. Prior to joining IKON, Twadelle was director of enterprise risk services at Deloitte & Touche LLP, where he worked with Fortune 500 clients to identify and manage risk related to strategic, tactical, process and system areas.

IKON veteran Neil Daniels will take over Twadelle’s previous position as vice president of internal audit. Daniels will lead IKON’s efforts to support efficient operations, accurate financial reporting and compliance with regulations.

IKON Office Solutions is a leading provider of products and services that help businesses manage document workflow and increase efficiency. Learn more at www.ikon.com.

Interoperability Could Save the Auto Industry Millions

One of the most common reasons for slow manufacturing processes is miscommunication. However, with the aid of Internet technology, this problem is being addressed by many industries looking to speed production. In particular, the automotive industry is the subject of an interoperability project that could save millions of dollars per year.

The Automotive Industry Action Group is exploring the interoperability of automated inventory visibility systems that would allow companies to seamlessly communicate demand throughout the supply chain, resulting in an estimated net savings of $225 million, according to the Inventory Visibility and Interoperability project team at AIAG.

The IV&I project, sponsored by AIAG, the Original Equipment Supplier Association, and Odette, an industry association of European automotive manufacturers and suppliers, will eliminate the need for companies to maintain costly multiple software applications to support making inventory replenishment decisions.

“Our focus is to provide value for the automotive supply chain,” says Linda Plawecki, AIAG’s executive director. “Our members see the clear need for open standards and are willing to provide the resources to accomplish it, so we’ve put this project on the fast track.”

Many tier 1 and tier 2 automotive suppliers are in the process of implementing Web-based inventory visibility tools. In addition, some OEMs have developed their own fulfillment tools. Suppliers are often required to subscribe to and support multiple tools, increasing their operations cost and complexity.

“In today’s uncertain economic environment, companies may be trying to trim budgets here and there while wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on processes,” says Darrell Schwartz of Metaldyne, an AIAG member company. “By tackling the complex issue of inventory visibility and interoperability, AIAG is addressing a key process issue that will yield cost savings throughout the supply chain.”

Upon completion of the IV&I project, customers and suppliers will be able to view and share identical business information regardless of the software packages used by either company. Data will be shared in a secure environment using a standard automotive electronic format that can be accessed using a browser or integrated into a company’s applications. AIAG has also entered into a strategic alliance with the National Institute of Standards and Technology for this project. The NIST interoperability test bed will be used for the proof-of-concept phase of this project later this year.

For more information, visit www.aiag.org.

Biotech Firms Can Have Too Few or Too Many Quality Personnel

Amid increased regulation and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s scrutiny over manufacturing and quality control processes, global pharmaceutical and biotech leaders must find an even balance between devoting too many or too few resources to quality management. A recent study by pharmaceutical research firm Best Practices LLC, claims that top performing pharmaceutical companies have found that balance by hiring the right number of top-performing personnel.

The study has identified some of the latest benchmark trends in quality organizations, staffing and execution. The findings highlight how leading pharmaceutical and biotech companies utilize appropriate quality staffing and effective structures to optimize productivity, reduce costly rework, increase operational improvements and boost bottom-line savings. For example, extensive research uncovered these quality staffing findings:

The average number of quality personnel per plant ranges from 33 to 131, a fourfold difference that significantly affects costs.

Benchmark companies cross-train other employees to increase the number of qualified employees and reduce dependence on quality personnel.

“We’ve found that organizations can have too few or too many quality personnel,” says Keith Symmers, vice president of Best Practices LLC. “Additionally, it’s been demonstrated that you cannot hire your way out of poor quality. The right staffing levels accompanied with robust quality training for the whole company and supporting systems are essential in avoiding the pain of poorly executing on the quality front.”

The leading practices, lessons learned and benchmark metrics in this consulting analysis were drawn from interviews and benchmarking surveys with quality executives at nine leading pharmaceutical organizations. The study describes the organizations’ tactics, including tips for managing quality control personnel, sample rooms, team-based work stations and lab supervisors.

For more information, go to www.best-in-class.com/q/q27.htm.


Note: These numbers are artificially low, perhaps due to outdated registrar data. This month’s Quality Digest ISO 9001:2000 Transition Survey shows that 53 percent of registered companies have transitioned to ISO 9001:2000. For more information, see “ISO 9001:2000 Transition Survey.”



DNV Approved as Certifier of Greenhouse Gas Emissions

DNV Certification Inc. has been approved by the California Energy Commission and California Climate Action Registry to provide independent certification of greenhouse-gas emissions on behalf of CCAR participants.

The CCAR has certified DNV to measure GHG emissions, establish baseline emissions and report annual emission results. DNV is the second company to become a participant registrar. For more information about DNV Certification, visit www.dnvcert.com/cc.

Instantis Brings Six Sigma to the Hospital

The Yale New Haven Health System has selected Instantis to automate its Six Sigma project management and knowledge sharing across the organization.

Instantis’ Six Sigma project lifecycle management system will augment a Six Sigma improvement methodology introduced to YNHHS in 2001. The program, targeted at delivering safer, higher quality care and service to patients and other customers while managing resources more efficiently, will use Instantis’ application to improve Six Sigma idea selection, project management and tracking, communication of results, knowledge sharing and best practices. Learn more at www.instantis.com.

FARO Releases CMM Combo Package

FARO Technologies Inc. has released two of its portable coordinate measuring machines in a single package, uniting the company’s platinum FaroArm control station, a long-reach probe featuring six degrees of freedom, with the FARO Laser Tracker Si, with a range of 230 ft. Both systems share the same CAM2 Measure software.

The FARO Combo sells for $20,000 less than the cost of purchasing the technology separately. “Combining these two technologies creates an immediate ROI,” says FARO hardware product manager Shaun Mymudes. “For the first time, manufacturers have the ability to measure anything of any size, anywhere, simultaneously, with no line-of-sight limitations, and all on the same software interface.” Details are available at www.faro.com.

Software Certifications Launches Software Project Manager Program

Software Certifications has initiated a new program to crack down on communication and control failures within large systems-development projects, the primary responsibilities of software project managers.

The certified software project manager program is available to qualified individuals under a skills and experience provision. Examinations will commence Jan. 1, 2005. The program will be sponsored by the Quality Assurance Institute certification board and administered by the QAI professional certification division. For more information, visit www.softwarecertifications.com.

Harte-Hanks Certified Under Postal Service Quality Program

Two direct mail processing facilities of Harte-Hanks Inc. have been certified by the United States Postal Service for compliance with its Mail Preparation Total Quality Management program. The facilities are the first of their kind to earn the MPTQM quality distinction.

The MPTQM process is a systematic prevention-based approach for managing the quality of the mail preparation process. Formulated by the USPS and an advisory group of mailers and mail service companies beginning in 1995, MPTQM certification is based on performance criteria related to ISO 9000, total quality management and the Baldrige National Quality Program. For more information, visit www.harte-hanks.com.

Troemner Now Offering Temperature Calibration Services

Troemner Inc., a provider of weight, mass and standards calibration services, now offers temperature calibration services for resistance-type measuring devices. Troemner can tailor a temperature calibration to suit SPRTs, RTDs and thermistors, from 196° to 700° C. Primary fixed-point calibrations are available for calibrating in-house temperature standards and high-precision devices. Secondary comparison calibrations for less precise temperature devices are also available.

The temperature laboratory is ISO/IEC 17025-compliant with primary standards directly traceable to NIST. Troemner is currently applying for NVLAP accreditation. For more information, visit www.troemner.com.

Metrologic’s Corporate Office Registers to ISO 9001:2000

The corporate headquarters and primary production facility of Metrologic Instruments Inc. have been registered to ISO 9001:2000. The registration is part of a list of goals that included the launch of several new point-of-sale and industrial products intended to increase Metrologic’s market share and sales.

Metrologic Instruments manufactures imaging systems using laser, holographic and vision-based technologies, high-speed automated data capture solutions and bar code scanners. Learn more at www.metrologic.com.