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A world of resources awaits
the Net-savvy quality manager.


by Vanessa Franco

Ever-busy quality managers must keep an eye on many facets of their businesses, including process management, personnel training, efficiency-boosting software, tool maintenance and the standards certifications necessary to compete. One ability all efficient managers hone is maximizing every available resource, and perhaps no resource is more affordable and easily accessible today than the Internet.

 Although technophobes are finding their numbers dropping, many managers still don't utilize the Internet to its full capacity. This is understandable, because despite the existence of some excellent search engines such as Google and Yahoo!, it still takes time to ride through the links to sort the good from the outdated, the no-longer-existent and the irrelevant. With this in mind, Quality Digest has done some of the work for you to find the sites that can help quality managers do their jobs more easily, efficiently and effectively.

 

Optimizing Your Connection

Unless you've got a whole lot of free time and even more patience, the faster your Internet connection, the more satisfied you'll be with your system. InsideQuality's Web Editor Dirk Dusharme identifies the three most important factors in getting the most out of your time online:

1. Modem--If you are using a modem to connect to the Internet, get the fastest modem you can find, probably a 56K. A fast modem is crucial to rapid page loading. Also, check into DSL. This high-speed, low-cost connection is becoming more widely available.

2. Browser software--If you haven't already sworn allegiance to one, check out both Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator. Although both will get you to your favorite sites, the user interface, overall feel and performance is a little different for each. You'll likely develop a clear preference, but whichever you choose, make sure to get the most recent version.

3. Computer--As with modems, faster is better. Get a computer with the fastest processor and the most memory you can afford, but keep in mind that computer speed is nowhere near as critical as modem speed when it comes to navigating the Internet.

General quality resources

 The American Society for Quality's (ASQ) Web site, www.asq.org , offers five categories of information: "About Quality," which includes a glossary, quality forum, news archive, and links to quality-related sites; "Standards and Certification," with information on QS-9000, ISO 9000, TL 9000 and ISO 14000; "Membership"; "ASQ Products," including publications, conferences, education, and reward and recognition products; and "Research and Information Service," offering the "Quality Information Center" (consisting of a research library, referral to subject matter experts for technical assistance, customized research and document delivery services) and the "Quality InfoSearch," which allows visitors to search for articles on specific topics or browse through a number of journals.

 Another source of general quality leads is Quality Resources Online ( www.quality.org ), which provides not only a tremendous number of quality-related links, but also an online marketplace for Internet services, e-mail discussion lists, job listings, recruitment and headhunter resources, and Internet warnings and virus hoax notices.

 Finally, if Quality Digest's new "everything quality" portal, InsideQuality, doesn't have the answers to your quality questions, it can help you find out who does. The site, www.insidequality.com , has product and service showrooms spotlighting the goods of nearly 2,000 vendors; an "Ask the Experts" question-and-answer forum; a career center; daily quality news; weekly polls; online tools, including demos, downloads, tools for interactive SPC; classifieds; publications; and much more.

 

Standards

 If you're considering registration to any of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards, want updates or news about standards development, could use some guidance on making the transition from ISO 9000:1994 to ISO 9000:2000, or just need more information about the standards, the first site to visit is ISO's www.iso.ch. The site also presents ISO's catalog, FAQs, ISO contacts, products for your business, standards and world trade workshops and seminars, and explanations of World Trade Organization agreements.

 If you still have questions about the ISO standards or are looking for information about QS-9000 or the TE Supplement, a must-visit is www.iso9000commerce.com , a Web portal devoted to these standards and their related issues. The site offers full coverage of ISO 9000:2000; a "Magical Demystifying Tour of ISO 9000 and ISO 14000"; and a comprehensive Resource Center broken down into the categories of certified companies, compliant companies, consultants, registrars, books, software, seminars/workshops/conferences and discussion forums. Finally, it also provides links to associations, publications, government organizations, government quality awards and more.

 Looking for your own copy of a standard? The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Web site, www.ansi.org , sells electronic copies of many standards from the online ANSI Electronic Standards Store. The ANSI site also offers online versions of ANSI's bi-weekly publication, Standards Action, to keep you up to date as new standards are shaped; information and services about ISO 14000; links to regional and international standardization organization; and a great deal more information about standards development.

 If you'd rather have a paper copy of your standard of choice, head to Global Engineering Documents' site, www.global.ihs.com , where you'll find U.S. and international standards, specifications and publications for industry, government and military. If this site doesn't have it, it may not exist: Global Engineering Documents' holdings include more than 1 million documents from more than 460 organizations worldwide. You can also go to the site to sign up for Global's free industry-specific e-newsletters, which update subscribers on new standards development and availability in their field.

 The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is home to the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award Program (please see the more detailed description under "Awards"), but www.nist.gov  also offers a wealth of information on the organization's other programs and services, all nicely organized into sections. The Measurement and Standards Laboratories section includes information, contacts, services, products, projects and programs, and publications from NIST's electronics and electrical engineering laboratory, information technology laboratory, manufacturing engineering laboratory, and four more laboratories. The other two sections are the Advanced Technology Program and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership. The NIST site also provides useful information on weights and measures, such as conversions and tables of equivalents.

 The Registrar Accreditation Board's (RAB) Web site, www.rabnet.com , supplies ISO 9000:2000 transition tips, a list of authorized registrars and an approved transition training course list. Also available is general information about quality management systems (QMS) and environmental management systems (EMS) as well as accreditation steps, criteria and procedures, directories, and much more for QMS and EMS auditors, course providers and registrars. Finally, the site has a page of links to searchable databases of certified companies.

 The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), the standards and conformity assessment body for electrotechnology fields, sells its publications in electronic and paper form on its Web site, www.iec.ch. The site also provides information about the IEC and the importance of international standards, newsletters and news releases, a resource area to provide support tools and documents for IEC process participants, a customer service center, and a searchable publications and documents database. Additionally, it links to www.iecq.org , which provides details about the IEC's quality assessment system for approving and certifying electronic components and provides contact information for the National Authorized Institutions of 18 countries.

 Finally, if you're looking for companies that have been registered to ISO 9000 or QS-9000, you can find them on Quality Digest's free, searchable database at www.qualitydigest.com .

 

Awards

 Think your U.S. organization is ready to try for a Malcolm Baldrige Quality Award? If so, make your way to NIST's www.quality.nist.gov . The site, which you can also access through a link from NIST's main Web site, offers details about the award process and criteria, case studies and info sheets, a winners showcase, conference schedules, news, and information about the current recipients.

 If you'd like to nominate someone for one of the ASQ's various awards, first visit www.asq.org/abtquality/awards/asqawards.html . There you'll find a brief synopsis for each prize and downloadable nomination forms for the Deming, Edwards, Feigenbaum, Freund-Marquardt, E.L. Grant, Ishikawa, E. Jack Lancaster and Shewhart Medals.

 Most U.S. states also offer quality awards for various types of organizations with operations in those states. Quality Digest's Web site, www.qualitydigest.com , offers a free database of individual state quality awards, with contact information for the agencies that administer them. Canadian award information is also provided in the database.

 Canadian managers considering applying for national quality awards for their companies should head to www.nqi.ca . In addition to the award criteria, profiles of last year's winners, application process details and a downloadable entry guide for the Canada Awards for Excellence Quality Award and the Healthy Workplace Award, Canada's National Quality Institute (NQI) site has an online store and provides information on certification programs, NQI membership, news and events, and courses.

 Managers of European businesses and organizations that demonstrate their commitment to continuous improvement through their quality processes might want to apply for the European Quality Award. Information brochures, application forms, press releases on winners from the last three years, ordering information for award-winning applications, and details on how to become an award assessor are all available at www.efqm.org/award.htm .

 

Training

 The quality section of ScheduleEarth's professional development portal, www.scheduleearth.com , is an excellent place to start if anyone in your organization could use some training. It offers course and seminar listings, complete with dates and times and "register/more information" links to the companies offering them. Past seminar topics, highly relevant to many aspects of the quality profession, have included benchmarking, SPC, balanced scorecard, auditing and more. The site also hosts a quality discussion group.

 The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) has compiled a buyers guide of more than 500 companies providing training and consulting, indexed by industry, location and more than 400 subject headings. To use the guide, shop at ASTD's online store or join one of its online learning communities, direct your browser to www.astd.org .

Software

 If you're looking for free statistical software or want to try out some limited-use demos, you'll want to check out members.aol.com/johnp71/javasta2.html . The site offers links to free downloads in the categories of general statistical analysis, subset packages, curve fitting and modeling, and more, all handily labeled under the headings "completely free" and--for restricted-use demos or student packages--"free, butů." Another feature is the Lycos-powered Internetwide "find software" search engine, useful if you're unable to find the particular application you're looking for.

 Managing Automation Software Guides' www.masg.com  is designed to help you find the right software to automate your critical enterprisewide processes. The site's extensive database of enterprise-application and manufacturing-point solutions and services provides sophisticated search tools that will assist you in generating a list of potential suppliers, from which you can follow the links to vendor profiles and online brochures and catalogs. Additionally, the Software Evaluation Tool can simplify and shorten the task of defining specifications, qualifying and ranking vendors, and writing proposal requests, while the Resource Center offers a free e-mail newsletter, industry trend reports, case studies, tip sheets, calculators and white papers. The site's glossary provides pertinent definitions of terms arranged into functional categories, including SCM/ERP, Plant/Shop Floor, Engineering and E-Business.

 

Calibration

 If your plant uses even one piece of equipment that requires calibration, check out www.ecalibration.com , Blue Mountain Quality Resources Inc.'s site offering current industry and product news, a career center, a free weekly calibration e-newsletter, a discussion board and more. One of the site's most useful features is its well-organized, user-friendly directories, which provide information on calibration services, training, instrumentation, consulting, software, organizations and supplies.

 Another helpful calibration site is www.calibrationclub.com , which offers a free calibration tracking and reminder service. The service allows users to create custom profiles for all instruments requiring regular calibration.

 

The Internet and you

 Although the aim of this article is to help you easily find some of the sites that make the Internet so useful as a quality tool, this list is by no means exhaustive. One of the Internet's most exciting--and most frustrating--qualities is that it changes constantly, with two new sites emerging for every old site that folds. Your browser's "bookmark" or "favorites" feature can be one of your greatest timesaving devices for sites you return to frequently, but it's definitely worth your time to periodically peruse the Web for new sites of interest or to search it every now and again using words you haven't tried before. Don't assume that closely related words in your field will yield identical results as search terms; slight variations in wording can make all the difference with a search engine. Above all, though, don't be afraid to try anything: The Internet is an amazing resource, but as with any resource, you'll come closest to being able to utilize it to its full potential when you've taken the time to experiment and find out how best to get the results you're seeking.

 

About the author

 Vanessa R. Franco is Quality Digest's managing editor. If you have any comments about this article, please e-mail them to vfranco@qualitydigest.com .

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