Management Article

Penelope B. Prime’s picture

By: Penelope B. Prime

The United States and China have reportedly reached a so-called phase one deal in their ongoing trade war.

While few details have been disclosed, the agreement principally seems to involve the United States calling off a new round of tariffs that were slated to take effect on Dec. 15, 2019, and removing others already in place in exchange for more Chinese purchases of U.S. farm products.

Good news, right? The end of the trade war is nigh? Don’t get your hopes up.

Although business leaders in both countries will be temporarily relieved, the underlying tensions between them will not end easily.

As an economist who closely studies the U.S. relationship with China, I believe there are fundamental issues that won’t be resolved anytime soon.

Doing it in phases

Tariffs and other trade issues have received most of the attention during the trade war, but the more fundamental—and difficult—challenges are with lax intellectual property protection and China’s industrial policy.

Nathan Furr’s picture

By: Nathan Furr

Few companies and CEOs have attracted as much praise, derision, skepticism, and enthusiasm as Telsa Motors and its founder Elon Musk. Having interviewed Musk and the Tesla leadership as part of my research, one of the questions I’m asked most frequently is: How can you make sense of Tesla’s wild strategies? The latest example is the move to create a “gigafactory” for car batteries just outside Berlin.

Tesla’s many critics and observers, whose reactions range from short-selling to star worship, are part of the challenge. Many ask the wrong questions, such as why Tesla isn’t making any money—a question appropriate for a mature business but not a growth one. Although all businesses must be sustainable in the long run, Tesla is like most rapid-growth companies that eat up more cash flow than they produce while in the early growth phase.

Quality Digest’s default image

By: Quality Digest

As usual with Quality Digest’s diverse audience, this year’s top stories covered a wide range of topics applicable to quality professionals. From hardware to software, from standards to risk management, from China trade to FDA regulations. It’s always fun to see what readers gravitate to, and this year was no different.

Below are five articles that garnered a lot of interest from our readers. As you can see, the topics are quite diverse.

Improve Risk Management and Quality Across the Value Chain by Increasing Visibility
by Kelly Kuchinski

Christy Lotz’s picture

By: Christy Lotz

After being an ergonomist for almost 15 years, I can honestly say I have never been more excited about the future of this field. When I first began working at Humantech and would do wall-to-wall assessments every week, I didn’t think I would last.

The pen and paper-based methods we used were often a little too simple to uncover all the risks that our professional experience taught us were present. I also had terrible handwriting and would often come back to the office after a data collection and not understand my own notes. Now, 15 years later, cutting-edge technologies make things more efficient. I wish I was still going onsite to do data collections because the process is so much better now. Here are three ways that technology has vastly improved the field of ergonomics.

Learning

Training has evolved over time, along with access to technology, and we have a better understanding of how adults learn best. While traditional training focused on telling, research is showing, and actions are proving, that we need to shift from instructor-led to self-paced and action-oriented workshops.

Michael Millenson’s picture

By: Michael Millenson

In late November 1999, a TV producer called me about an alarming report that 44,000 to 98,000 Americans were being killed each year by preventable errors in hospitals, and another 1 million were being injured. Could that be true? Based on my research, I replied, the estimate seemed low.

The “To Err is Human” report from the Institute of Medicine has been called a “seminal moment” in the patient safety fight. The public furor sparked by the group’s assertion that medical mistakes were deadlier than breast cancer, auto accidents, or AIDS prompted new laws, as well as vows to meet the Institute of Medicine’s goal of cutting medical errors in half in five years.

Twenty years after the report’s release, how safe is our medical care?

Corey Brown’s picture

By: Corey Brown

While on-the-job training is practical for certain applications, manufacturers rely on it too heavily as a method for onboarding and training employees.

Companies looking to train a new workforce should be aware that on-the-job training can:
 • Hurt productivity
 • Increase safety risks
 • Impact quality costs

Training without standards

On the surface, the concept of on-the-job (OTJ) training makes sense: Follow an employee around and watch what he does so you know how to do the same. Unfortunately, the desired outcome rarely comes to fruition. OTJ training methods rely too heavily on mentor/mentee relationships and are by their very nature, nonstandardized.

A new recruit may experience a completely different training process depending on:
 • Availability of mentors
 • Variance in tribal knowledge
 • Accuracy of the job demonstration
 • Nonstandardized work practices across mentors

Nico Thomas’s picture

By: Nico Thomas

Earlier this year, the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), a part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, celebrated its 50th anniversary. The recognition is much deserved for an agency that has worked hard to strengthen minority-owned businesses. Through a network of centers and partners not unlike our own Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) National Network, the MBDA works with minority-owned businesses to create and retain jobs, build scale and capacity, and increase revenues. The drive to increase the competitiveness of underserved businesses by leveraging a network is something that connects the MBDA and the MEP program.

Davis Balestracci’s picture

By: Davis Balestracci

During the late 1970s, quality began to evolve from its historically Neanderthal, passive inspection approach to its current Cro-Magnon state, where its more proactive, project-based approach is bolted on to the operational status quo. Joseph Juran was a pioneer in such efforts. Various subsequent adaptations such as Six Sigma and lean evolved it further, but over time, it has become comfortably stuck in a misguided focus on tactical improvements at the expense of strategic improvements—i.e., doing things right as opposed to doing the right things right.

In 2011 Jim Liker, a professor of industrial and operations engineering at the University of Michigan, wrote the following to leadership expert Jim Clemmer (emphasis mine):

Ryan E. Day’s picture

By: Ryan E. Day

Headquartered in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Plasan North America (PNA) manufactures metal, composite, and ceramic-composite components for defense and commercial applications. PNA brings decades of process experience to bear in creating the world’s most advanced armor, metal components, and fabrications.

Challenge

PNA has a vision to become the global leader in armor solutions based on innovation and quality. This vision spurs growth that regularly challenges the company’s quality team to grow right along with production. Accelerating product development forced PNA’s quality department to reassess the capability of its current inspection equipment.

“We were facing some pretty aggressive timelines on launch activity,” explains Tony Bellitto, quality manager at Plasan North America. “We were scheduled to launch 140 new part numbers, and most of them included GD&T [geometric dimensioning and tolerancing], not just basic measurements.”

Some of the parts PNA manufactures are of considerable size and weight, which posed further challenges.

“Some of these products are up to eight feet across,” says Christine Foley, senior quality engineer at PNA. “One of the underbelly parts we produce for tactical vehicles weighs about 2,500 pounds.”

Gleb Tsipursky’s picture

By: Gleb Tsipursky

When was the last time you as a quality professional saw a major failure in implementing decisions? What about in project or process management? Such disasters can have devastating consequences for high-flying careers and successful companies. Yet they happen all too often, with little effort taken to prevent failure.

For example, many leaders stake their reputations on key projects such as successful product launches. However, research shows that most product launches fail. Nike’s FuelBand, launched with much fanfare in 2012, flopped on arrival. By 2014, Nike fired most of the team behind FuelBand, discontinuing this product.

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