Taran March @ Quality Digest’s picture

By: Taran March @ Quality Digest

In the intro to this series we noted that, too often, quality tools and the data we glean from them are used only to solve immediate, mostly shop-floor problems. These gold nuggets of opportunity aren’t used in an equally valuable way to address a company’s strategic goals.

Here we’ll consider how to master quality at the shop-floor, tactical level. More than just byproducts of the production process, quality data are the vital signs that determine if individual processes—and by extension, the entire production system—are healthy. That information can in turn help drive business strategy.

It starts on the shop floor

For most companies, learning to use data to their best advantage entails drifting between visionary potential and problematic reality—the strategic vs. tactical tension. As part of this inevitable tug-of-war, data are rounded up, variability is tamped down, and quality anxiously measured.

Ryan E. Day’s picture

By: Ryan E. Day

Those of you involved in matters of business strategy know: Strategy matters. Your strategies guide you to reach your objectives. Behind every successful business are purposeful strategies. Then again, as Alvin Toffler said, “The absence of strategy is fine if you don’t care where you’re going.”

We’re talking specifically about data-driven strategies like using “improving operational efficiency” to support a goal of increasing your profit margin. Or “improving product standardization” to increase international market share. The question is, how do you support your data-driven strategies? Where do your data come from?

Many leaders don’t realize they are probably sitting on a gold mine of data just waiting to be transformed into actionable information to support their strategies. I’m talking about the quality control data that are collected every day on the shop floor.

Julio D'Arcy’s picture

By: Julio D'Arcy

In my synthetic chemistry lab, we have worked out how to convert the red pigment in common bricks into a plastic that conducts electricity, and this process enabled us to turn bricks into electricity storage devices. These brick supercapacitors could be connected to solar panels to store rechargeable energy. Supercapacitors store electric charge, in contrast to batteries, which store chemical energy.

Brick’s porous structure is ideal for storing energy because pores give bricks more surface area than solid materials have, and the greater the surface area, the more electricity a supercapacitor material can hold. Bricks are red because the clay they’re made from contains iron oxide, better known as rust, which is also important in our process.

We fill the pores in bricks with an acid vapor that dissolves the iron oxide and converts it to a reactive form of iron that makes our chemical syntheses possible. We then flow a different gas through the cavities to fill them with a sulfur-based material that reacts with iron. This chemical reaction leaves the pores coated with an electrically conductive plastic, PEDOT.

Sébastien Breteau’s picture

By: Sébastien Breteau

In recent months, the widespread lockdowns of Covid-19 have exposed global supply chains to unprecedented shifts and volatility in consumer behavior, impacting innumerable organizations, industries, and consumer goods. While much of the supply-chain overhaul conversation has focused on drops in demand and disruptions in business across various consumer categories, delivering on sharply rising demands for medical equipment has been particularly challenging for companies in the healthcare manufacturing space.

Up against a supply chain landscape paralyzed by lockdowns and factory closures, personal protective equipment (PPE) necessary for combating the virus and protecting the lives and livelihoods of essential workers may be at critical risk for quality erosion as companies race to speed up production, according to inspection data from QIMA, a leading provider of supply chain compliance solutions. And with Covid-19 deepening supply-chain diversification activity—which was already happening prior to the pandemic thanks to the ongoing U.S.-China trade war—it is expected that global brands will face quality risks for some time to come across all consumer product categories.

Amitrajeet Batabyal’s picture

By: Amitrajeet Batabyal

Arguing against globalization is like arguing against the laws of gravity, said former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan. Globalization, the international trade in goods and services with minimal barriers between countries, may seem inevitable as the world’s economies become more interdependent.

Properly regulated, globalization can be a powerful force for social good. For wealthy nations, globalization can mean less expensive goods, additional spending, and a higher standard of living. For those who live and work in poorer nations, globalization can lead to greater prosperity with the power to reduce child labor, increase literacy, and enhance the economic and social standing of women.

Michael Popenas’s picture

By: Michael Popenas

Product development (PD) is the life blood of a company’s success and is the process for innovation. Today, product life cycles are shrinking due to an ever-increasing number of competitive and disruptive products coming to market quicker.

To stay in business, a company’s PD needs to become more effective, more productive, and faster. Product development systems can no longer take years or months to deliver something that the customer will hopefully still want. Planning, design and development, testing, and release can no longer rely on the currently widely practiced sequential phase-gate waterfall methods developed years ago.

Multiple Authors
By: Sridhar Kota, Glenn Daehn

The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed glaring deficiencies in the U.S. manufacturing sector’s ability to provide necessary products—especially amidst a crisis. It’s been five months since the nation declared a national emergency, yet shortages of test kit components, pharmaceuticals, personal protective equipment, and other critical medical supplies persist.

Globalization is at the heart of the problem. With heavy reliance on global supply chains and foreign producers, the pandemic has interrupted shipping of parts and materials to nearly 75 percent of U.S. companies.

LauraLee Rose’s picture

By: LauraLee Rose

The reality for small and medium-sized manufacturers (SMMs) is that they are going to have to be good at training their workforce or they won’t make as much money. That’s a blunt assessment, but the need for proficiency in training will only increase, whether it’s retraining current employees for new products, processes, and equipment or getting new employees up to speed more quickly. Effective training should be able to drive down the time for training.

Jennifer Mallow’s picture

By: Jennifer Mallow

Covid-19 has led to a boom in telehealth, with some healthcare facilities seeing an increase in its use by as much as 8,000 percent. This shift happened quickly and unexpectedly, and has left many people asking whether telehealth is really as good as in-person care.

During the last decade, I’ve studied telehealth as a Ph.D. researcher while using it as a registered nurse and advanced-practice nurse. Telehealth involves the use of phone, video, internet, and technology to perform healthcare, and when done right, it can be just as effective as in-person healthcare. But as many patients and healthcare professionals switch to telehealth for the first time, there will inevitably be a learning curve as people adapt to this new system.

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Jennifer V. Miller’s picture

By: Jennifer V. Miller

There’s no shortage of important work to do—both at home and in your job. So, the last thing you want tossed your way is unnecessary work. Nobody likes needless activity, right?

But this is easier said than avoided. I’m sure you can easily recall getting pulled into something that did not add value—at least not in your opinion.

From a workplace perspective, here’s where I think part of the problem lies.

The past couple of decades have seen the rise of “The Group” e.g., self-directed work teams, participative decision-making. These work formations and processes definitely have many benefits; they also have drawbacks. In my observation, one unfortunate byproduct of group interaction is that needless activity gets added in the name of innovation and collaboration.

Add to that dynamic Americans’ love affair with taking action, and you have a recipe for nonvalue-added work.

The “people equation” looks like this:

Inclusiveness + Compulsion to act = Making things more complicated

For example, consider the story of Clarice and Sebastian, two department leaders at a large multinational corporation. Once a month, Clarice and Sebastian participate in a 15-person global conference call for their division. As Clarice gives her update, Sebastian offers a suggestion.

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