John Geary’s default image

By: John Geary

The challenge of responding to the threat of cheap offshore labor isn’t new to North American businesses. Nearly a hundred years ago, Henry Towne wrote about the need for increased efficiency and productivity in a foreword to Frederick Winslow Taylor’s 1911 paper, “Shop Management”:

"We are justly proud of the high wage rates which prevail throughout our country, and jealous of any interference with them by the products of the cheaper labor of other countries. To maintain this condition, to strengthen our control of home markets, and, above all, to broaden our opportunities in foreign markets where we must compete with the products of other industrial nations, we should welcome and encourage every influence tending to increase the efficiency of our productive processes."

Efforts to improve management efficiency over the past century have often focused on the reduction of waste, which is defined as processes and resources that represent direct costs and opportunity costs, but don’t add any value.

Craig Cochran’s picture

By: Craig Cochran

Last year I had the good fortune of doing some consulting with B&C Specialty Products in Hopeulikit, Georgia. B&C does light manufacturing, primarily plastic molding and assembly, and they also distribute imported products produced by companies in the Far East. They have about 150 employees and are the biggest employer by far in Hopeulikit. B&C was a perfect place to learn about managing and quality. Every day presented a new lesson. Usually, the lessons were hard-learned, but those are the ones that really stick with you. B&C was gracious enough to allow me to interview their personnel about things that came up during my time there. Here is the first lesson: Always check references and backgrounds before hiring somebody. The following scenario is described by the people who actually lived it.

—J. T. Ryan, president
"I thought Henry was a pretty good guy. He came into the interview so positive and enthusiastic that I couldn’t help liking him. Besides having a good attitude, he actually seemed to know something about our kind of business. Henry had done a little work at a similar outfit in Newnan, Georgia. His work record wasn’t perfect, but we were dying for decent people, particularly in the shipping department.

Denis Leonard’s default image

By: Denis Leonard

I developed and validated quality management diagnostic profiles through research conducted on 77 companies. These profiles are just one in a suite of strategic and dynamic tools that recognize that quality management is dynamic, complex in nature and can’t be easily represented in a sequential or linear manner as described by current models. Five elements make up the quality management diagnostic profiles (see Figure 1):
1. Lack of senior management commitment
2. Lack of operational influence
3. Ineffective tactical translation of strategy
4. Middle management isolation
5. Need to increase deployment consistency

Figure 1

Thomas R. Cutler’s picture

By: Thomas R. Cutler

Kanban, e-kanban and digital kanban aren’t the same. Kanban is a Japanese term that means "signal." It’s one of the primary tools of just-in-time (JIT) systems. It signals a cycle of replenishment for production and materials, and it should maintain an orderly and efficient flow of materials throughout the entire manufacturing process. Until the development of e-kanban, kanban was usually a printed card that contained specific information such as part name, description or quantity. Production control managers are discovering the limitations of a manual card kanban system. At its best, an integrated digital kanbanbrings high-volume production under control, cuts inventory by half and links data across locations.

When a kanban system is purely manual, cards are placed on products when they come in, pulled as the items are used and then put back in the receiving area to be recycled for new shipments. Deciding what to order and granting a release are based on counting the pulled cards, and this process can be frustrating.

Mike Micklewright’s picture

By: Mike Micklewright

Our company’s quality manual must mirror the ISO standard, must be between 25 and 40 pages in length and must be customized to our business. After the initial approval of the quality manual, no one within the company ever reads it again. The manual is a nonvalue-added element and it flies in the face of lean philosophy and a lean documentation system.

The requirements
According to subclause 4.2.2 of ISO 9001:2000, an organization should establish and maintain a quality manual that includes:

  • The scope of the quality management system, including details of and justification for any exclusions
  • The documented procedures established for the quality management system or reference to them
  • A description of the interaction between the processes of the quality management system

Well that’s not too difficult to accomplish, and with many clients it’s possible to develop a two-page quality manual that meets all of these requirements, that’s user-friendly, and that adds value.

Here’s an example of such a manual:

Quality Digest’s picture

By: Quality Digest

Question: Who has mountains of data needing to be tamed into information?

Answer: Nearly everyone in health care, manufacturing, education, basic research, and service industries, including Six Sigma and ISO 9001 organizations and anyone who needs to demonstrate conformance to standards. (Anyone left?)Since the days when data were collected and maintained manually—on cards or in ledgers—to the electronic age, the sheer amount of data generated has increased exponentially. Hospitals and health care providers, for example, must maintain data on everything from prescriptions delivered, to infection rates, to C-section deliveries and Medicare payments. Just as the manufacturing process was simplified by technology during the Industrial Revolution, it’s hard now even to remember the tedious and laborious manual processes that preceded software data collection. On shop floors and in hospital corridors, clipboards and pencils have been supplanted by PDAs, computers, and voice recognition equipment to ensure accurate collection of data from processes.

Craig Cochran’s picture

By: Craig Cochran

Customer feedback is the single most important type of communication an organization can receive. It is confirmation of the organization’s purpose in life and its ability to deliver on this purpose. Feedback can ultimately determine whether the organization lives or dies. Despite the highly critical nature of customer feedback, organizations often treat customer feedback as an afterthought, something that they might get around to, if time allows. The processes for gathering and using feedback must be moved to the forefront of the organization’ strategy. It’s not optional. Let’s take an inventory of the issues organizations should focus on as they develop and improve their customer feedback process.

Unsolicited customer feedback is a rare gift
Every now and then, a customer will contact you and let you know how they feel. I’ve even done it a time or two, usually when I was really angry or really ecstatic. In other words, I was highly motivated by my customer interaction. That’s the trouble with unsolicited customer feedback—it requires a very motivated customer. Most customers have opinions, but they’re rarely motivated to contact you to tell you their thoughts. They’re too busy, too preoccupied or don’t feel it’s their place to offer feedback. You must reach out to them and ask, “How are we doing?”

Thomas R. Cutler’s picture

By: Thomas R. Cutler

Is enterprise resource planning (ERP) software helping or hindering quality? Many companies that purchased their first ERP package years ago now find that the system is hindering their efforts to adopt new quality initiatives, including lean manufacturing and Six Sigma. Since the purchase several years ago, the business has changed, and the ERP system wasn’t flexible enough to keep pace. Perhaps it was the wrong system. The wrong ERP system selection is more apparent than in the engineer-to-order (ETO) manufacturing sector.Following are some areas of ERP deficiency for the ETO manufacturing environment:

Mike Micklewright’s picture

By: Mike Micklewright

Why don’t registrar auditors audit clause 7.4 Purchasing of ISO 9001 when it comes to purchasing their services? After all, they’re providing a service that affects the quality of your operations, processes, and eventually, products.ISO 9001 states that your company “Shall evaluate and select suppliers based on their ability to meet your requirements.” Do you ever state your requirements to your registrar? Probably not, because it’s their contract that you sign. And even if your company issues a contract to the registrar in the form of a purchasing order, it’s unlikely that you add any of your requirements. The registrar normally has complete control of the contractual relationship, and you have no way out until the contract is up. Have you ever thought about what you and your company really want from an audit? Do you just go through the motions?

What if you wanted to try out a registrar’s services for only the initial audit? A company may evaluate sample parts from a potential supplier as part of the initial selection process. Why does your company have to be locked in to a three-year contract? What if you don’t like your supplier’s performance? How can you get out of a contract that doesn’t even state your specific needs?

Bill Kalmar’s picture

By: Bill Kalmar

In 1957, the Soviet Union launched the world’s first orbiting satellite, Sputnik. This elliptical sphere the size of a basketball took 98 minutes to encircle the earth and emitted a faint beep as it made its momentous trip. It provided no information back to mother Earth and yet it became a symbol of dominance in space exploration. Various workplaces have "human Sputniks" wandering aimlessly throughout the workplace, providing little, if any, important input when they’re ensconced at their desk or workstation. Yet they somehow manage to stay under the radar screen when it comes to cutbacks.

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