By: Larry Stevens

It seemed like a good idea at the time to Jon Shupenus, U.S. Army Forces Command’s process improvement specialist and lean Six Sigma Black Belt. Shupenus was attending a Department of Defense performance management seminar in 2010 when Kirk Nicholas, director of the Army’s continuous process improvement and lean Six Sigma program for the Office of Business Transformation, asked for volunteers to assist with Army projects in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So Shupenus stepped up and volunteered himself and his lean Six Sigma knowledge and abilities. The next thing he knew, he was with the Joint Plans Integration Center in Baghdad, Iraq, helping with plans for the withdrawal of Army personnel and equipment by the end of 2011.

As a production practice, lean considers expending resources for any goal other than creating value for the end customer to be wasteful, and thus a target for elimination.

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By: Georgia Institute of Technology

When working with others in the office, most know it is better to approach a colleague who is relaxed and drinking a cup of coffee versus a frazzled co-worker buried under a pile of paperwork.

Unfortunately, e-mail doesn’t offer users the same social cues—until now.

Eric Gilbert, an assistant professor of computing at Georgia Institute of Technology, has developed software called Courteous.ly, a service that shows current user e-mail loads in real time. 

“I think we’re really good at the etiquette part when we have the cues that allow us to be polite,” says Gilbert, a faculty member in the School of Interactive Computing in the College of Computing. “Courteous.ly helps manage expectations and lets people choose to send mail when it’s best for you.”

Available for download, Courteous.ly currently works with Google-based e-mail, such as Gmail, which is used by 160 million people worldwide. Roughly 3 million businesses also use Google-hosted mail. Signing up for Courteous.ly is as easy as entering your e-mail address and verifying a few links.

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By: Jack Thornton

Just What Is Immersive Engineering, Anyway?

Immersive engineering is a digital technology, engineering practice, and methodology, all in one, for solving multifaceted engineering problems in the design, assembly, and maintenance of large, complicated structures (e.g., automobiles, aircraft, and spacecraft). Immersive engineering is equally effective for developing practical workarounds or delving into root causes.

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By: Matthew R. Philip and Lori Cross

A whole-team approach is an agile practice in which an entire team works as a unit of generalists to share the responsibility for producing high-quality deliverables. It’s a kind of “glue” that holds a lot of other agile practices together. Lisa Crispin and Janet Gregory, co-authors of Agile Testing: A Practical Guide for Testers and Agile Teams (Addison-Wesley Professional, 2009), for example, consider a whole-team approach the No. 1 success for agile testing.

By uniting and supporting practices, this approach yields powerful benefits—like lowering risk to delivery, improving velocity and cycle time, producing better ideas, and reducing defects and other waste. As with other agile practices, though, a whole-team approach requires discipline and diligence. To that end, here are four “smells” that might indicate that you’re not optimally practicing the whole-team approach as well as some possible remedies to help you overcome them. Although many of the examples I provide below come from the software development industry, they apply just as well to other industries.

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By: James Robertson

Delivering high-value decision support information is the reason why decision makers implement enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. In fact, precision configuration to support the delivery of decision support information is critical to a successful ERP. There are numerous reasons why.

Highly effective and successful organizations exist as a consequence of outstanding strategic, tactical, and operational decisions. These “thrive” decisions direct an organization toward fulfilling its essential goals, ones that are aligned with customers who will pay for the products or services delivered.

All too often, businesses are forced to negotiate a technical maze when implementing ERP systems and integrated business information systems. There are sometimes obscure considerations that should be kept in mind with the implementation of these systems.

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By: Tracker Handbook by Art Kietlinski

Back in the early 1990s, before the laser tracker—the portable measurement system that relies on a laser beam to measure and inspect—had the reputation it has now, it was viewed simply as an inspection tool.  As part of a quality control group, I would check dimensional and geometrical accuracies of machined parts, structural welds, and castings to ensure production of quality manufacturing parts. It wasn’t long after first implementing the laser tracker that we recognized the value of it helping to control accuracies, instead of just informing the customer how inaccurate the part may be at final inspection when it was too late.

As drawings with geometric dimensioning and tolerancing (GD&T) and CAD models became more of the norm for manufacturing parts and assemblies, the need for 3-D measurement also became a necessity. The laser tracker has proven to be a powerful tool in accuracies of machined parts and measurement in the manufacturing industry. In this article I will cover the positive changes the laser tracker has brought to the manufacturing world, especially to roller alignment.

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By: Edward D. Hess

For many, achieving the American Dream means taking control of their destiny, quitting their 9 to 5, and opening the doors to their very own business. These brave entrepreneurial souls have shaped American enterprise, and today, they're playing the critical role of helping to drive the nation's economic recovery. If you're one of these people—pouring your blood, sweat, and tears into running your own business—my new book, Growing an Entrepreneurial Business: Concepts & Cases (Stanford University Press, 2011) stresses that there's no time for rest. Once you've got your start-up off the ground, the daunting task of growing your business to the next level must begin.

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By: Stewart Anderson

Not all customers are equally profitable. Different customers have different needs, and hence different costs to serve. The overall profitability of a business is a function of the profitability of individual customers and customer groups.

Many businesses measure customer satisfaction but they do not measure customer profitability. A profitable customer is a buyer who yields a revenue stream which exceeds by an acceptable amount the costs incurred to serve that customer. Customer profitability can be measured individually by customer, market segment, or channel. This article looks at an approach whereby customer profitability can be measured at the market segment level.

Unfortunately, most businesses are poorly equipped to understand how costs relate to specific customers. Traditional approaches to accounting allocate costs to individual products, but not to customers, who are the drivers of these costs. While the average costs in a business may decline as volume increases, there can still be significant profit leaks due to the higher costs involved to serve some customers.

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By: British Assessment Bureau BAB

According to data from The British Assessment Bureau’s (BAB) independent 2011 Client Satisfaction Survey, 44 percent of respondents said that they had won business as a result of becoming certified to ISO 9001, the quality management system standard from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

The survey, which was carried out by specialist market research organization, Lake Market Research (LMR), showed that for many organizations, the prospect of winning more work was the primary motivation for implementing the standard. When asked, 57 percent said that a client requirement motivated them to obtain certification, with 31 percent responding that winning more business was their incentive.

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By: The QA Pharm

Once upon a time I asked, “What does it mean to operate in a state of control?” at an off-site “strategy” meeting of a senior management group. You know the kind of meeting that I'm talking about—one in which a working breakfast was followed by a day of golf, and I was the one doing the working.

The question was particularly germane to the purpose of my invitation, because these executives did not want to follow the path of other major industry giants into ruin by taking their eye off the proverbial current good manufacturing practice (CGMP) compliance ball.

After a bit of awkward silence, someone offered a stab at the answer with, “Zero defects.” Another rebuked his colleague, “That’s so passé. It should be ‘right first time.’” The next 10 minutes was the battle of the buzzwords and I was the game show host. Conversation erupted in a murmur across the room.

I responded by saying that perfection was a worthy goal, but statistically impossible. I am highly suspicious of perfection, and firms that punish less than perfection drive bad behavior. In fact, when things are too perfect—I suspect fraud.

That quieted the room.

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