Taran March @ Quality Digest’s picture

By: Taran March @ Quality Digest

What is quality intelligence, exactly? It’s more than marketing spin. More, even, than the sum of its many control charts. It’s not collecting data simply to further go/no-go actions. And it doesn’t mean turning the cognitive wheel entirely over to artificial intelligence, either—far from it.

We might think of quality intelligence as a natural progression of quality control. It’s both granular, in that core quality tools underpin it, and forward-looking because quality data are used to improve not only products and processes but also operational performance. It’s very deliberate in that its goal is to wring the maximum value possible from reliable data.

To do this, quality intelligence employs four key tools: ensuring compliance, grading collected data, exploiting software, and implementing data strategically.

Ensuring compliance

People often assume that compliance applies solely to government or industry standards, but the term surfaces in many shop-floor conversations and processes. For instance, there is compliance to limits: Are data in specification? Are the appropriate statistical rules being met? There’s also compliance to procedures: Are people collecting data in the right way, and on time?

Ryan E. Day’s picture

By: Ryan E. Day

An organization can achieve great results when everyone is working together, looking at the same information generated from the same data, and using the same rules. Changes can be made that affect a company’s bottom line through operational improvements, product quality, and process optimization. There are quality intelligence (QI) solutions that can help reveal hidden opportunities.

Companies can save money and improve operational efficiency by effectively focusing resources on the problems that matter most from both a strategic and tactical perspective. A proper QI system makes this practical in several ways.

The QI advantage

With a QI system, data are captured and analyzed consistently in a central repository across the organization. This means there aren’t different interpretations of the truth, and there is alignment among those on the shop floor, site management, and corporate quality.

Alignment is possible because of a positive cascade of events:
• Notifications are sent to the appropriate people, and workflows trigger the required actions. This means people are appropriately accountable for addressing issues. Those issues can then be analyzed to understand recurring problems and how to avoid them.

Gleb Tsipursky’s picture

By: Gleb Tsipursky

So many companies are shifting their employees to working from home to address the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. Yet they’re not considering the potential quality disasters that can occur as a result of this transition.

An example of this is what one of my coaching clients experienced more than a year before the pandemic hit. Myron is the risk and quality management executive in a medical services company with about 600 employees. He was one of the leaders tasked by his company’s senior management team with shifting the company’s employees to a work-from-home setup, due to rising rents on their office building.

Specifically, Myron led the team that managed risk and quality issues associated with the transition for all 600 employees to telework, due to his previous experience in helping small teams of three to six people in the company transition to working from home in the past. The much larger number of people who had many more diverse roles they had to assist now was proving to be a challenge. So was the short amount of time available to this project, which was only four weeks, and resulted from a failure in negotiation with the landlord of the office building.

Celia Paulsen’s picture

By: Celia Paulsen

Nobody likes business to be slow. If you’re in a fast-paced world like manufacturing, seeing your machines or employees idle can drive a person insane. If you’re used to your production line working to capacity and suddenly business slows down, it can be a frustrating time.

When I was in the U.S. Army, we used our downtime to train and clean. On one occasion, we spent nearly two weeks waiting for a change of orders. By the end of the first week, every weapon, every desk, and every blade of grass was spotless. There was nothing left to clean, so we cleaned it all over again!

Over time, I learned that downtime can actually provide a good opportunity to refocus before driving forward again. It offers time to take inventory, get a little creative, and do some renovation, literally and figuratively. My personal downtime to-do list includes organizing my papers, redesigning my closet, playing with my 3D printer, replacing my stair treads, fixing that one light switch, learning something I’ll soon forget, and though you may laugh, improving my cybersecurity posture.

It’s true; I’m a cybersecurity geek. I’ve been a cybersecurity researcher at NIST since 2011 and am now detailed to NIST MEP as the cybersecurity services specialist.

Multiple Authors
By: Donald J. Wheeler, Al Pfadt

Each day we receive data that seek to quantify the Covid-19 pandemic. These daily values tell us how things have changed from yesterday, and give us the current totals, but they are difficult to understand simply because they are only a small piece of the puzzle. And like pieces of a puzzle, data only begin to make sense when they are placed in context. And the best way to place data in context is with an appropriate graph.

When using epidemiological models to evaluate different scenarios it is common to see graphs that portray the number of new cases, or the demand for services, each day.1 Typically, these graphs look something like the curves in figure 1.


Figure 1: Epidemiological models produce curves of new cases under different scenarios in order to compare peak demands over time. (Click image for larger view.)

Ken Maynard’s picture

By: Ken Maynard

When educational and public sectors consider applying a proven method like lean Six Sigma, the perception persists that this “manufacturing program” will not work in a nonmanufacturing environment. Along with that limiting assumption, there is an underlying expectation within the service industry that it requires a substantially customized approach.

This makes perfect sense. It’s logical. If I’m not making the proverbial “widget”—if I’m processing transactions, delivering services, or providing a learning environment—then how do I use lean Six Sigma? It’s got a proven track record of success in manufacturing, but this success can morph into a hindrance when considering spreading the gains in nonmanufacturing.

If a different approach is necessary to successful lean Six Sigma implementation in the public sector, then how do we adapt the approach without compromising the fundamentals that lead to success?

Dirk Dusharme @ Quality Digest’s picture

By: Dirk Dusharme @ Quality Digest

Government bureaucracies are inefficient. They waste taxpayer dollars, and they have no incentive to improve. We’ve all heard and probably repeated these axioms about wasteful government spending.

And it’s often true; you don’t have to look far to find examples of government overpaying for products or services, contracts going to companies ill-equipped to handle the job, or just outright wasted money. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), we waste tens of billions of dollars each year because of what amounts to process inefficiencies. Take a quick look at the GAO’s “2019 Annual Report: Additional Opportunities to Reduce Fragmentation, Overlap, and Duplication and Achieve Billions in Financial Benefits” to get an idea. But, conventional wisdom aside, at its roots, the issues pointed out by the GAO are really no different than those found in the private sector. Just more visible.

Ryan E. Day’s picture

By: Ryan E. Day

Lean: an employee-championed method of waste reduction. Six Sigma: a robust method of defect reduction. Embracing both methods provides organizations with multiple tools for continuous improvement. Developed for manufacturing, lean Six Sigma has now been recognized by government agencies as a practical way to realize their outcome goals.

Improving response time for client services

Expediency is always crucial to the well-being of government services clients. California’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) and Washington state’s King County Treasury Operations are two organizations that were motivated to explore more efficient processes to reduce response times for client services.

The improvements these teams sought to bring about would require changes in the way things were done, but change is not always easy, and the way forward can be elusive. New ways of doing things require new methods. For organizations as large and complex as these government agencies to effect positive change, robust tools are needed.

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Taran March @ Quality Digest’s picture

By: Taran March @ Quality Digest

At the University of California at San Diego, lean concepts have taken hold. Along with its process improvement curriculum, the university applies what it teaches through initiatives around campus. Projects both complex and simple tackle the snags, waste, and bottlenecks of academic life. Students, as both customers and process output, learn about lean Six Sigma (LSS) tools and use them to improve their college experience. UC San Diego has become, in effect, its own moonshine shop.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for most public schools and colleges elsewhere in the country.

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Ryan E. Day’s picture

By: Ryan E. Day

Lean looks at ways to reduce waste and improve flow. The principles are relevant to virtually every organizational sector and vertical. It’s no surprise, then, that so many organizations tout lean and devote resources to lean initiatives. But, too often, there is a tendency for a company to promote lean initiatives before it has really developed a lean culture. How about yours? Is it truly striving for a lean culture, or just paying lip service?

A lean culture is born when progress is made within four separate dimensions: cultural enablers, enterprise alignment, customer-focused results, and continuous improvement. If you’re not sure where your company stands on the lean continuum, walk through the following exercise and see what you discover.

Read the statements below each category and assess how frequently your organization exhibits these characteristics and behaviors. Respond to the statements with something along the lines of: almost always; sometimes; rarely; and almost never.

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