Archive for November, 2007

"Buy American“? How about “Buy Quality” and then live up to expectations?

Tuesday, November 6th, 2007

From: Quality Digest Magazine, Nov 2007
Written by Dirk Dusharme, Editor

“Made in the USA.” What does it mean? What should it mean? To tell the truth, I’ve never thought all that much about it. My inclination has always been to buy the best product, with the features that I want, at a price that I can afford. Frankly, I’ve gotten used to those products being foreign-made, to the point that I just automatically gravitate toward Honda or Bosch or Zeiss.

But this month’s cover story by Nathalie Mitard (“Made in the USA,” beginning on page 26) made me think about it. I even posed the question to my wife. I asked her, “Everything else being equal, if you had the choice to buy a U.S.-made product or a foreign product of the same quality, which would you choose?”

Without hesitation, she said, “The U.S.-made product, because it supports our economy.”

“What if the foreign product was of slightly better quality?” I asked.
“Still U.S.,” she replied.

“Is there a point at which the better quality of a foreign product would persuade you to buy foreign rather than U.S?”

She had to think about that for a bit, but then acknowledged that, sure, at some point the quality of a product wins out over origin.

So, again, what should it mean to only buy products that are “Made in the USA”? Should I buy a U.S. product out of a sort of patriotism, or should I buy a U.S. product only if it’s better? I think it’s the latter. There’s just a little bit of hypocrisy tied up with how some U.S. manufacturers want me to blindly buy domestic. They want me to “Buy American,” but they definitely don’t want their Japanese customers to “Buy Japanese” or their Mexican customers to only buy products with a “Heche en Mexico” label.

I live in the rice-growing region of Northern California. This relatively small area exports more than 40 percent of its annual rice production to Asian countries; in fact, half of Japan’s total rice imports come from here. The total value of California’s 2002 rice exports was around $183 million. The industry creates more than 5,000 rural jobs.

Can you imagine what would happen to this area if Japan decided to embark on a “Buy Japanese Rice” campaign? “Buy [country here]” sounds good except when the shoe is on your customer’s foot.

Even with all that said, Mitard is right. There’s a trade deficit and it’s partially up to us as consumers to do something about it—but we shouldn’t do it blindly. We should buy from those U.S. producers, like Mitard’s, that put out a quality product—and, I would argue, only those. The others will learn the hard way, like our consumer electronics industry did as it crumbled beneath the onslaught of better and less-expensive Japanese-made products. Some industries, like the auto industry, learned, barely, and are now producing comparable products at comparable prices.

So I agree that maybe its time that we… I… take another look at U.S. products. The next time I get ready to make a purchase, I’ll evaluate whether the U.S. product (if it exists) is of comparable quality to the foreign. If it is, well, why not “Buy American”?

This isn’t just a blind allegiance to U.S. products, but rather an allegiance to quality U.S. products. So how about this? Let’s change the slogan from “Buy American” to “Buy Quality.” If we do that, eventually the “Made in the USA” label will mean more than just the place of manufacture.

We all know that many U.S. consumer products are made in other countries (example – no such thing as a Made in America automobile anymore). Does “Made in the USA” determine your buying experience or do you purchase solely on the best quality and price available?

Share your thoughts and purchasing decision process!

How Do We Audit Analysis of Data?

Thursday, November 1st, 2007
Performance Improvement Solutions for Your Business Needs November 2007
In this issue

  • How Do We Audit Analysis of Data?
  • Effective Communication Skills
  • Improve Audit Results With Interviews
  • Manufacturing Census Results
  • Training Courses
  • Greetings!

    Welcome to Sustaining Edge Solutions E- Newsletter

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    How Do We Audit Analysis of Data?

    Analyzing data is an essential activity for improving your system and its processes, as well as, your products and services. Data collection has no purpose if the data isn’t examined, evaluated, analyzed, and converted into proposals for decision making.

    The Guidance on Terminology resource at the ISO web site defines the term “analysis” as the breaking up of something complex into its various simple elements. The reason to separate something into its elements is to determine either their nature (qualitative analysis) or their proportions (quantitative analysis).

    Therefore, we analyze the data to show the quality management system is effective (achieving planned results) and to spot where improvements can be made. It is not enough to just collect the data, we must analyze it and reach some conclusions.

    As a result of the monitoring and measurement activities called for by ISO 9001:2000, Clauses 8.2.3 and 8.2.4, you will have collected a lot of data, which can be analyzed to indicate trends. Any trends you may find could suggest where there are problems in your quality management system and indicate areas where improvements are needed.

    Analysis of data can help to determine the root cause of existing or potential problems, and thereby guide decisions about corrective and preventive actions need for improvement. For an effective evaluation by management of the total performance of an organization, data from all parts of the organization should be integrated and analyzed.

    The overall performance should be presented in a format that is suitable for different levels of the organization. The results of this analysis can be used to determine:

    • Trends; customer satisfaction (and satisfaction of other interested parties)
    • Process effectiveness and efficiency; supplier contribution
    • Success of performance improvement objectives
    • Economics of quality, financial, and market-related performance
    • Performance benchmarking; competitiveness

    So, How do we audit the analysis of data? Well, it can be hard to assess because ISO 9001:2000 doesn’t say what data should be collected or how to analyze the data. The requirement calls for analysis of the “appropriate” data.

    Begin by looking at the results of the data analysis implied by other clauses:

    • Are they evaluating performance against their quality objectives (5.4.1)?
    • Do they know their current level of customer satisfaction (8.2.1)?
    • Are they determining the effectiveness of their key processes (8.2.2)?
    • Are they determining their level of conformity to product requirements (8.2.4)?
    • Do they track the performance of their existing suppliers (7.4.1)?
    • Are they examining trends to identify preventive actions? (8.2.3)

    If any of this information is missing or incomplete, see if the data is being collected and not analyzed, or if the data is just not being gathered. Writing a more specific finding will help the organization focus on the appropriate data and its analysis.

    Effective Communication Skills

    ISO 9001:2000 recognizes the importance of communication by stating in clause 5.5.3 that the appropriate communication processes must be established within the organization. And, in clause 7.2.3, the standard adds that the organization must determine and implement effective arrangements for communicating with customers.

    According to the HR Daily Advisor, a study by Sirota Survey Intelligence shows that the lack of communication is a key reason why initially enthusiastic employees become unmotivated in as little as 6 months after joining their organizations. The survey also shows that a company’s performance at communicating lags far behind any other facet of organizational performance.

    Lack of communication is obviously a serious shortcoming. Without communication, teams can’t work together. And, customers are misunderstood. Leaders may try to lead, but without effective communication, employees may not know how to follow.

    To improve communication, an article in the HR Daily Advisor suggests these strategies:

    Communication begins before conversation. Studies show that 40 percent of what is communicated comes through body language and tone of voice. Both should match the message being delivered. For example, if you say a mistake is not really a big deal, don’t send a different signal by rolling your eyes and wincing.

    Communication starts with a name. Nothing establishes rapport better than acknowledging others by their name. But in today’s transient world, names are easy to forget or confuse. Use a memory technique such as connecting the person’s name with someone famous. If you meet George, mentally connect him to George Washington.

    Start with small talk. Chatting amiably opens the door to more substantial messages, but, monitor the person’s reaction so you don’t go on too long … and never talk about workplace confidences or gossip.

    Tailor conversation to your audience. Talks with a boss, co-worker, or customer require different styles. With bosses, pick the right time and ask honestly for what you need and what they can reasonably deliver. For co-workers, be humble, reliable, and discreet. If customers call with problems, listen, apologize, and offer a solution. And a natural smile, when appropriate, applies in all cases, even on the phone.

    Consider your audience when writing. Develop your message for the intended audience and use the appropriate media for communication. Remember that others beyond the intended recipient, and perhaps into the future, may read your written words. Never write what you wouldn’t want to be openly read.

    Conduct more effective meetings. Nothing in business seems to irritate people more than useless meetings. So, meet only when necessary, with only the required participants, and always with an agenda. End the meeting by summarizing the decisions and actions. Thank everyone for their involvement. Send them off on a positive note.

    Improve Audit Results With Interviews

    When you audit a process, you can look for evidence by observing the process, reviewing its documents, and examining its records. However, an important source of evidence is the information gained through interviews. A quick overview of the interview process is shown below:

    Reasons for interviews

    • Supplements the documented process
    • Determines the actual defined process
    • Principal way of obtaining information
    • Allows auditee to explain work practices
    • Ascertains understanding; commitment

    Interview steps

    • Interview persons at their workplace
    • Conduct interviews during normal hours
    • Put person at ease (lower anxiety level)
    • Explain your purpose (what you want)
    • Ask about their job (question; observe)
    • Verify responses (confirm understanding)
    • Check the facts (use other sources)
    • Record evidence (notes on checklist)
    • Make tentative conclusion (no secrets)
    • Give opportunity to discuss other topics
    • Always thank them for their time and cooperation.

    Closed questions

    • Yes or no answers
    • Use sparingly to establish specific facts
    • “Do you keep a record of this operation?”

    Show me questions

    • Ask to see documents and records
    • You need to see the proof of conformity
    • You need to see the proof of conformity
    • “May I see the records for that operation?”

    Questioning techniques

    • Ask question and then actively listen
    • Rely primarily on open-ended questions
    • Ask for explanations and examples
    • Keep neutral; don’t disagree or interrupt
    • Ask “suppose” or “what if” questions
    • Ask the blunt question about quality
    • Learn from remarks of nearby people

    Want more? Interested in improving your audit system results from boring to brilliant? Click on link and course descriptions Process Based Internal Auditor Courses

    Manufacturing Census Results

    Industry Week recently published the results of their 2007 IW/MPI Census of Manufacturers. Response summaries are shown below for improvement methodologies in use, strategic practices, and focus of market strategies. Please note that multiple responses were allowed.

    Improvement Methodologies in Use

    • Lean Manufacturing = 69.6%
    • Total Quality Management = 34.2%
    • Six Sigma = 29.0%
    • Toyota Production System = 17.0%
    • Theory of Constraints = 14.4%
    • Agile Manufacturing = 6.4%
    • Other = 14.6%
    • None = 11.6%

    Strategic Practices

    • Continuous Improvement = 76.9%
    • Recycling/Reuse Program = 56.1%
    • Quality Certifications (e.g., ISO) = 55.9%
    • Customer Satisfaction Surveys = 51/4%
    • Value Stream Mapping = 45.5%
    • Kaizen Events/Blitzing = 45.5%
    • Kaizen Events/Blitzing = 45.5%
    • Benchmarking = 42.5%
    • Supplier Management Program = 36.1%
    • Total Productive Maintenance = 34.2%

    Focus of Market Strategy

    • High Quality = 73.7%
    • Service and Support = 55.8%
    • Total Value = 41.2%
    • Fast Delivery = 32.0%
    • Customization = 26.6%
    • Innovation = 26.8%
    • Low Cost = 26.8%
    • Product Variety = 13.4%
    • None of These = 0.0%

    For more information about the survey results, see the Industry Week Article.

    Training Courses

    Our October-December course schedule is now posted on our website

    To see the course description, schedule, and on-line registration click on the course title below. Courses are awarded Continuing Education Units.

    Understanding & Implementing ISO9001:2000
    ISO 9001:2000 Process Based Internal Auditor
    Documenting Your Quality Management System

    Understanding & Implementing AS9100B:2004
    AS9100B: 2004 Process Based Internal Auditor
    Documenting Your Quality Management System

    Understanding and Implementing ISO/TS16949:2002
    ISO/TS16949:2002 Process Based Internal Auditor
    Documenting Your Quality Management System

    Understanding and Implementing ISO14001:2004
    ISO14001:2004 Process Based Internal Auditor

    The Five Pillars of a Lean Workplace Organization
    Continuous Process Improvement
    Lean Six Sigma

    All courses can be delivered at your company. Don’t see a course, location, or date that fits your needs?

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