Problem Solving Behaviors

Performance Improvement Solutions for Your Business Needs June 2009
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Problem Solving Behaviors
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The Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG) published a recent article titled “Problem Solving Behaviors for Customers and Suppliers.” The article identifies for an organization to be effective in problem solving, different behaviors and responsibilities are required by customers and suppliers.

The article states how the customer is in a powerful position to influence the problem-solving process, in ways that can help and ways that can harm the chances for the best outcome.

The following list recommends methods on how to keep both sides of the problem-solving equation on track. Whether a customer or supplier, these important points can improve your corrective action processes and improve your relationship.

Desired Problem- Solving Behaviors for Customers

  1. Look internally first. Customers should make it a practice to investigate whether a problem was caused internally before taking the issue to their supplier. A fast way to accomplish this is to ask three simple questions: 1) Are we using the correct process? 2) Are we using the correct tool? and 3) Are we using the correct part?
  2. Be reasonable in your time requirements. Customers often demand too much, too soon in the problem-solving process. A thorough root-cause analysis cannot be completed for most problems in 24 hours. Indeed, many root-cause identification tools require various methods to test whether the true cause(s) has been found. In most cases, this cannot be done quickly. Customers should demand rapid containment of the problem, and then allow the supplier to formulate its own problem- resolution plan.
  3. Support the problem-solving process with as much detail as possible. Provide the supplier with data and evidence of the problem. Be sure to provide as much detail as possible on the condition of the products, where they are, and how they affect your process/product. Ensure that samples of suspect or nonconforming product are saved for the supplier’s review.
  4. Demand a thorough analysis of the problem. Customers should ensure that their supplier’s problem-solving results address three main points: 1) Why was the nonconforming product made? 2) Why was the nonconforming product shipped? and 3) What system issues contributed to the cause of the problem? Problem-solving efforts that do not investigate these three types of root cause may miss a key factor in preventing the problem from occurring again in the future.
  5. Demand that the supplier institutionalize the problem-solving results. Customers should demand that suppliers take the results of their problem-solving efforts to the rest of the supplier’s organization for implementation, where applicable. The supplier should be a learning organization, using all problems as opportunities to improve the entire company. Problem-solving results should be applied across all other similar products and processes. The mentality should be that once a problem is encountered and solved, the causes of the problem should not occur again on any other similar products or processes.

Desired Problem-Solving Behaviors for Suppliers

  1. Know the details of how your product works in the customer’s process and product. Know how the failure modes of your product affect the customer. For a given thing that goes wrong with your process or product, what is the exact effect on the customer?
  2. React quickly to a customer notification. Suppliers should take a customer notification of a problem as an alarm for their organization. Containment should be a priority, with all investigation started after containment is achieved.
  3. Be sure to obtain as much detail from the customer as possible. Make sure you listen to your customer for the details of what is occurring. Make requests for data, samples, etc.
  4. Develop a plan for the problem-solving efforts and stick to it. Be realistic with your customer on the timeframe that is needed for a thorough investigation and resolution of the problem. Once a plan is developed and agreed to, the timing must be considered sacred.
  5. Communicate with your customer regularly on the status of the problem-solving efforts. Make sure your customer knows exactly where you are in the problem-solving process. Ensure that your customer understands all that is being done, including verification of containment measures as the process proceeds.

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Healthcare Catches on to Lean, Six Sigma
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A recent ASQ benchmarking study revealed that many healthcare systems are still in the infancy stage of using lean and Six Sigma as cost-cutting methods.

The Hospital Study is the first look at the implementation of lean and Six Sigma in U.S. Hospitals. Seventy-seven hospitals participated in the online survey.

“During these turbulent economic times when healthcare costs continue to rise, it is critical that U.S. hospitals look to methods like lean and Six Sigma to become more efficient,” said James Levett, M.D., chair of ASQ’s Healthcare Division. The survey revealed:

  • 53% of hospitals use some form of lean.
  • 4% of hospitals have fully deployed lean.
  • 42% of hospitals use some form of Six Sigma.
  • 8% of hospitals have fully deployed Six Sigma.
  • 11% of hospitals are not familiar with lean or Six Sigma.

Details of the survey can be found at the ASQ Website

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Four Essentials for Effective Work Instructions
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A work instruction is a tool provided to help someone do a job correctly. This simple statement implies that the purpose of the work instruction is quality and that the target user is the worker.

According to Patrick Sweeney’s, Quality Digest Magazine article in many workplaces, today’s work instructions have little connection with this fundamental focus. Instead of providing a simple tool to do a job right, we’ve buried the work instruction under a cascade of specifications, contract requirements, revision history, references, controls, licensing provisions, and engineering theory. The person who uses the work instruction has become an afterthought in favor of satisfying a licensing or certifying auditor.

His article suggests a four-part criteria against which work instructions can be evaluated and improved as needed. As a first step in judging the overall effectiveness of work instructions, managers can examine their work instructions against four essential characteristics: credibility, usability, accessibility, and consistency.

Credibility: Workers trust them. Credible work instructions are at the heart of standardized best practices. In a workplace that’s committed to one and only one way to perform all procedures and processes, work instructions must define that standard.

A common way to lose credibility is when standard procedure updates and changes get passed along verbally, and there are consistent and regular delays in updating the written work instructions. With verbal changes, an important step can be missed or an individual can otherwise fail to get the correct message. For work instructions to be credible, workers must believe that they define the one, single, proper way to perform a task.

Clarity: Workers understand them. A clear work instruction can be quickly understood by the worker with a minimum of effort. To accommodate the typical worker, an ideal work instruction explains mostly with graphics using only minimal clarifying text. Illustrations or other graphic support should be immediately visible and the worker shouldn’t be required to go to any other location for supporting information.

Work instructions start to become unusable when they contain extraneous matter not directly related to the procedure.Because most workers have neither the time nor the patience to struggle with unclear work instructions, they lose their practical value.

Accessibility: Workers can get to them. Work instructions are accessible when they can be located quickly and easily. “Quickly” means within seconds and “easily” requires a retrieval system that the worker knows, understands, and trusts. An ideally accessible work instruction is displayed as a job aid in immediate full view in the workspace.

Consistency: They match worker training. Consistent work instructions conform to a style guide developed specifically for procedures and work instructions. There must be rigid consistency of terminology so that the same word means the same thing every time. There can be no undefined acronyms and confusing technical terms. All instructions should follow the same format so that the user always knows where to find information such as required tools or control settings. Consistent work instructions also demand that the material used for worker training is consistent with provided job aids.

In the absence of effective user-focused work instructions, we force the worker to employ a host of unsatisfactory alternatives including guesswork, trial and error, rumor, and tribal knowledge information transfer. The inevitable result is variation, deviation, reduced productivity, and lost potential. To achieve the desired quality benefits of standard best practice, effective work instructions need to be a fundamental first step.

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Measurement Processes
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All the quality processes in the world won’t help a company whose measuring equipment and measurement processes are out of control. Especially in manufacturing, maintaining accuracy in measurement equipment is essential to ensuring a quality end product.

ISO 10012 specifies the requirements for a measurement management system that can be used by an organization performing measurements as part of the overall quality management system, and for ensuring that metrological requirements are met. To help users get the best out of the standard, the requirement clauses are followed by text boxes containing relevant guidance.

ISO 10012, Measurement management systems – Requirements for measurement processes and measuring equipment, can be used by organizations to meet the requirements for measurement and measurement process control in ISO 9001:2000 (Quality management systems) and ISO 14001:2004 (Environmental management systems) – although its use is not a requirement of either – or it can be implemented independently of these standards.

The standard will prove useful when customers and their suppliers need to specify product characteristics, as a technical reference underpinning legislation and regulations, and as a tool in assessment and auditing of management systems. However, its use in third- party certification is not a requirement, but a matter of agreement between the interested parties.

By merging the scopes of application of these earlier standards – equipment and processes – in a unique document and integrating the process-based approach of the ISO 9000:2000 series, ISO 10012 constitutes a comprehensive “measurement management system”.

Purchase the standard at the ISO Store

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SME Webinars
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The Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) hosts Free Webinars on a monthly basis. You will also find Webinar Archives that can be access.

Webinars are live presentations, given by a technical leader, that you can take part in from your desk or conference room. All you need to participate is a phone and an Internet connection. After registration, you will receive an e-mail confirmation and instructions on how to join the meeting.

SME webinars are typically hosted by one or more of their Technical Community Network (TCN) tech groups, technical events and/or professional development.

See SME Webinar Central for more information

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

Understanding & Implementing ISO9001:2008

ISO 9001:2008 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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