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Managing knowledge and leveraging for
by Tony Szwilski, Ph.D., P.E., Marshall University
Recently, a large surface coal mining operation, located in Appalachia, alerted the salesman of a dealer/product support organization, representing a major worldwide earthmoving equipment manufacture, of its plan to acquire a large fleet of off-highway trucks in the first quarter of the following year. The purchase represented a multimillion-dollar capital outlay. However, mine management expressed a significant concern about unacceptable brake life and indicated that this operating cost driver would be a significant factor in the final purchase decision. Since the purchase was not scheduled for a while, the technical services manager of the company had several months to gather information, perform the analysis, consult with manufacturer engineering, and provide recommendations.
The example illustrates the opportunity a company has to utilize captured knowledge generated by employees in a product support organization and provide technical solutions in a timely fashion. Organizations are recognizing that knowledge is a valuable asset and the ability to capture and leverage the solutions created by the technical staff, combined with the ability to make the solutions available to all who need them in the organization, will provide a powerful competitive advantage. However, the primary obstacles the company has had to overcome are availability of resources: personnel, time, and systems to accomplish the automatic capture, archiving, and indexing of created knowledge regardless of the application or platform that created the document. Enabling a product support organization’s technical services team to search among all corporate knowledge with a single command and retrieve only pages of interest would be an ideal situation for businesses to aim for.
by Joe Cascio, chairman for US TAG to ISO/TC 207
Technical Committee 207 held its eighth meeting this past June in Stockholm. The city itself was delightful, and delegates on ISO 14000 seemed to enjoy the many restaurants and sights to be found there. Gratefully, the rather uncontroversial TC agenda gave many of us an opportunity to take in a few of those sights. The most notable event planned for the week-long proceedings was to be the initiation of revisions for ISO 14001 and ISO 14004. But even these potentially controversial activities went relatively smoothly since consensus was quickly reached in Subcommittee 1 (SC1) that revision of ISO 14001 would be limited to issues of compatibility and clarification. While some suggestions for change clearly went beyond those limitations, the process of revising these documents seems to have been started on a solid footing.
Virtually the only excitement from Stockholm came from two peripheral issues that had only attracted the limited attention of those directly involved with them. One dealt with environmental communication and the other with NGO participation in technical committees. Discussions of these topics generated the most interest and adrenaline during the TC plenary. They will be major topics on the agenda for the upcoming USTAG meeting in September. It is, therefore, opportune to give some background for those interested and particularly for those planning to attend the USTAG meeting.
The subject of environmental communication has been discussed on and off over the past few years, primarily in the context of ISO 14001 and ISO 14031. The focus in ISO 14001 has been over the desirability and efficacy of adding an EMS requirement for external reporting of environmental aspects and by inference of objectives, targets, and compliance status. Proponents maintain that such reporting would enhance the public credibility of the EMS and spur the enterprise to higher environmental performance. Opponents maintain that such a requirement is coercive in nature, vitiates one of the fundamental principles of voluntary standards that they should not include coercive mechanisms, and ultimately would inhibit the spread of voluntary EMSs to the detriment of environmental progress.
Discussions in Subcommittee 4 (SC4), which is responsible for ISO 14031, have focused on the need to develop guidance on methodologies for data collection, quality, and analysis. Proponents evidently believe that standardized data would allow comparative analysis of environmental performance of organizations. Opponents believe that significant environmental data from disparate organizations cannot be standardized and that comparative analysis will continue to elude efforts to achieve it. They assert that the lack of a generic metric for environmental impact would make it impossible to equate the various ways the environment can be impacted (e.g., how can we equate species loss, ozone layer destruction, global warming, groundwater contamination, etc.) Unlike financial analysis, in the environmental area we cannot reduce all variables to one metric, as we obviously can when all aspects of financial performance are reduced to one unit of currency (e.g., the dollar).
As a follow-up to the Environmental Communications workshop in Stockholm, the Swedish delegation announced its intention to introduce a new work item proposal (NWIP) on that same subject. The focus of this proposal, in keeping with previous Swedish efforts within SC4, is on data collection, quality, and analysis. The consensus within the USTAG has consistently sided with other delegations in opposing this exercise in SC4. Not surprisingly, the United States is now trying to broaden the scope of the NWIP so that instead of dealing with data issues, the NWIP will deal with options and methods for environmental communication. The U.S. has, therefore, submitted its own NWIP on environmental communication to ensure a broadening of the discussion. Doing this has also positioned the U.S. to share the leadership for the new working group that will be formed should the NWIP garner the requisite support of TC participant countries. At its September meeting in Crystal City, Va., the USTAG will have the opportunity to discuss these developments, endorse the submittal of the NWIP by the U.S., and recommend a proper course of action.
NGO participation in TC-207
Discussions on how to increase NGO participation in TC-207 have been ongoing since 1993 when the committee was first formed. The TC eventually appointed a contact group from within its own chairman’s advisory group (CAG) in 1998 to take a careful look at this issue. In Stockholm, the contact group recommended that an NGO Task Group be appointed to address this issue even further. This NGO Task Group would be led and staffed primarily, though not exclusively, by NGOs from liaison groups and from delegations of participating countries. This proposal turned out to be the most controversial and disputed item on the TC agenda.
Similar to any other group, there are two avenues available to NGOs for their participation in TC-207. An NGO organization that operates in multiple countries can obtain liaison status in the technical committee and can participate and contribute like any other member. The only restriction is that it cannot vote at the TC level. This is a minor restriction since the Number of liaison organizations will always be much smaller than that of participating countries and so it is not likely that they could predominate in a TC vote even if they could vote. Their influence can, however, be very strong and sometimes decisive during the consensus process. This is the period when issues are discussed, opinions formed, and decisions reached through the collective assent of all present. NGOs have the right to participate, contribute, and sway opinions and positions based on the persuasiveness of their argument. Most decisions at both TC and SC levels are reached by consensus, thus affording NGOs considerable opportunity and leverage to influence outcomes.
NGO organizations that operate at the national level can participate through their country member bodies (e.g., ANSI). In the U.S., for example, NGOs can be members of the USTAG and are similarly able to influence positions through the consensus process. Just like all other members of the USTAG, they cannot participate as independent entities at the TC or SC levels. The U.S. delegation and its designated experts speak on behalf of all members of the USTAG and represent the U.S. consensus positions that have been agreed to.
The recommendation of the contact group with respect to the formation of an NGO Task Group raises a Number of issues that should be sorted out before a sound decision can be made:
- If NGOs have their own separate "voice," how can we refuse other groups from claiming the same privilege for themselves (e.g., industry, government, consultants, registrars, etc.)?
- Liaison organizations already have a voice at the TC level. Does this give them two chances to influence the process?
- National NGOs are supposed to work through their national representation. Does this now give them a separate voice that can even contradict national consensus positions?
- What are the ramifications for ISO if the ISO principle of country representation is compromised by allowing interest groups to have special access to the process?
- How does forming this task group increase NGO participation at the country or international levels? Resources are not likely to increase, and many liaison organizations have already left even though they had a voice in both the TC and the SCs. They are not likely to come back just because a task group has been formed. What can an NGO Task Group do that NGOs have not already done to increase the participation of their colleagues?
The TC has now circulated a ballot on whether this NGO Task Group should be formed. The USTAG will discuss this question at its September meeting, whereupon a vote will be taken from those present. The result of that vote will determine the U.S. response on the ballot.
So, if you are a member of the USTAG and have been wondering whether to attend this upcoming meeting, consider: Do you really want to miss the excitement and suspense of the debate and outcome on these two issues? As for me, you couldn’t hold me back with chains.
Beware the work instruction
by Bill Wiatt, senior consultant with Excel Partnership, Inc.
How many different work instructions do you have for the same task? Hopefully, just one. However, in this age of ISO 9001, ISO 14001, BS 8800, OHSAS 18001, SA 8000, Just-In-Time (JIT) manufacturing, and regulatory compliance, the work instruction craze is in full swing. In some cases, employers are providing workers with as many as four or five different work instructions to complete the same task—one for quality, one for environmental, one for health and safety, one for production/cycle time, and one for compliance requirements. Where does this leave the worker? Lost, that’s where.
Integration of management systems at the work instruction level is critical. Workers asked to follow more than one set of instructions to perform a single task will likely rebel and perform the task their way. It’s this type of attitude that often leads to off-specification product, impacts to the environment, worker injury and illness, increased cycle times, and compliance woes.
Bottom line: work instructions should provide assistance in the performance of specific tasks and should not be a source of confusion, frustration, and poor performance.
Federal executive order to require
by Gary L. Johnson, U. S. Environmental Protection Agency
On April 21, 2000, the White House issued Executive Order 13148 to implement environmental management practices throughout federal agencies. Among several requirements pertaining to compliance, pollution prevention, and reductions in ozone-depleting substances, is a requirement that all federal agencies develop and implement an environmental management system (EMS) at all appropriate facilities by December 31, 2005.
An EMS, as defined by ISO 14001, Environmental Management Systems—Specification with Guidance for Use, is a part of an organization’s overall management system that addresses the planning and implementation of its environmental policy—i.e., how the organization will manage its interactions with and impacts on the environment. For example, an EMS would identify the impacts of a facility’s operations, including any air emissions, wastewater effluents, and waste discharges, and provide a means of effectively managing those operations so that the goals defined by management will be achieved. These goals could include reductions in emissions or waste production.
The executive order cites the Code of Environmental Management Principles, as given in 61 FR 54062, as the basis for the provisions of the order. While the executive order does not explicitly cite the ISO 14001 standard, it is clear that the writers of the order had the standard in mind. For example, the definition of environmental aspects was taken directly from the standard, and the implementation of the EMS follows the logic process in the standard. It should be expected, therefore, that ISO 14001 and its companion guide, ISO 14004, Environmental Management Systems—General Guidelines on Principles, Systems, and Supporting Techniques, will be the principal references for implementation of the order. Moreover, the order requires that environmental audits be performed every three years, which would most likely require the use of another standard, ISO 19011, Guidelines on Auditing Quality and Environmental Management Systems, which is presently in development.
Some of the specific goals to be attained by implementation of the order include
- environmental management,
- environmental compliance,
- right-to-know and pollution prevention,
- toxic chemicals release reduction,
- reductions in the use of toxic chemicals, hazardous substances, and other pollutants, and
- reductions in ozone-depleting substances.
All federal facilities interacting with the environment will be subject to this order, including those operated by the departments of Defense, Energy, Agriculture, and Commerce, as well as federal agencies like EPA. The implementation of the order requires specific actions to be accomplished over the next several years, including pilot applications of EMS at selected facilities.
The ASQ Energy and Environmental Division will offer a 1.5-day workshop on Executive Order 13148 at its Tucson conference on August 27–31. This workshop will provide an overview of the order and discuss approaches to its implementation through use of the ISO 14001 and ISO 14004 standards. Details on the conference may found on the Conferences Page.