Baka-yoke: A Japanese term for a manufacturing technique for preventing mistakes by designing the manufacturing process, equipment and tools so an operation literally cannot be performed incorrectly. In addition to preventing incorrect operation, the technique usually provides a warning signal of some sort for incorrect performance. Also see “poka-yoke.”
Balanced plant: A plant in which the capacity of all resources is balanced exactly with market demand.
Balanced scorecard: A management system that provides feedback on both internal business processes and external outcomes to continuously improve strategic performance and results.
Balancing the line: The process of evenly distributing both the quantity and variety of work across available work time, avoiding overburden and underuse of resources. This eliminates bottlenecks and downtime, which translates into shorter flow time.
Baldrige award: See “Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.”
Baseline measurement: The beginning point, based on an evaluation of output over a period of time, used to determine the process parameters prior to any improvement effort; the basis against which change is measured.
Batch and queue: Producing more than one piece and then moving the pieces to the next operation before they are needed.
Bayes’ theorem: A formula to calculate conditional probabilities by relating the conditional and marginal probability distributions of random variables.
Benchmarking: A technique in which a company measures its performance against that of best in class companies, determines how those companies achieved their performance levels and uses the information to improve its own performance. Subjects that can be benchmarked include strategies, operations and processes.
Benefit-cost analysis: An examination of the relationship between the monetary cost of implementing an improvement and the monetary value of the benefits achieved by the improvement, both within the same time period.
Best practice: A superior method or innovative practice that contributes to the improved performance of an organization, usually recognized as best by other peer organizations.
Big Q, little q: A term used to contrast the difference between managing for quality in all business processes and products (big Q) and managing for quality in a limited capacity—traditionally only in factory products and processes (little q).
Black Belt (BB): Full-time team leader responsible for implementing process improvement projects—define, measure, analyze, improve and control (DMAIC) or define, measure, analyze, design and verify (DMADV)—within a business to drive up customer satisfaction and productivity levels.
Blemish: An imperfection severe enough to be noticed but that should not cause any real impairment with respect to intended normal or reasonably foreseeable use. Also see “defect,” “imperfection” and “nonconformity.”
Block diagram: A diagram that shows the operation, interrelationships and interdependencies of components in a system. Boxes, or blocks (hence the name), represent the components; connecting lines between the blocks represent interfaces. There are two types of block diagrams: a functional block diagram, which shows a system’s subsystems and lower level products and their interrelationships and which interfaces with other systems; and a reliability block diagram, which is similar to the functional block diagram but is modified to emphasize those aspects influencing reliability.
Board of Standards Review (BSR): An American National Standards Institute board responsible for the approval and withdrawal of American National Standards.
Body of knowledge (BOK): The prescribed aggregation of knowledge in a particular area an individual is expected to have mastered to be considered or certified as a practitioner.
Bottleneck: Any resource whose capacity is equal to or less than the demand placed on it.
Bottom line: The essential or salient point; the primary or most important consideration. Also, the line at the bottom of a financial report that shows the net profit or loss.
Brainstorming: A technique teams use to generate ideas on a particular subject. Each person on the team is asked to think creatively and write down as many ideas as possible. The ideas are not discussed or reviewed until after the brainstorming session.
Breakthrough improvement: A dynamic, decisive movement to a new, higher level of performance.
BS 7799: A standard written by British commerce, government and industry stakeholders to address information security management issues, including fraud, industrial espionage and physical disaster. Might become an International Organization for Standardization standard.
Business process reengineering (BPR): The concentration on improving business processes to deliver outputs that will achieve results meeting the firm’s objectives, priorities and mission.