EPA's Quality Improvement Program for Environmental Data Operations

Article

Blacker, Stanley E.   (1989, ASQC)   U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Washington, DC

Annual Quality Congress, Toronto, Ontario, Canada    Vol. 43    No. 0
QICID: 3663    May 1989    pp. 812-819
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Article Abstract

In the 1990s, the Total Quality process will be well established in the manufacturing sector. For that portion of the service sector involving paper-intensive operations, quality improvement operations should be entrenched. The Challenge ahead is to develop a realistic process that will result in Total Quality improvement for service sector operations that are issue, thinking, alternative, uncertainty intensive. These characteristics are present when management is confronting complex decisions that affect diverse groups. This paper will discuss the approach developed and being used in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to institutionalize Total Quality principles in an important aspect of EPA's operations. The application of Total Quality in EPA relates to environmental data operations. These data operations consume about $500 million a year. These operations need to provide the right type of quality of data, the first time, otherwise EPA's extensive regulatory apparatus to protect the public health and ecological systems cannot operate effectively. Historically, EPA has applied quality processes in a manner identical to classical quality control operations in manufacturing -- look at the quality of the product and if it is not satisfactory redo/rework it. Quality was considered a technician's responsibility. Management would casually ask about quality and would not assume responsibility. There was little emphasis on communication between the customer (data user) and supplier (data collector). Four years ago, we restructured the quality control program and began applying Total Quality principles, with particular emphasis on two major elements -- management involvement and quality planning. Tools such as quality management plans, data quality objectives, management system reviews were developed and established. The institutionalization of these tools in the last four years in as complex and diverse an organization as the EPA has been a challenge -- both from the people inertia perspective and from the scope of EPA's operations. We have learned much and will describe how we have learned to do things better.

Keywords

Implementation,Service sector,Total Quality Management (TQM),Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),Case study


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