New Data Support Titanic Rivet Theory
Earlier research indicating that weak rivets may have contributed to the sinking of the Titanic has been supported by recent findings of Timothy Foecke, a metallurgist with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
NIST says the new findings also provide evidence to dispel an older theory, that the steel plates making up the hull became brittle as glass from the cold ocean water and shattered on colliding with the iceberg.
Foecke's microscopic analyses of the small wrought-iron rivets recovered from the Titanic's hull revealed that the metal contained three times the amount of slag (glassy residue left behind after the smelting of ore) allowed at the time, making it more brittle than it should have been.
NIST says the Titanic's collision with the iceberg may have caused the rivet heads to break off, popping the fasteners from their holes and allowing water to rush in between the separated hull plates.
Foecke's theory, first proposed in early 1998, was based on data from two rivets. Since then he has analyzed an additional 28--14 of which proved to have a slag content similar to the original two.
Foecke says he plans further research, including mechanical tests on the recovered rivets.
RAB-ANSI Announce Internal Auditor Course Accreditation Program
A new program for accrediting quality management systems (QMS) internal auditor training courses has been introduced by the National Accreditation Program (NAP), a joint program of the Registrar Accreditation Board (RAB) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
While the application packages and criteria are now available for the course accreditation, in late 1999 RAB will launch a complementary internal auditor certification program for individual internal auditors.
RAB began accepting applications for the accreditation of internal auditor training courses in early January. The initial application period ended Feb. 1, 1999, and selected applicants were announced shortly thereafter. The initial evaluation period is scheduled to conclude in June with a single announcement of all newly accredited courses. Then, the program will open to additional applicants.
The three-day internal auditor courses are aimed at training auditors who primarily perform QMS audits internally within their own or directly associated organizations. The courses will provide training in the requirements of ISO 9001, the principles and practices of internal auditing of a QMS as related to ISO 9001, and ISO 10011.
In addition, accredited courses will provide instruction in understanding an organization's quality manual, quality systems procedures, and work instructions. Students will be taught methods for conducting audits of the aforementioned documents' conformance to the ISO 9001 requirements and the organization's conformance to the requirements of these documents.
Criteria used to select the initial applicant course providers will include the provider's schedule for an internal auditor course available for RAB evaluation, previous NAP accreditation status, and the course provider's degree of development of internal auditor course materials, documentation and organization.
RAB course evaluators will perform a detailed review of the content of each provider's course and the complete course materials, as well as evaluate the course administration system documentation, course examinations, instructor materials, and student materials. In addition, evaluators will witness an entire offering of each candidate course. For course providers without a current NAP accreditation, an office audit is also required.
Once these steps are completed and any nonconformances are corrected, evaluators will issue reports to the NAP QMS Council, which will then decide on the accreditations of the candidate courses.
Course providers can order the ANSI-RAB QMS internal auditor training course application package by calling RAB at 888-722-2440 or (414) 272-3937, ext. 7335. The cost is $25. To view the accreditation criteria, which is one component of the application package, visit RAB's Web site at www.rabnet.com.
Insurance Industry Finds Internet Useful Customer-Service Tool
Many industry groups are using the Internet to their advantage, and insurance agents and brokers in the property and casualty industry are no exception. These professionals find the Internet to be a highly effective customer-service tool, and a smaller number also find the Internet useful for sales and marketing.
In a survey of insurance brokers, regional agents, and managing general agencies conducted with an audience response system at the Third Annual Producers' Forum, most respondents revealed that they are already using the Internet to describe their products and services, recruit top industry talent, and position their agencies as leaders in their market.
Forty-three percent of survey respondents believe the Internet will be most useful to the property and casualty insurance industry as a customer-service tool; just 11% said they would use it for information gathering only.
"There is tremendous potential for the Internet as a distribution channel in the property and casualty industry in coming years, so it's important to understand how it will affect the role of agents and brokers," said Reginald Pierce, ARM, Commonwealth Risk vice president of marketing and communications.
Almost half of the agents surveyed said they use the Internet every day, and 80% said they have found information on-line that traditional business news sources did not provide.
Knowledge-Management Expertise Available From APQC
The American Productivity and Quality Center (APQC) has made available the proceedings from its Third Knowledge Symposium, which featured 26 leaders who shared real-world experiences related to knowledge management.
Knowledge Management: Lessons From the Leading Edge is 139 pages and contains 26 summaries from a number of prominent organizations that are practicing knowledge management, including Andersen Consulting, Chevron Corp., Lucent Technologies, the Pillsbury Co., and Xerox.
"This collection of knowledge management presentations features the most savvy and experienced practitioners in knowledge management," said APQC president Carla O'Dell. "This proceedings publication contains the most current insights, approaches, and tools from many of our best-practice organizations."
The publication is available for $295 (retail) and can be obtained by calling APQC at 800-776-9676 or (713) 681-4020.
Testing Customer Patience on the Phone
How do you feel when you place a phone call and are put on hold? Does hearing the phrase "please continue to hold...your call is important to us" not bother you, or does it make you angry? Do you hang up and call again later, or do you wait it out? According to a recent study conducted for the Prudential Insurance Company of America about the quality of companies' telephone service, customers' patience levels vary greatly.
Fifty-three percent of respondents said they usually hang up and try again later when placed on hold, while 41% grow angrier the longer they wait. Fifty-six percent of survey respondents said they use the time spent on hold doing something else, and 24% use the time to make notes on what they are going to say. Twelve percent, however, forget the purpose of their phone call altogether.
Young adults ages 18 to 24 have more patience than older callers, with only 30% saying they hang up when put on hold, compared to almost 60% in other age groups.
"The last thing any company intends is to test people's patience," said Kathleen Krall, senior vice president and head of Prudential's Voice of the Customer unit. "When customers decide to call, they place their trust in a company and expect them to respond. And judging from the reaction in the survey, a lot of trust is being broken."
Guide to Utility Industry Customer Retention, Loyalty Released
Chartwell Inc. recently released Chartwell's Guide to Customer Retention and Loyalty, a first-of-its-kind report on customer care in the utility industry.
The guide offers 40 case studies, 36 vendor profiles, 40 surveys of utilities and their customers, and insights from top consultants regarding what it takes to become a strong competitor when faced with state regulations. It can be ordered by calling Chartwell at 800-432-5879 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. The guide sells for $975 each.
Standards Group to Meet in Late March
The American National Standards Institute/ASQ spring committee meeting will be held at the Hyatt Hotel in downtown Atlanta, GA, from Sunday, March 21, to Thursday, March 25. At the meeting, members of the U.S. Standards Group on Quality, Environment, Dependability, and Statistics (QEDS) will continue their work on developing national and international standards to serve the United States' needs.
The U.S. Standards Group on QEDS consists of the members and leadership of organizations concerned with the development and effective use of generic and sector-specific standards on quality management, environmental management systems, auditing, dependability, and the application of statistical methods.
Jack West, ASQ past president and chairman of the U.S. Technical Advisory Group (TAG) to Technical Committee (TC) 176, noted that in the mid-1980s, a number of national standards for quality systems emerged.
"It became apparent that these documents and the certification schemes then being developed could become nontariff trade barriers if they were not harmonized on an international basis," he said. "The ISO 9000 standards, published in 1987, emerged as the answer: a single family of quality system standards that could be applied in commercial situations around the world.
"The same has held true in each of the other technical disciplines as well. Consequently, there is a U.S. TAG focused on representing U.S. interests in the development of international standards and a corresponding subcommittee focused on national standards as adoptions of international standards progress. The meeting in Atlanta will move the entire process forward as these standards are written and revised to meet international business/economic needs."
Although there is no fee charged to attend the meetings, advance registration is required.