Quality Gaining a Foothold In E-Commerce Industry

PBN07 The world of e-commerce appears to be paying much more attention to quality. Following are some of the recent announcements indicative of this trend.

Ashford.com, a major Internet retailer of luxury and premium products, named someone with an extensive quality background as its chief operating officer. He is William Hensler, formerly vice president of quality for the PC Products Group of Compaq Computer Corp.

Previously Hensler directed Coopers & Lybrand's Total Quality Center of Excellence, was vice president at Qualtec Quality Services and was director of quality improvement at Florida Power and Light, the first company outside Japan to win The Deming Prize for quality. He also served as a Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award senior examiner.

ISO 9002 registration

Commerx, a creator of business-to-business electronic marketplaces that enable buyers and sellers in industrial processing markets to do business online, hired Eagle Group USA Inc. to assist in its transition to registration to ISO 9002.

Clyde Pearch, president and CEO of Eagle Group, says ISO 9002 provides assurance to transactional based business-to-business enterprises whose activities are centered around service that their systems are robust and their processes and procedures are followed and maintained.

United Kingdom based Clicksure Ltd., which describes itself as "an Internet based company responsible for cost-effective and professional execution of quality assurance standards on the Web," is expanding its operations to the U.S. market. 

Addresses self-regulation need

Clicksure says it addresses the need for self-regulation by e-commerce businesses concerned with issues of privacy, data collection, security, customer service, reliability and Web content. Its standard complies with the International Organization for Standardization, known as ISO, Guide 62, and the RvA (Dutch Accreditation Council) and adheres to EN 45012, the European norm for intergovernmental certification bodies.

The Clicksure standard and certification are governed by an independent advisory board and contain eight principles as a measuring stick. For information visit www.clicksure.com

Quality management solutions

NICE Systems Ltd. extended its worldwide distribution agreement with Lucent Technologies Customer Relationship Management Solutions. Under the agreement, Lucent will globally market, distribute and support NICE's entire offering of recording and quality management solutions for multimedia contact centers. NICE's software records, stores, evaluates and manages voice communications call data, desktop screens and video.

Witness Systems Inc. (WITS) released eQuality Connect, which allows integration of its eQuality suite of business driven recording and performance optimization applications with Web enabled contact centers and applications such as e-mail response management, collaborative Web chat and customer information systems.

WITS says its integrated product offering enables customer contact centers to record and evaluate customer interactions through multiple communications media, such as telephone, e-mail and Web chat. It also allows companies to record and analyze selected customer interactions.

Statware Merges With Norwegian Firm; To Focus on Web Based Products

Statware, a Corvallis, OR, provider of Web based process control technology, and CAMO, an Oslo, Norway, provider of statistical data analysis software, entered into an agreement to merge. Company spokespersons say the merged entity will focus on expanding technology and services in the area of Web based process optimization.

Process optimization combines statistical analysis and predictive modeling capabilities with applications that provide historical, real-time and future views of operational processes.

The merger transaction involves a cash and stock acquisition of Statware by CAMO. The newly formed company, CAMO Inc., will continue to market process optimization and quality improvement solutions under existing brand names.

U.S. TAG Votes To Oppose Drafts Of ISO 9000 and 9001 Standards

The U.S. Technical Advisory Group (TAG) to ISO Technical Committee (TC) 176 voted to oppose the draft international standards (DIS) to ISO 9000:2000 and ISO 9001:2000 but to support the language in ISO 9004:2000. At a March meeting in Dallas, the TAG developed language changes intended to overcome U.S. opposition to 9000 and 9001.

While voting to oppose the start of revisions to ISO 14001:1996, the U.S. TAG to TC 207 took a compromise position regarding revisions to ISO 14004:1996 after disussing issues arising from 173 pages of comments. Six positions were approved for the U.S. delegates to take to the ISO TC 207 meeting scheduled for Stockholm.

Additional information on the TAG positions and activities at the meeting can be found in the April issue of The Informed Outlook, now co-published by ASQ and the International Forum for Management Systems.

ISO Addresses New Issues Such as Climate Change

The International Organization for Standardization, known as ISO, is tackling new issues such as climate change, occupational health and safety, customer complaints handling and personal financial planning.

ISO set up an ad hoc group to coordinate climate change issues and serve as focal point for ISO's relations with similar United Nations' efforts in this area. "ISO's experience in developing international consensus on test and analysis methods can be used to allow meaningful measurement of the extent of the problem and the effectiveness of actions to combat it," says Ross Wraight, chair of ISO's Technical Management Board (TMB).

Wraight also noted ISO 14000, the environmental management system standard, and the organization's ability to develop consensus on climate friendly technologies.

In the area of occupational health and safety (OH&S), ISO's national member institutes are currently voting on a British Standards Institution proposal that ISO establish a technical committee to transform BS 8800, the British noncertifiable OH&S management system guidelines, into an ISO standard. Voting ends this April 18.

The TMB asked ISO/TC 176, the technical committee responsible for ISO 9000, to accept responsibility for developing a new work item proposal on complaint handling. This could be considered as a plug-in component of an organization's quality management system. Australian and British member institutes have national standards addressing this issue.

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) proposed establishment of a new technical committee to develop standards covering personal financial planning. The standards, as envisioned by ANSI, would include the certification of personal finance advisors. ISO is asking national member institutes whether this new work should be launched.

Medical Group Association Honors Minnesota Health System

Park Nicollet Clinic and Methodist Hospital, St. Louis Park, MN, part of HealthSystem Minnesota, is the 2000 recipient of the American Medical Group Association Acclaim Award. The award, sponsored by Pharmacia & Upjohn, recognizes quality improvement efforts that are led by physician directed organizations and measurably improve health outcomes and quality of life for patients.

The clinic and hospital was honored for its Care Initiatives Program, which provides a consistent process for prioritizing quality improvement projects across the care system, linking them to the budgeting process, providing operational support and tracking processes.

The program resulted in more than 25 groups within the organization designing, implementing and measuring results from quality improvement projects.

The Acclaim Award recipient receives a $60,000 grant to continue program development. In addition, four organizations received $10,000 education grants to continue development of their programs. They are Carle Clinic Association, Urbana, IL; Henry Ford Health System, Detroit, MI; Luther Midelfort (part of the Mayo Health System), Eau Claire, WI; and Northwest Permanente Medical Group, Portland, OR.

NCQA Puts HMO Report Card on Its New Web Site

The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) unveiled its new Health Plan Report Card, a Web resource designed to give consumers free access to information about the clinical performance, member satisfaction, access to care and overall quality of managed care plans in the United States.

The independent, nonprofit organization for quality in health care expects to make the report card available on other select Web sites and in a customized format on the intranet sites of various companies.

The report card is accessible through NCQA's home page at www.ncqa.org. Links to the site are also available through Medscape (www.medscape.com) and CBSHealthwatch (www.cbshealthwatch.com). 

Russia may soon awaken to the importance of quality. According to a TASS report in late March, Acting President and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said industrial enterprises have to introduce international quality standards. He stressed that quality will determine domestic market demand and price will gradually recede into the background.


GSE Systems Inc., a provider of real-time simulation and process control software to the pharmaceutical, energy, process and manufacturing industries, announced a commitment to a Six Sigma quality program. The company hired John Pelton, former quality leader for global professional services at GE Information Services and a Six Sigma Master Black Belt, to direct the program as vice president of quality and process improvement.


DPaul University in Chicago unveiled plans to help companies become certified to international quality management standards and requirements such as ISO 9000, QS-9000 and ISO 14000. The university's new Quality Institute will serve as an umbrella for 20 training programs and onsite services to assist Illinois businesses, particularly those for which qualification for contracts requires registration to one or all of the standards. For more information on the program, call 312-362-6327 or visit www.lifelearn.depaul.edu/ocpe/continuing_education.htm. To learn about Prairie State 2000 Authority Employer Training Assistant Program grants to defray up to half of the program's cost, call 312-814-2700.


I its 1999 annual report, GE Medical Systems (GEMS) says Six Sigma quality transformed its business. "We introduced seven products in 1999 using Design for Six Sigma [DFSS], with more than 20 to be released in 2000," said Jeffrey R. Immelt, GEMS president and chief executive. Immelt says GEMS will sell more than $2 billion worth of DFSS by the end of 2000. "We will really take Six Sigma to the customer by completing 800 Six Sigma projects with customers to reduce variation in health care delivery." Immelt is considered one of the top contenders to replace Jack Welch as CEO of GEMS' parent, General Electric, when Welch retires.


V.. school districts spent $6.7 billion on educational technology during the 1998-99 school year, up from $5.4 billion in 1997-98, according to QED's Technology Purchasing Forecast, 1999-2000, fifth edition, a new report from Quality Education Data Inc. The forecast is an annual report covering technology information usage such as instructional and administrative computer practices, hardware and software spending, enrollment figures and per pupil expenditures. For further information about the methodology used, visit www.qeddata.com


Ffty ISO 9000 registrars are now accredited by the American National Standards Institute-Registrar Accreditation Board (ANSI-RAB) National Accreditation Program. The first registrar received the accreditation in 1991. Today, there are registrars from the United Kingdom, Canada, Mexico and the United States, with an additional eight, including registrars from Korea and Trinidad, having applied but not yet been accredited.


DLBAR Inc., a financial services research firm that measures the performance of financial professionals and institutions in areas such as client satisfaction, service quality and communications effectiveness, awarded its first institutional award for quality in personal financial advice to Prudential Financial Planning Services, a subsidiary of the Prudential Insurance Co. of America. Clients were asked to evaluate their planners' performance in areas such as quality of advice, financial results, satisfaction with services and trust.

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