Competitiveness Council Cites U.S. Economic Vulnerabilities


The Council on Competitiveness says despite the economic boom of the 1990s, there are "serious cracks" in the foundation of U.S. competitiveness.

In a recent report, U.S. Competitiveness 2001: Strengths, Vulnerabilities and Long-Term Priorities, the council listed three areas in which policy priorities are needed to ensure global leadership and a rising standard of living:

  • Maintaining world leadership in science and technology.
  • Boosting overall work force skills.
  • Strengthening regional clusters of innovation.

The report highlights the role of innovation as a source of U.S. competitive advantage and driver of productivity and growth, but uncovers a serious drop in public investment in research and innovation as a share of national wealth during the last decade.

In addition, it says the bar for continuing U.S. competitiveness is rising as global capacity for innovation grows, but the supply of scientists, engineers and technicians is growing abroad and declining in the United States.

The report is available by calling 202-682-4292 or by e-mailing council@compete.org. More information is available at www.compete.org

NIST Announces Database On Diagnostic Test Systems

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is developing a database of currently available reference materials and methods for in vitro diagnostics (IVD) test systems. The database is expected to be available on the Web within a few months.

The NIST effort is in response to the European Union directive requiring the calibration of medical devices for measuring specific substances in IVD samples to be traceable to a national standard. The directive is expected to be implemented by December 2003.

NIST says U.S. manufacturers produce more than 60% of the IVD test system devices sold in Europe.

Reorganization and Reform Urged For U.S. Health Care System

Reorganization and reform are urgently needed to fix the United States' disjointed and inefficient health care system, according to a new report from the National Academies Institute of Medicine.

The report says the nation's health care industry has foundered in its ability to provide safe, high quality care consistently to all Americans and that Congress should create a $1 billion fund to help subsidize promising projects and communicate the need for rapid and significant change.

Clinicians, health care organizations and purchasers (companies or groups that compensate health care providers for delivering services to patients) are urged to focus on improving care for the 15 or more most common, chronic conditions--such as heart disease, diabetes and asthma--that are now the leading causes of illness in the United States.

Health care professionals, hospitals, health plans and purchasers such as insurance companies should develop strategies and action plans to improve care for each of these priority conditions over a five-year period.

Also included in the report are the following recommendations:

  • A revamped system should be centered on the needs, preferences and values of patients and encourage teamwork among health care workers.
  • More use should be made of information technology. There should be a nationwide effort to build a technology based information infrastructure that would lead to the elimination of most handwritten clinical data within the next 10 years.
  • To stay aware of the big picture, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) should monitor and track quality improvements in safety, effectiveness, responsiveness to patients, timeliness, efficiency and equity.
  • Public and private purchasers should develop payment policies that reward quality.
  • With input from relevant private and public interests, the federal government should identify, test and evaluate various payment options that more closely align compensation methods with quality improvement goals.

The committee also offers 10 new rules to make the health system more responsive to patient needs and preferences and to encourage patient participation in decision making. The rules are intended to promote the development of systems that are consciously designed to be safe, anticipate patient needs, promote cooperation among clinicians, use resources wisely and make information on quality and safety performance available.

The study was sponsored by the Institute, National Research Council, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, California Health Care Foundation, Commonwealth Fund and HHS.

Overall Construction Classification System Being Developed

globe/webThe Overall Construction Classification System (OCCS), now under development, is envisioned as a common standard using consistent terminology to classify all aspects of the process used for constructing and sustaining the built environment--from conception through demolition.

The OCCS developmental effort is all volunteer, relying on the input of contributors from the construction and facilities management industries. The committee is urging architects, designers, specifiers, contractors, owners, facility managers and product representatives to visit www.occsnet.org to learn about the system's development or to volunteer to assist the effort.

Manufacturers Must Counter Side Effects of Economic Slowdown

Manufacturers, among the hardest hit businesses by the current economic slowdown, are urged to lessen damage by not allowing customers to perceive their operation is having difficulty.

This advice comes from George S. May International Co., a consulting firm headquartered in Park Ridge, IL. According to the company, "Customers respect and prefer to do business with successful people. While they may feel sorry for a business that is having hard times, it is dangerous for a manufacturing operation to show its difficulties. If it does, customers will begin taking their business elsewhere."

The company recently surveyed small and mid-sized business owners, learning that 59% of respondents selected positive, growth oriented actions as their response to the sagging economy. Activities include increasing sales and marketing (30%), retaining or increasing current employee benefits (12%), expanding internationally (9%), increasing the number of employees (5%) and increasing inventory (3%).

Only 41% of those surveyed are taking actions to reduce business activity. A clear majority believes the downturn will last less than a year.

Quality Award Program Gets Green Light for 2001

While the Bush administration has decided to continue the President's Quality Awards program through 2001, its future beyond that is still pending.

After an initial early March decision to cancel the awards, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) quickly changed its mind. The initial decision was based on diminished interest in the award over the last several years. The Federal Quality Institute closed in 1993, and the Annual Conference of Federal Quality was discontinued in 1998. Finally, there has not been a presidential level winner of the award for the last two years.

After learning this year's award applications were in the final stages of judging, however, OPM decided on the one-year reprieve for the program.

The President's Quality Awards program honors agencies for efficiency, productivity and cost effective management. It is based on the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award Program for private sector businesses.

'Dateline NBC' Slams U.S. Airlines But Finds One That's Top Notch

airplaneFollowing a scathing indictment of U.S. airlines on its March 13 show, "NBC Dateline" noted that one airline--Midwest Express, headquartered in Milwaukee--doesn't fit the pattern.

The "Dateline" reporter noted the comfortable seating, courteous (and attentive) customer focused service and outstanding food. "In fact, travel on Midwest Express is like a time warp," said the reporter. "Today on Midwest Express, dinner is served on real china, with real silverware and linen napkins."

In a future issue of Quality Progress, we plan an article on this "little airline that could" and what quality techniques it uses to assure that when it's included in surveys of airline travelers, it repeatedly gets the best reviews.

National Engineers Week Responds to Engineer Shortage

As part of its effort to respond to the U.S. shortage of engineers, the National Engineers Week organization launched an "Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day" this year.

The organization says if engineering reflected the demographics of the United States' overall work force, the increased numbers of women, underrepresented minorities and people with disabilities would be enough to cover almost all new positions.

As part of the solution, the organization targeted girls, hoping to encourage them to take sufficient math and science in grades seven to 12 to study engineering in college.

The day's planned activities included visits by hundreds of high school girls to engineering firms and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, programs by women engineers, such as members of the Society of Women Engineers, and programs by university engineering departments.

For more information on National Engineers Week or "Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day," visit www.eweek.org.  

The U.S. standardization and conformity assessment community will mark World Standards Day 2001 on Oct. 10. The day has been celebrated since 1970 to raise awareness of the importance of global standardization to the world economy.


Abstracts of proposed presentations are being sought for the Sixth International Conference on Manufacturing Technology slated for Dec. 16-18 in Hong Kong. For information, fax 5-852-2832-7839 or e-mail cicfinfo@hkstar.com. The submission deadline is June 15.

Average Rating


Out of 0 Ratings
Rate this article

Add Comments

View comments
Comments FAQ

Featured advertisers