Having a Single Supplier Is the Way To Go

Dipak Thakur's article, "9 Reasons To Switch to a Single Supplier System" (March 2002, p. 61), is great. I have been a proponent of this system for many years and have found it easier for the supplier and our company when we work with a single source to improve quality and reduce costs.

My company manufactures plastic shutters whose major component is a compounded resin. When I started work at this company, we had five suppliers and many problems. By reducing the number of suppliers to three, we saw some improvements, but still had some problems.

When we went to a single source system a couple of years ago, we were able to get a consistent supply of compounded resin. It has eliminated interruptions in our processes. When we see trends that indicate a change, we contact the supplier, who sends engineers to review the process and determine the cause. Then we take corrective action. Every shipment is supplied with certificates of analysis taken during the run.

Our supplier can control the materials it uses to make the compounded resin so every batch will meet our requirements. The quality of the purchased materials our supplier uses for us is much better now because the materials can be purchased in higher volumes.

We do keep an alternative source for emergencies. That company is aware it is a backup, but we do give it orders periodically.

Perfect Shutters
Hebron, IL


Stop Arguing About Which Standard To Use

I have this to say about the many letters arguing the pros and cons of this system and that system, and this standard and that standard. I'm not a certified Black Belt with a background in Six Sigma, lean manufacturing or total quality management. I'm just a retired sailor who got a job as a quality manager at an automotive floor mat manufacturing facility.

When I came to this facility, no one understood the concept of procedural documentation. Procedures were available but not followed, so I immediately began creating procedures and requiring their use. When QS-9000 came along, I used it for its guidelines and as an excuse to get my procedures implemented. I did the same with ISO 14000.

It really doesn't matter which standard you use as long as you manage your people. I learned that in the U.S. Navy, and my understanding of this principle hasn't changed after 30 years of managing people.

Tell them what to do, how to do it, when to do it and why to do it, and answer their questions with honesty and integrity. Listen to their ideas and give them credit when they deserve it. Respect your people, and they will respect you. Give them the tools and equipment to do the job, and leave no doubt in their minds as to what level of performance you expect.

In this way, you'll accomplish two things: You'll have acceptable quality, and you'll meet your production goals. Either is useless without the other.

We all strive for better quality, but sometimes customers expect too much considering what they are willing to pay. It is the job of the supplier to achieve the best possible product at a price conducive to business demands. People in quality sometimes forget that.

So stop arguing about which standard will do this or that, and manage your people to the standard your industry or customers have mandated.

U.S. Navy, retired
Quality manager
Waycross Molded Products
Waycross, GA


Quality Has Little Use For Baseless Assertions

I find it absolutely unbelievable that a magazine and organization devoted to the field of quality would allow themselves to become the mouthpiece for left-wing extremists (Darcy Hitchcock and Marsha Willard, "Sustainability: Enlarging Quality's Mission," February 2002, p. 43). Equally as incredible is the suggestion by the authors that the terrorist attack "proves the point" for anything in this ridiculous liberal propaganda treatise. Furthermore, I would suggest Bill Clinton would be a more persuasive reference for magazine articles related to adult content.

I believe the quality discipline is one that respects facts and has little use for baseless assertions. The editors would be well-advised to follow the same principle when reviewing articles for inclusion in Quality Progress.

Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift America
Houston, TX


Oil Did Not Cause Terrorist Attacks

I do not understand how Darcy Hitchcock and Marsha Willard can link the terrorist attacks to oil. They seem to make some weak assumptions, and it is evident that Osama bin Laden doesn't care about how the United States is dependent on oil consumption or the environmental effects of this dependence. He is (or was) a very rich individual with a demented mind who used his money to persuade others to join in his hatred of the United States.

Sure, he and most of the Middle Eastern world are definitely jealous of the West, and that was probably some of the impetus behind the attacks. But the primary difference is religious, as Hitchcock and Willard cite in the article. Bin Laden and his followers don't like the freedom we have in Christianity. His and his followers' main objective was to fight and die for Islam. Does that have anything to do with oil? Have any of bin Laden's comments ever been linked to industrialization and oil issues? Could Hitchcock and Willard please give me some reading references so I can try to understand their viewpoint?

With regard to Bill Clinton's plea for developing countries to turn away from shortsighted selfishness, Clinton for one surely knows how much the United States contributes to foreign financial needs, as we have given numerous countries tremendous loans that will never be repaid.

I think QP is an excellent resource for quality of business and even life issues, but I am concerned the magazine's focus may get sidetracked with articles like this. I would surely hate to see this publication turn into a liberal outlet. What is the purpose of this article in QP? What are we to get out of it on a quality front?

Spectrum Metals
Baton Rouge, LA

Authors' Response: Regarding sustainability and the Sept. 11 attacks, we certainly do not believe sustainability was bin Laden's motivation for the attacks. What we were trying to do was to look at the events through the lens of sustainability. Bin Laden has used the United States' military presence in Saudia Arabia as a platform for generating hatred for the United States, and our involvement in the region is linked to our dependence on oil, an unsustainable energy source. Afghanistan has been devastated by drought, a possible effect of climate change, which is a result of using fossil fuels.

These social issues are part of sustainability; we ignore these problems at our own peril. The consumptive lifestyle in the United States also raises issues with people in the developing world.

We recommend the following reading material:

  • Hammond, Allen, Which World: Scenarios for the 21st Century (Washington, DC: Island Press, 1998).
  • Kaplan, Robert, The Coming Anarchy (New York: Random House, 2000).
  • Brown, Lester, Eco-Economy: Building an Economy for the Earth (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2001).
  • Putnam, Robert D., Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2000).

Axis Performance Advisors
Portland, OR

Is This ValuableMagazine On a Downward Spiral?

Even by looking through the lens of sustainability, the authors of "Sustainability: Enlarging Quality's Mission" fail to prove any point in somehow understanding the intent of the terrorist attacks as a function of present U.S. industrial responsibility to the environment or the world community. In fact, the authors' attempt to somehow justify the terrorists' actions for something grounded in logic is an affront to the victims' families.

Osama bin Laden and the terrorists that slammed into the World Trade Center are from a new breed of evil; they are known to be well-educated and wealthy. They certainly have no regard for the environment or, more importantly, human life.

The United States continues to remain the leader in philanthropic and humanitarian aid to other countries. At the same time, our government remains the most proactive country in the world with respect to environmental stewardship.

The premise that we should be moving to embrace sustainability is laudable, but to equate the lack of sustainability with a rationalization for terrorism is preposterous. If I wanted to read political spin without due regard for Deming's theory of knowledge, I would pick up a copy of Newsweek. I hope this article does not portend a downward spiral for what has been a valuable journal. Based on her superlative past work, I would anticipate Debbie Phillips-Donaldson will continue to produce a quality product.

Chesapeake, Virginia


Authors Blinded by Their Own Political Agendas

I was disturbed when reading "Sustainability: Enlarging Quality's Mission." The authors made some good points about environmental management, a quality issue, but were blinded by their own political agendas. I find it hard to believe Quality Progress would accept such a slanted view of the environment given it is a magazine about the issue of corporate quality, not environmental extremism. The whole article is littered with a "blame the United States mentality" and quotes such as the "economic inequality and overconsumption of the West."

It would be nice to see some facts to back up the authors' claims of global warming, rising sea levels and water depletion. QP is about data and facts, correct? I think it is foolish to assume Sept. 11 happened because of economic inequality.

Anger about economic inequality and overconsumption in the West is not "framed as a religious issue" as the authors claim. The terrorists don't hate the United States because people here drive SUVs and consume more Pepsi and Styrofoam than a typical Arab does. The terrorists hate the United States because it tends to support Israel. They also see the liberal policies our government forces on them as religious issues. They see us as evil because we export more hard-core pornography than any other nation on earth. They hate us because we impose our population control methods on them without their consent.

Certified quality engineer
Cincinnati, OH


Include Guest Lecturers In Business Courses

The quality of higher education, especially in business schools, is a contemporary concern (Peggy Brewer, Terri Friel, William Davig and Judith Spain, "Quality in the Classroom," January 2002, p. 67). The curriculum, the contents of each of the courses and the pedagogy need to align with the needs of the customer. The article helped define who is the customer of higher education institutions. It is wise to treat employers as the ultimate customers and students as both products and internal customers.

Another way to add value to higher education is to include guest lectures by industry executives in each of the courses taught at a business school. Most schools do this now, but their approach is a bit casual. It is possible to fit such lectures into a course's design.

The speaker should be given a course outline and a briefing by the teacher. The teacher should assist the speaker in designing his or her module but should not try to influence the speaker's original thinking process. The speaker should cover a topic that's an integral part of the course, and the students should be given an assignment based on the lecture.

The teacher should survey the students and the speakers after the course is completed because it will help improve the course in the future.

PGDMS coordinator
SDM Institute for Management Development
Mysore, India

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