To Work With Than Table
The table in Russ Westcott's August 2003 "One Good Idea" column ("Process Identification," p. 104) is simple, but it becomes difficult to work with once the total system functions are added. This is one of the major reasons to flowchart the system instead--you can drill down to the right depth to completely define your system. Think of it as a 3-D outline, constructed to track and guide the flow of data, materials and products throughout the manufacturing cycle.
A sample quality system procedure (QSP) would assist in the complete understanding of this approach. In any event, Westcott's inclusion of accounting, which is not incorporated in the standard, is an advancement toward a management system. I assume the accounting department is included in QSP-01 in the table, because it must be brought on board at the start of any project.
La Habra, CA
Process Identification Table Raises Questions
The process identification table appears to be an effective and concise presentation of a quality management system, but I'm not sure it fully defines the interaction as required in ISO 9001 clauses 4.1b and 4.2.2c. There is much discussion that many problems happen at the hand-off from one process to another. That's why it's important to make sure the interaction is defined and evaluated.
ALLAN J. GERBER
South Bend, IN
Russ Westcott's out-of-the-box approach is revolutionary. This format is much easier to maintain, especially for smaller organizations. But I wonder if this approach would meet independent auditor requirements for ISO 9000 certification?
Author's Response: I would like to respond to both Hamilton and Gerber. Since the standard leaves the medium and the definition up to the user, the table shown depicts the way the user chose to define the interactions (showing inputs and outputs for each major process and referencing the quality system procedures that describe more fully the linkages between pertinent processes).
The intent of the table is to replace the top level flow diagram or process map that is typically suggested for visually showing the connections between processes. The prospect of creating and updating such a diagram is daunting, but the table, a Microsoft Word document, is much less intimidating and is easily updated.
The measures column in the table shows auditors what to look for in evaluating the effectiveness of the processes.
To further simplify updating and document control, the table is referenced in the quality manual and maintained separately as a controlled document.
The object of all documentation should be to emphasize the minimum acceptable detail that achieves the objective of the document. If your organization needs more, add to it. The clients in my example achieved recertification to ISO 9001:2000 in the first pass with no nonconformances. They had all the documentation they needed.
R.T. Westcott & Associates
Old Saybrook, CT
ASQ's Customer Care
I just read Susan E. Daniels' article "A Model for Customer Service" in the August 2003 issue (p. 30). I've been a frequent caller to ASQ headquarters and have been very happy with the service I've received. I've even told others about it and encouraged them to give it a try. I like talking to a knowledgeable person, so please don't switch to an automated system. Customer service is doing a terrific job!
White Hart Associates
Have Many Concerns
The article "Widespread Effects of Defects" by Trudy Howles (August 2003, p. 58) brought to mind the many misgivings software engineers are faced with. When a new product or system is developed, an abundance of problems or challenges can arise, including the dreaded software problem or the occasional computer hardware problem. We have all heard someone say, "I couldn't finish what I needed to do because of a software or computer problem." This excuse is one of the most accepted in the workplace. Why? Because most people do not understand software and find it easier to pass the buck to the software engineers.
But that doesn't necessarily mean a problem truly exists. Howles failed to address the following questions: What was the true error for the computer that simply stopped responding? How does the PC manufacturer round off numbers? What is the machine's epsilon? What typically happens when you divide an extremely small number by an extremely large number? You can't discuss the shortcomings of software engineering until you can answer these questions.
Once software has been installed and operational for six months, why do people immediately assume it's a software problem when something doesn't work? Howles started to consider this in the article but did not fully expound upon her views.
There are innumerable areas in which problems can exist within a system, be it a PC or a dedicated control system. The average operator has no clue as to what is transpiring behind the scenes and really doesn't need to. But people should be made aware the quality of the software is not always the true problem when things just stop working.
Also, in a real-time environment, software can cover up a deficiency in the mechanical design of the computer. Real-time programmers usually have to adjust their code to compensate for the mechanical shortcuts the mechanical engineers may have missed. Mechanical and software engineers usually don't speak about this subject. It is kind of an unspoken acknowledgment between the disciplines.
Of All Sizes
The "Multiple Choice" article (July 2003, p. 25) was excellent. It provided pertinent information related to current quality management systems and illustrated how each can be used in different organizations. The information was presented in a way that is worthwhile to those who are new to the quality arena as well as those who are experienced in the area. The system choices should satisfy any quality appetite.
SANDRA E. WARD
HIP Health Plan of New York
New York City
5S Is More Applicable To Small Businesses
I loved the "Multiple Choice" article. You asked for feedback about readers' favorite quality methodologies, so I'd like to explain why I prefer 5S.
I introduce quality to really small businesses, the type that have a man, a car and a secondhand computer stuck in an attic somewhere. (Well, the car might be parked in the street.) This company doesn't know about quality, and the owner is, quite literally, terrified.
Anyone with a small business operating in limited space will know the smaller the territory, the more important it is to immediately know exactly where everything is. But 5S isn't just about housekeeping. A quality initiative has to impact the bottom line, and if the bottom line isn't affected, I don't get paid. So I make sure the business benefits!
I have two and a half aims with 5S. First, I show the company how it can save time and resources by adopting 5S, which is relatively simple: Sort out what is essential, junk or archive what is not, and then decide how to keep things efficient. Second, I show how processes can be mapped, documented and standardized by playing the part of the country visitor, asking how things are done and why they're done in a particular way, before reaching an agreement on the most efficient way to carry out the processes.
Finally--this is the half aim--I show the company what it's saved, present my bill, get paid and ride off into the sunset to find another customer. I also aim to leave a satisfied customer who has a basic, but robust, quality management system, the beginnings of an audit trail and some hope for the future.
The World Sees
Steven Prevette's comments in "Multiple Choice" ("Systems Thinking--An Uncommon Answer") assured me I was not alone in this thinking. Unfortunately the world around us does not agree with his commonsense approach to business and life, and we end up creating a highly stressful environment for exercising proper professional and life judgments.
We are living in the midst of an "I want it now" and "me only" generation. Just look at the stock markets and the importance of quarterly earnings--companies live and die by them. Who wants to invest in a company that says, "We will be here for many years; just be patient with our current losses because we have action plans for recovery"? Maybe some astute investors will bank on it, but the masses will drop it like a hot potato. And if the investors want immediate satisfaction, the board of directors, CEOs and all other levels of management will follow suit.
So where does that put us quality professionals who see the real benefit in systems management? It puts us in a position where we have to use our management skills to the fullest. On a daily basis we must balance what needs to be done immediately for real and for effect. We also have to keep the real long-term activities on the front burner by ensuring we solicit enough support to do so.
The Many Flavors
Sometimes we quality practitioners think we work in a business of supplying many flavors of quality. We all know there is a flavor, or program, of the year. Most of us have seen, taught, consulted and defended these flavors.
From my observations, all the flavors developed over the past 25 years can produce a better quality product, improve our service quality and increase productivity while reducing the cost to the organizations that correctly implement them.
The articles Quality Progress has published over the last two years, including "Organize Your Quality Tool Belt" (Duke Okes, July 2002, p. 25) and "Multiple Choice" will help us better understand what has occurred and is occurring. But let us be cautious in this dialogue. Many newer practitioners are not fully trained and lack experience in dealing with all the past flavors and, as in the past, often jump on the latest flavor's bandwagon and tout it as the ultimate choice.
No one flavor will provide quality for an organization. Quality professionals have to select the correct flavor at the proper time to improve quality. For instance, using a club (Six Sigma) when a small tack hammer (statistical process control) is needed can just mess up everything. Why even consider using Six Sigma methodology when processes are not yet stable or have not reached three sigma?
It is our responsibility to be mindful of this dilemma. It is the journey. Let us not get hooked on the latest flavor, standard or guru to come our way.
Santa Fe, NM
CMMI Is a Credible Quality System
The July issue of Quality Progress was excellent; I particularly liked the "Multiple Choice" article. However, I do have to take issue with the exclusion of capability maturity model integration (CMMI) as a plausible alternative to ISO 9000 as a quality management system. Many large organizations, my own included, are exploring CMMI's possible application as a generic management system. Despite its background in software and lately systems engineering, the underlying quality management principles are evident in many of its clauses.
The Department of Defense also makes achieving level three of CMMI a mandatory requirement on development contracts with a heavy systems and software content. CMMI's system of regulation is far more rigorous than ISO 9000's. The escalating maturity levels based on improved process capability make it more demanding than achieving ISO 9000 approval is.
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