ACSI Reports Low Expectations of Government Agencies

An annual special report on the federal government from the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) shows more satisfaction than might be expected, along with low expectations and striking contrasts.

Government agencies' average score, 70.9 on a 100-point scale, trails that of the overall national ACSI, 73.8. ACSI produces quarterly industry sector satisfaction scores reflecting performance in areas customers identify as being most important.

Overall, for government agencies measured, courtesy and professionalism rate high, in the 80-82 range, but expectations are low, an average of 68 compared to 78 in the private sector. The scores for timeliness of service (70) and ease of doing business (74) both dropped three points since last year. Trust in government scored 72.

"In general, people who actually interact with the government are reasonably satisfied," said Claus Fornell, who heads ACSI, which is produced by the University of Michigan in partnership with ASQ and the CFI consulting firm.

Retirement benefit recipients,  Veterans Administration (VA) clients and users of the Federal Consumer Information Center are among the most satisfied users of large volume agencies. The Pension Guaranty Corp. scored 84; Social Security Agency benefit recipients and VA medical center inpatients had satisfaction levels of 81; and VA outpatients, users of the VA toll-free line and those who interact with the Pueblo, CO, information center gave average scores of 80. The U.S. Mint, whose customers are coin collectors, was the highest scoring agency, at 89.

The Internal Revenue Service earned a 77 score from e-filers but only 63 overall for nonbusiness taxpayers. That score has been rising over the five years ACSI has measured government agencies, however, largely because of the growing number of e-filers. Businesses rate the agency lower--small businesses gave it a 60 rating and large and mid-sized ones showed considerable dissatisfaction, with a score of 53.

For scores of all government agencies included in the report or more details, go to ASQ's website or www.theacsi.org.


ISO Issues New Certification Publicity Guidelines

The International Organization for Standardization, known as ISO, has issued new guidelines to help organizations publicize certifications to ISO 9001:2000 or ISO 14000.  

The guidelines cover areas such as:

  • The requirement for reference to ISO 9001:2000, not just ISO 9001, to avoid confusion with the earlier version of the standard.
  • Avoidance of misuse of ISO's logo and name in connection with certification. ISO itself neither audits organizations nor issues certifications--functions carried out independently by more than 750 certification bodies around the world.
  • The fact that ISO 9001:2000 and ISO 14001 give generic requirements for management systems, not requirements for specific products or services. Thus, certification marks of conformity may not be displayed on products, labels, packaging or in any way that may be interpreted as denoting product conformity.

Publicizing Your ISO 9001:2000 or ISO 14001 Certification is available as a free download in English or French from ISO's website at www.iso.org.


Automakers Affirm Voluntary Standards for SUV Safety

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, an advocacy group for the auto industry on public safety issues, has affirmed a new voluntary commitment to adopt standards to enhance occupant protection in collisions involving sport utility vehicles (SUVs).

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) says studies indicate car occupants are more likely to die in crashes with SUVs and light trucks because bumpers on the latter are typically much higher.

The new safety performance criteria will employ a variety of occupant protection technologies and design features, including front structural components and enhanced side impact protection. The plan calls for half of the vehicles offered in the United States to meet front to side crash requirements by September 2007.

ANSI says automakers could also make changes to SUVs so there is less height difference in collisions with cars. Automakers plan full compliance with the voluntary standards by September 2009.

Formed in 1999, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers is a trade association of nine car and light truck manufacturers: BMW Group, DaimlerChrysler, Ford Motor Co., General Motors, Mazda, Mitsubishi Motors, Porsche, Toyota and Volkswagen.

For additional information, go to www.ansi.org.

ASQ News

THREE AQC KEYNOTERS NAMED The three keynote speakers for the Annual Quality Congress (AQC) May 24-26 in Toronto have been announced. Monday's keynoter will be John A. White, chancellor of the University of Arkansas. On Tuesday, Jennifer James, a lecturer and consultant on managing change, working relationships, sexual harassment issues and stress management, will speak. Keith Harrell, former IBM marketing executive and now speaker, trainer, consultant and author, will give the keynote address on Wednesday. More detailed information on the speakers, topics and AQC can be found at http://aqc.asq.org.

19 COURSES AT QUALITY MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE At the Quality Management Conference at the Dallas Adam's Mark Hotel in early March, 19 courses will be offered. The conference will be March 4-5, with preconference and postconference sessions provided. Visit www.asq-qmd.org for course and conference session descriptions, online registration and other information.

SAMPLING STANDARDS REVISED The Z1.4-1993 and Z1.9-1993 sampling standards have been revised. They are used to establish and maintain acceptance sampling systems for an organization's quality management system and are referenced in product specifications, contracts and inspection instructions. ANSI/ASQ Z1.4-2003 Sampling Procedures and Tables for Inspection by Attributes and ANSI/ASQ Z1.9-2003 Sampling Procedures and Tables for Inspection by Variables for Percent Non-conforming are available for purchase from ASQ Quality Press in either hard copy or e-version. Visit the Quality Press Bookstore through the ASQ website.  

AQP TEAM COMPETITION TO BE INTERNATIONAL The Association for Quality and Participation's (AQP) team competition, slated to take place during ASQ's Annual Quality Congress (AQC) May 24-26 in Toronto, will be international in scope, featuring teams from the United States, Canada, China, Mexico and Costa Rica. Since the AQP International Team Excellence Award Competition started in 1985, more than 700 teams have entered. Their goals have included recognition, self-assessment and improvement, benchmarking and encouragement of excellence. Qualifying teams (finalists) will do live presentations at this year's AQC. All finalists will be recognized and receive trophies throughout the general sessions. The three highest scoring teams will also receive the gold, silver and bronze awards during AQC's closing session.

EACH ONE REACH ONE WINNERS NAMED November produced two winners in ASQ's Each One Reach One (member-get-a-member) program. The program recognizes members who refer the most members in one month, and there is also a random drawing each month. Winners receive a Quality Press gift certificate. Martin Fein, a member since 1977 from Merrick, NY, recruited five new members. Dennis Givens of Knoxville, TN, a member since 1990, recruited one new member and was randomly drawn from a pool of all November sponsors. For more information on the Each One Reach One program, call ASQ at 800-248-1946 or 414-272-8575 or e-mail cs@asq.org, and ask for item B0132. You may also visit Membership on ASQ's website.


Ford Asks Exec To Solve Healthcare Crisis

Ford Motor Co. CEO William Clay Ford Jr. has asked Vice Chairman Allan Gilmour to craft a proposal to fix the U.S. healthcare system, according to the Detroit Free Press.

CEO Ford and Gilmour would then take the proposal to other companies, unions and, ultimately, to federal public officials in Washington, DC. 

The auto maker spends about $1,200 per vehicle on employee and retiree healthcare, a cost private employees don't bear in countries with government funded medical care. Ford said the healthcare issue "is driving investment decisions away from the United States, and that's wrong. I think that as a country, if we have a model that isn't working and a model that's driving jobs overseas, then we'd better take another look at it."

Ford emphasized he has no preconceived notion of how to solve the crisis and isn't out raising the banner for national healthcare. "But I do think we need a new model because if the employers are getting choked with healthcare, and the hospitals are all losing money and the HMOs claim they're not making any money, then the system does not seem to be working very well."


Committee Announces ASQ Office, Board Slate

ASQ's Nominating Committee announced the following slate of candidates for the 2004­05 membership year for the positions of ASQ president-elect, vice president, treasurer and two national directors (the positions of president and chair are included in the list, although they were previously selected):

  • Chair--Kenneth E. Case, professor, Oklahoma State University.
  • President--Daniel M. Duhan, director of avionics systems programs, Northrup Grumman.
  • President-elect--Jerry J. Mairani, owner and CEO, Upward-Performance.
  • Vice president--Carol Sager, president, Sager Educational Enterprises.
  • Treasurer--Maryann Brennan, president and senior consultant, Brennan Worldwide.
  • National director--Sharon Muret-Wagstaff, associate director, Harvard Pediatric Health Services research fellowship program, and pediatrics instructor, Harvard Medical School.
  • National director--Larry R. Smith, quality coach, Ford Heritage Program, Ford Motor Co.

This slate will be confirmed at ASQ's annual business meeting on May 23 at the Annual Quality Congress in Toronto unless nominations by petition reach Catherine Valentine at ASQ headquarters by Feb. 13.


Consultant Suggests Steps To Avoid Outsourcing  

Business consultant Rebecca A. Morgan of Fulcrum Consultingworks Inc., Cleveland, has suggested seven ways to cut manufacturing costs without sending work offshore:  

  1. Invest in equipment maintenance. Unplanned machine downtime is much more expensive than planned downtime.  
  2. Don't make across-the-board budget reductions. It's highly unlikely equal cuts in every area will have equal impacts on the company overall. Fair is not the objective; effective is.  
  3. Consider the long-term impact and goal. Labor may be the easiest, quickest target, but improving processes may have the greatest long-lasting positive impact.    
  4. If a capital expenditure is justified based on labor reductions, make sure the labor will really go away or be used elsewhere profitably.
  5. Before increasing the rate of output from a piece of equipment, make sure you understand the impact of that increase on other equipment and inventory flow.  
  6. Question everything. Much of the work we do is because "we've always done it this way." Don't do things that cost more than the value provided, unless legally required. Use the time to do something that matters.  
  7. Visual, simple and real-time information communicates quickly and effectively in many cases. Don't make it fancy unless there are real benefits of doing so.

The Face of Quality

Name: Lorraine M. Davis.

Residence: Bettendorf, IA.

Education: Bachelor's degree in human resources, Bellevue  University, Omaha, NE.

First job related to quality: Phlebotomist and center manager, Plasma Alliance, Omaha, where quality assurance was part of her duties.

Current job: Quality manager, Aventis Bio Services, Davenport, IA, providing assistance and oversight of quality, training and regulatory compliance for business units.

ASQ activities: Certified quality auditor and quality manager; until a recent corporate restructuring, was a quality unit manager for seven locations where she encouraged those who worked for her to pursue ASQ membership and certification; under her direction, four pursued ASQ's certified quality improvement associate designation and one became a certified quality auditor.

Other activities: According to one of her co-workers, she helped many learn good quality practices including critical analysis of processes, auditing skills, root cause analysis and application of quality systems such as plan-do-check-act to their daily functions. She also directly guided the careers of many quality professionals and taught them how to ensure the blood plasma supply is pure and potent.

Personal: Has a 15-year-old daughter.

Favorite ways to relax: Read and bake.

Quality quote: As a quality manager for a plasma center, I increasingly realized that although each business unit faces some unique obstacles, most have similar challenges and opportunities. To increase knowledge of basic quality concepts and promote continual learning, I encouraged each quality system supervisor in my area to join ASQ if he or she was not already a member. As a group, we all became members and all sat for at least one exam.


Annual ISO 9000 Summit March 22-24 in San Francisco

ASQ's 11th Annual ISO 9000 Summit March 22-23 in San Francisco will feature 16 case study presentations, nine  four-hour general sessions and 12 courses on topics such as Baldrige, lean manufacturing, Six Sigma, lean sigma, ISO 14000, ISO/TS 16949:2002, AS 9100A, ISO 13485 (medical devices) and the new AG 9000 (farms, seed producers and related businesses).

Specific programming at the summit will include:

  • A general session related to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act on corporate governance.
  • A presentation on the quality journey of the Phoenix Police Department.
  • A panel of experts discussing the ISO 9000:2000 transition aftermath, moderated by QSU Publishing CEO Paul Schiccitano.

Members of U.S. Technical Advisory Groups 207 and 176 will be meeting, and both Quality Systems Update and The Informed Outlook will give all conference attendees free one-year subscriptions to their publications--a $775 value.

Check the Conferences area on ASQ's website, for more information and to register.


Conference Board Predicts Banner Economic Year

Revising its year-end economic forecast sharply upward, the Conference Board projects real U.S. gross domestic product growth will hit 5.7% in 2004, making it the best year economically in the last 20.

"Growing business spending and continued strength in consumer spending are generating growth throughout the U.S. economy," says Gail Fosler, Conference Board chief economist, who prepared the forecast. "While the labor market, a critical factor in sustaining growth, is expanding slowly, a pickup in hiring may already have begun."

Fosler expects real consumer spending, which continues to fuel growth, will increase at a 4.7% pace in 2004, up from about 3.2% in 2003. While the U.S. economy is expected to generate more than 1 million new jobs next year, the unemployment rate will edge down only slightly, averaging 5.6% in 2004.

The forecast expects worker productivity, which set a 20-year record in 2003's third quarter, to rise a healthy 3.6% in 2004, following a gain of 4.3% in 2003.

Real capital spending, which rose only about 2.7% in 2003, is expected to climb 11.7% in 2004 and another 8.6% in 2005. Pretax corporate operating profits will top $1 trillion next year, up from a projected $900 billion plus in 2003. Another trillion-dollar-plus gain in profits is expected for 2005.

The continued recovery in business profits, a key ingredient in funding new investment (crucial in making 2004 a strong growth year) depends on price relief. Fosler says business profits will benefit from both improved volume and recovering profit margins as inflation creeps back toward 3% by the end of 2004.

Europe's economy is also expected to bounce back, though at a lesser rate than other parts of the world. In fact, Fosler expects the dollar to be worth more than the euro by the end of the year.

The economic forecast is prepared for more than 2,500 corporate members of the Conference Board's global business network, based in 60 nations. For more information, go to www.conference-board.org.

Short Runs

AN INTERNATIONAL ACCREDITATION FORUM (IAF) task force has developed recommendations to improve satisfaction among customers of services provided by IAF and its member accreditation bodies by ensuring the integrity of the accreditation process and improving service. The five target issues, identified from a survey of customers, are timely accreditation procedure completion, quick response to requests for extension of scope, open and clear communication, treatment as a valued customer and provision of services of good value. The task force will present an action plan to the IAF executive committee at a meeting March 2-3 in Vancouver, British Columbia. Task force members include representatives of accreditation bodies and certification/registration bodies in the Americas, Europe and Asia.

THE U.S. GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE SAYS better performance measures are needed to assess results of the Department of Justice's National Institute of Justice, whose mission is to improve the safety and effectiveness of technology used by federal, state and local law enforcement and other public safety agencies. The Institute of Justice funds programs in forensic sciences, crime prevention, and standards and testing.

INTRODUCE A GIRL TO ENGINEERING DAY, sponsored by National Engineers Week, will be held Feb. 26. More than 125 organizations and 11,000 female engineers and their male colleagues will provide direct mentoring activities to an estimated 1 million girls in the fourth annual campaign, which is led by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

certified for the first time by the American Institute of Steel Construction Inc. must comply with the institute's new certification standard for steel building structures. For more information on the required training, call 312-423-6491 or e-mail certification@aisc.org.

THE CENTER FOR BEST PRACTICES of the National Governors Assn. recently discussed access to affordable, high quality, convenient preschool at a two-day forum attended by governors, lieutenant governors, first ladies, educators, policymakers, researchers and business leaders.

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