“Upfront” Provides Food for Thought

I enjoyed Debbie Phillips-Donaldson’s “Upfront” column on staying connected to the customer (November 2004, p. 6). It gave me food for thought and led me to read several articles I would have otherwise passed over.

Founder of www.thankingcustomers.com
Tulsa, OK

New Designs Follow International Specifications

Shengping Gao and Timothy Li’s article, “PetroChina’s Strategic Planning Focused on Quality,” in the November 2004 issue (p. 35) was very interesting. According to the authors, “PetroChina now requires all new designs to follow international specifications related to equipment and products” (p. 38). This statement prompted several questions:

  1. Was the equipment previously designed on PetroChina’s internal specifications?
  2. How did PetroChina determine the use of international specifications would not impact the reliability of the equipment?
  3. Was benchmarking done to compare PetroChina’s specifications to international specifications? If so, how was it conducted?

Saudi Aramco
Saudi Arabia

Authors’ Response:

We’re glad you enjoyed our article. The answers to your questions are as follows:

1. No. Besides companywide specifications, PetroChina followed Chinese national standards, Chinese petrochemical industry standards and some Internation-al Organization of Standardiza- tion (ISO), American Petroleum Institute (API) and European Standard (EN) standards. As the interaction with global markets became significant, PetroChina pushed for increased adoption of international standards to meet the demand of its overseas customers. The Chinese petroleum industry has always maintained strong control of specifications, but some are in conflict with international standards. This is where PetroChina wants to see change.

2. PetroChina and the Chinese petrochemical industry did not blindly adopt the international specifications. Plenty of research and deliberation was done before they were translated into industrywide standards. We followed these four main principles:

  • The new standards, such as ISO, API and EN, should not violate existing Chinese laws and regulations.
  • The new standards should improve the production and management capability of the Chinese petrochemical industry.
  • The Chinese petrochemical industry should be able to meet these standards through reasonable efforts. The standards should not be so demanding the whole industry considers the implementation impossible given current financial and human resources.
  • The standards should be proved safe, reliable and scientifically sound.

Most of the adoption happened through incremental changes in Chinese national standards that reflected specifica- tions accepted by most countries.

3. PetroChina and the Chinese petrochemical industry have rarely adopted any international standards as a whole because of the inherent difficulties and uncertainties involved. Instead, incremental changes are made within existing Chinese standards to reflect international demands. This mixed situation makes benchmarking less effective. PetroChina does, however, regularly review the need for new standards and the performance of implemented changes.

Standard Research Institute

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Washington, DC

Certification Exam Tips Are Winners

As an instructor of local certification exam refresher courses, I think James Rooney’s article, “Certifi-cation Exam Tips, Trips and Traps” (October 2004, p. 41), will be an excellent supplement to the discussions I have with my students. Rooney’s insight is the result of personal experience, and as students prepare to take an exam, I believe the most meaningful advice I can give them involves things to which they can personally relate. His suggestions to set up a review schedule and study as if the exam were closed book are also winners.

I would, however, like to build on a few of his points. I have found that first time exam takers are different from experienced veterans because their anxiety level (fear of the unknown) is often much higher. In an effort to reduce the number of items feeding this anxiety, I offer the following advice:

  • Do not skip any questions on the answer sheet. The possibility of getting out of sequence is very real, and the results can be catastrophic. If you’re not sure of the answer, put something down, make a note of the question number, and come back to it. There’s no penalty for guessing.
  • Use the review questions as a tool to develop an internal clock. Have an idea of how many minutes you have to answer each question and try to answer
    the review questions at that pace. Time management is a key ingredient to success. Knowing which question you should be working on at the end of each half hour will also help set the pace during the exam.
  • Rooney suggests not reviewing in the last hour before the exam, but I tell my students to go through some review questions while eating a light breakfast. The goal isn’t to learn something new at the last minute, but to get their juices flowing. First time exam takers run the risk of drawing a blank when they first open their test booklets and can end up wasting valuable time.

I thank Rooney for his insight!

Grand Rapids, MI

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