Link Between Toys, Six Sigma Weak

In the September “Up Front” (“Quality at Your Service,” Dave Nelsen, p. 6), although the eventual description of Hasbro’s poor communication process may have been pertinent to quality, I found the strained link to Six Sigma more indicative of narcissism than analysis.

It is a bit of a stretch to assume a toy called Sigma 6 intentionally takes its name from Six Sigma. It is more likely derived from military elite forces designations such as Delta Force and related books such as Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six, which is also a popular video game.

Regardless of whatever condition Hasbro might have fallen into today, at the time of its introduction the G.I. Joe action figure was one of the best quality products made, from the durability and detail of the figures to the integrity of the accessories. Even then, Hasbro wisely linked the figures to further marketing campaigns, including a membership club and a cartoon.

Most early inquiries to the company were probably from users (children), not adults. That would explain the responses you received through their modern system. It may not be customer service as we expect and define it, but it is still good marketing.

Process Systems Consulting
Charlotte, NC

Editor’s Response:

Although we still haven’t gotten any useful information from Hasbro, we’ve done some further research. According to Wikipedia, the Sigma 6 team gets its name from the Sigma suits its members wear. Because no actual company, as far as we know, manufactures anything called a Sigma suit, we assume Hasbro came up with the name.

Of course, this still gives us no insight into why Hasbro chose the word sigma. Perhaps your theory connecting it to the U.S. Army’s use of Greek letters is a step in the right direction. Still, the presence of the number six in the name makes us wonder.

Quality Needed at More Car Dealerships

I was pleased and a bit overwhelmed to read that a car dealership won the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award (“Shifting Quality Into High Gear,” Mark Edmund, September 2006, p. 30).

This is a breath of fresh air. If quality tools can work in a car dealership, they can work anywhere. Could it be the beginning of something real?

The car dealership I go to in my hometown doesn’t have such a happy story and doesn’t come close to what Park Place Lexus (PPL) is doing. It has all the amenities to keep customers comfortable in the waiting area, but it is the quality of service that matters most.

Last month, I made an appointment to speak to the service manager about three complaints I had, but the meeting barely lasted two minutes. He screamed at me, insulted me and ordered me to leave his office for needlessly wasting his time. Apparently he concluded the customer is always at fault. I am still trying to forget the experience.

Car dealers don’t make cars; auto manufacturers do. But it is not the manufacturers that deal with the end customers—the dealerships do that. Product quality and service quality suddenly are separated. The accountability chain gets broken. Promises are made by the manufacturers but often never kept by the dealers. This is an unfortunate reality.

In the spirit of new beginnings, I invite PPL to come to my town and teach my lifelong dealership how to fix cars without upsetting customers.

TQRF Canada
Winnipeg, MB

Cokins Article Hits Home

Gary Cokins’ article, “Measuring the Cost of Quality for Management” (September 2006, p. 45) was interesting, and we were able to relate it to our own development of a new product.

We did not thoroughly evaluate this product for potential failures before taking it to market, resulting in high nonconformance costs related to internal and external failures. Now, we have to backtrack to reduce these costs and make an error free product.

Had we taken a better approach to creating a new product, we probably would not have incurred these costs. It was an expensive lesson, but something we will take with us. Cokins’ article reminds us that thinking about the cost of quality is something we need to do as part of new product development.

Appleton Ideas
Appleton, WI

Cost of Quality Not So New

In the second sentence of his article, Gary Cokins’ indicates few companies are using reliable quality cost reporting systems. Cokins neglected to recognize some industries are heavily using quality cost reporting.

Quality costs are an important part of revised International Organization for Standardization (ISO) quality management standards. Up until five years ago, I was conducting ISO 9000 audits for a registrar. At one company, the person discussing the program with me was from the IT department, because the company had revised its accounting reporting to follow quality cost concepts.

I invite further comment from people currently working with ISO quality management standards.

Enzon Pharmaceuticals
Bridgewater, NJ

Return on Investment, Not Just Cost, Counts Too

I hope Gary Cokins is planning a sequel to his excellent article. Perhaps he could call it “Measuring the Benefits of Quality for Management.”

From a financial management perspective, I applaud Cokins’ application of activity based costing principles to quality management. However, Cokins only wrote about the cost elements of cost of quality. Any management investment decision also focuses on the benefits, or return on investment (ROI).

The cost vs. benefit equation is a discussion procurement professionals also have often. Supply management, like quality management, once was seen as a cost center. But both have strategic importance in driving increased revenue by improving value for customers.

Quality professionals who forget both sides of the value proposition—revenue and cost—risk being victims of suboptimization, a concept they helped create. Financial professionals are facing this issue now with Sarbanes-Oxley. Managers and executives don’t necessarily see every move toward perfection as valuable from a systems perspective.

The data for the benefits of quality likely exist in other parts of an organization. Customer and technical support departments collect reasons for calls, waiting time and other customer satisfaction data. Sales departments collect data about customer loyalty and recurring sales.

A follow-up article would do well to integrate these other quantifiable aspects of the quality investment decision and helped further illuminate the ROI decision managers must make.

Scopevision Consulting

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