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Bumps in the Road

Safeguarding Nation’s Infrastructure Remains a Challenge

Engineers and construction crews in Minneapolis are poised to open a new Interstate 35 bridge across the Mississippi River later this month, just more than one year after the old span collapsed during the evening rush hour, killing 13 people and injuring 145.

As the final pieces of the new $234 million bridge are put into place, however, basic questions continue to surface about bridge safety and the quality of the nation’s infrastructure.1

Since the bridge collapse, little seems to have changed in the way public officials approach aging bridges, as well as quality and safety issues surrounding the nation’s infrastructure.

"It seems like we’ve lost this focus on infrastructure to—first and foremost—protect public safety and welfare," said Lawrence H. Roth, the deputy executive director of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). "We really haven’t changed our basic approach and admitted to ourselves that there’s a serious need to increase funding for our infrastructure."

Local, state and federal governments have reverted to a "patch and pray" approach to infrastructure: do the minimum in terms of maintenance and hope for the best, he said.

"We’re pretty much less on patching, and more on praying," Roth said.

Roth concedes that a slumping economy challenges local, state and federal governments to find adequate funding.

Federal funding earmarked for infrastructure projects in someone else’s city or state often turns off taxpayers and their representatives.

"Infrastructure spending gets a bad rap, and sometimes it’s branded by the media as infamous ‘pork spending,’" Roth said. "We need to view infrastructure spending not as spending, but as investment."

ASCE’s Report Card for America’s Infrastructure three years ago assessed the condition and capacity of the nation’s public works with an overall grade of D. The professional organization estimated that $1.6 trillion over five years would be needed to bring the nation’s infrastructure into good condition.2

According to recent estimates by the Federal Highway Administration, repairing and modernizing bridges alone could cost $140 billion—assuming all bridges are fixed immediately.3

Of course, it’s not realistic to expect each highway project, dam replacement, bridge repair, waterway initiative or brownfield clean-up to take place all at once.

"We have no way of prioritizing what needs to be fixed first," Roth said. "It’s a difficult situation. Where are people most at risk?"

A bill before the House of Representatives would form a National Commission on the Infrastructure to develop an overall plan. The bill has been passed by the Senate and awaits action by the House.

It might not be realistic for just taxpayers to pay the bills, either. State and local transportation agencies must take a hard look at more options like charging tolls and public-private partnerships to increase funding and make these improvements happen.

"We lose sight of the fact that [infrastructure] is a big part of our quality of life," Roth said.

ASCE’s next report card is scheduled to be released in March.

—Mark Edmund, associate editor

References and Note

  1. United Press International, "New Bridge on Horizon Year After Collapse," www.upi.com/Top_News/2008/08/01/New_bridge_on_horizon_year_after_collapse/UPI-11181217613163/. A National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation is expected to be complete by the end of the year, the St. Paul Pioneer Press has reported. NTSB’s initial findings indicate a possible design flaw, coupled with extra weight of construction materials on the bridge, contributed to the collapse.
  2. American Society of Civil Engineers, ASCE’s Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, www.asce.org/files/pdf/reportcard/2005_Report_Card-Full_Report.pdf (case sensitive).
  3. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, "$140 Billion Price Tag to Repair and Modernize America’s Bridges," http://news.transportation.org/press_release.aspx?Action=ViewNews&NewsID=184 (case sensitive).


Caregivers Behaving Badly

Rude language and hostile behavior among healthcare professionals can pose a serious threat to patient safety and the overall quality of care, the Joint Commission has warned.

In response to the intimidating and disruptive behaviors sometimes seen in healthcare settings, the commission has introduced new standards requiring more than 15,000 accredited healthcare organizations—including hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies, laboratories and ambulatory care facilities—to create a code of conduct and a formal process to manage unacceptable behavior. The new standards would take effect Jan. 1.

"Sometimes, professionalism breaks down and caregivers engage in behaviors that threaten patient safety," Mark R. Chassin, president of the Joint Commission, said in a prepared statement. "It is important for organizations to take a stand by clearly identifying behaviors and refusing to tolerate them."

The Joint Commission, a healthcare accrediting organization, recommends 11 steps to address the bad behavior. Visit www.jointcommission.org/sentinelevents/sentineleventalert/sea_40.htm for more details.

SURVEY: HEALTHCARE System Needs Overhaul

The majority of Americans are dissatisfied with the healthcare system, and 82% said they think it should be fundamentally changed or completely overhauled, according to a recent survey by the Commonwealth Fund.

"It is clear that our healthcare system isn’t giving Americans the healthcare they need and deserve," Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis said in a prepared statement.

"The disorganization and inefficiency are affecting Americans in their everyday lives, and it’s obvious that people are looking for reform," she said.

The survey showed that people are frustrated with the way they currently get healthcare. In fact, 47% of patients experienced poorly coordinated medical care in the past two years. Nine of 10 surveyed said they believe it is very important or important to have one place or doctor responsible for their primary care and for coordinating all of their care.

To view the entire report, visit www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/publications_show.htm?doc_id=698139.

Who's Who in Q

Name: Mehernosh (Nosh) Kapadia.

Residence: Singapore.

Education: Obtained a doctorate in mechanical engineering with specialization in quality engineering from the University of Mumbai in India. He also holds a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Pennsylvania State University and an MBA from Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.

Introduction to quality: Kapadia’s introduction to quality was during his first job at AT&T Microelectronics in Reading, PA. He was introduced to statistical quality control methods for improving wafer and chip fabrication processes. He also attended Deming’s seminar on quality management. This initial introduction to quality made a huge impression on Kapadia, and he decided to pursue a career in the field of quality improvement.

Current job: Quality and business excellence leader, corporate Master Black Belt (MBB) for Asia Pacific at Microsoft.

Previous jobs: Lean Six Sigma MBB for Southeast Asia at IBM. Head of quality engineering for TATA Auto Components in India. Senior quality engineer at AT&T Network Systems in Columbus, OH.

ASQ activities: Kapadia is a senior member of ASQ, has spoken at ASQ conferences and chapter meetings, and has published numerous papers in ASQ forums. He is also an ASQ certified quality and reliability engineer.

Other activities/achievements: Won Microsoft’s IT Pro Award, IBM’s Quality Leadership Award and AT&T’s Engineering Excellence Award.

Published works: Authored more than 25 technical publications in various international journals.

Personal: Married, two children.

Quality quote: Quality improvement is 70% people and only 30% tools. What we think is hard (learning analytics, quantitative tools or statistics) is actually easy. It’s the soft (people) side of quality that is hard.


Oct. 1 Deadline for ASQ Awards Fast Approaching

Nominations for ASQ’s medals and awards are due by Oct. 1. Members and nonmembers can nominate colleagues for any one of the 12 awards. Recipients will be recognized at the ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement May 18-20, 2009, in Minneapolis. The medals and awards include:

  • Distinguished Service Medal: This medal honors the lifetime contribution of any person who has been recognized as a long-term enabler, catalyst or prime mover in the quality movement and represents the highest honor that can be afforded by ASQ for service.

  • Crosby Medal: Awarded to an author of a book contributing significantly to the extension of the philosophy and application of the principles, methods or techniques of quality management.

  • Deming Medal: Presented to an individual who successfully combines the application of statistical thinking with management so each supports and enhances the other.

  • Edwards Medal: Awarded for outstanding leadership in the application of modern quality control methods.

  • Feigenbaum Medal: Presented to an individual 35 years old or younger (as of Oct. 1 of the applying year) who has displayed outstanding characteristics of leadership, professionalism and potential in the field of quality and whose work has been, or will become, of distinct benefit to mankind.

  • Freund-Marquardt Medal: Presented to an individual who has held positions of responsibility for the development of standards that focus on the management system of an organization.

  • Grant Medal: Awarded for outstanding leadership in the development and presentation of meritorious educational programs in quality.
  • Ishikawa Medal: Presented for outstanding leadership in improving the human aspects of quality. Individuals and teams can be nominated for this medal.

  • Juran Medal: Awarded for exhibiting distinguished performance in a sustained role as an organizational leader who personally practices the key principles of quality and demonstrates breakthrough management.
  • Lancaster Medal: Presented to an individual who has demonstrated exceptional leadership, outstanding contribution and dedication on the international scene in promoting the quality profession. The candidate must be a true quality professional with an international reputation.
  • Shainin Medal: Awarded for outstanding use of unique or creative applications of statistical techniques in the solving of problems related to the quality of a product or service.
  • Shewhart Medal: Presented for outstanding contributions to the science and techniques of quality control or demonstrated leadership in modern quality control.

For more information on the awards and nomination forms, visit www.asq.org/about-asq/awards/index.html. More details on other non-ASQ awards can be found at www.qualityprogress.com.

Online-only Content

Online Table 1



The number of organizations that are ASQ’s enterprise members, after four more recently joined. The new members are: Goodrich, the Fortune 500 corporation with headquarters in Charlotte, NC; Research in Motion, a wireless communications company based in Waterloo, Ontario; Medtronic, a Minneapolis-based medical technology company; and Northrop Grumman, the defense and technology giant from Los Angeles. For more information about how your organization could benefit from becoming an enterprise member, visit www.asq.org/enterprise.


Child’s Death Prompts Further Agency Oversight

A Canadian province plans to launch quality assurance reviews of agencies in its child welfare system and conduct spot checks of thousands of foster homes after two recent reports uncovered serious problems in case management, spending and a lack of monitoring of foster homes.

One of the reports reviews the case of a 2-year-old boy who died last year while in the care of an aboriginal child welfare agency in Manitoba. The agency, called First Nations, failed to perform basic safety checks on Gage Guimond’s various caregivers. One of the child’s caregivers has been charged in his murder.

The reviews suggest that boards appointed by First Nations offered ineffective oversight and were rife with nepotism. The two reports made nearly 290 recommendations, which the province is acting on now, according to the Winnipeg Free Press last month.


Surgical Error Costs Rise

Employers are paying nearly $1.5 billion each year for medical errors that occur during or after surgeries, according to a recent government agency study.

For instance, insurance companies are paying $28,218 more for surgery patients who experienced acute respiratory failure and an additional $19,480 for patients with post-operative infections, compared with patients who recover from surgery without those complications.

In the study, the Department of Health & Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality also estimated additional costs associated with problems related to the medical errors:

  • Treatment for metabolic problems cost an additional $11,797.
  • Treatment for blood clots and other vascular or pulmonary problems cost $7,838 more.

  • Treatment for wound openings cost $1,426 more.
  • Additional nursing care for a patient cost $12,196 more than the routine care.
  • One in every 10 patients who died within 90 days of surgery died because of a preventable error. One-third of the deaths occurred after the initial hospital discharge.
    The study is published in Health Services Research at www.hsr.org.

ASQ News

SCHOLARSHIP WINNER ANNOUNCED Amar Thiraviam has been named this year’s Freund scholar. Thiraviam told ASQ he will use the $5,000 scholarship to assist in his pursuit of a doctoral degree in industrial engineering at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

EDUCATION CONFERENCE SET The 16th annual National Quality Education Conference (NQEC) will be held Nov. 16-18 in Reno, NV. Forty sessions and five half-day workshops are scheduled at this ASQ-sponsored event. For more information, visit http://nqec.asq.org.

APPLICATIONS BEING ACCEPTED ASQ’s nominating committee is accepting applications for president-elect, treasurer and national director. Deadline is Oct. 15. Separate elections will be held by a geographic communities council and a technical communities council to elect directors to represent those groups. For more information about the requirements, process and application, visit www.asq.org and click on "ASQ Seeks Candidates for its Board of Directors" link.

ASKING TO ADD DESCRIPTIONS ASQ’s Measurement Quality Division is petitioning to have metrology and calibration job descriptions added to the federal government’s 2010 revision of the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC). The SOC provides formal recognition of job descriptions that are the basis for the Labor Department’s Occupational Outlook Handbook. The division is seeking to eliminate the omissions of calibration technician, calibration engineer and metrologist to help offset the possible shortage of these practitioners in the near future. The division has been defining and categorizing these job descriptions as part of this petitioning effort.

BOARD MEMBER RECOGNIZED Donald C. Singer, an ASQ board member, has been elected board chair of the National Registry of Microbiologists (NRM).

BORAWSKI RECEIVES AWARD The Council of Engineering and Scientific Society Executives (CESSE) has recognized Paul Borawski, ASQ’s executive director and chief strategic officer, with its leadership award. He was honored for his assistance with an initiative to improve membership satisfaction.

MEMBER NAMED RISING STAR Linda McGill Boasmond, an ASQ member, will receive the Entrepreneurial Woman of the Year—Rising Star Award from the Women’s Business Development Center this month. She is owner and president of Cedar Concepts Corp., which processes surfactants, lubricants and chemical intermediates.

Short Runs

THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY has tapped the ANSI-ASQ Accreditation Board (ANAB) to operate a new program designed to accredit and certify private sector organizations that achieve preparedness. Through the program, private sector organizations can become formally certified to show they have implemented and comply with voluntary preparedness and business continuity standards and requirements.

SELLERS LUCKY ENOUGH to find takers on their homes were most satisfied working with Prudential, and those who bought homes with real estate agents ranked Keller Williams tops, according to J.D. Power and Associates’ first customer satisfaction survey on national real estate firms. The study rates the firms’ agents, offices and services. To see the complete survey, visit www.jdpower.com/corporate/news/releases/pressrelease.aspx?ID=2008094.

AN EXECUTIVE RECRUITING FIRM says more companies are demanding professionals with lean skills than requesting professionals with Six Sigma skills. The Avery Point Group, which based its annual study on internet job postings, said 50% of the companies looking for Six Sigma or lean talent are looking for practitioners with both skill sets. The recruiting firm reported that demands for Six Sigma talent outpaced lean by more than 50% in its first study three years ago. For more information about the study, visit www.averypointgroup.com.

THE NEW ISO/IEC 27005:2008, Information Technology—Security Techniques—Information Security Risk Management, provides guidelines for information security risk management and supports the general concepts specified in ISO/IEC 27001:2005, Information Technology—Security Techniques—Information Security Management Systems—Requirements. The guide is available at www.iso.org or from ISO’s national member institutes, including ANSI (www.ansi.org) in the United States.

THE U.S. CELEBRATION of World Standards Day will take place Oct. 23 in Washington, DC. The event—which includes an exhibition and reception—will spotlight the role of standards in the global trade environment and major construction projects. The event is co-chaired by the American National Standards Institute and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. For more information, visit www.wsd-us.org.

A COMBINED BOOK AND CD advising organizations on how to integrate the use of management system standards (MSS) has been published by The International Organization for Standardization (ISO). The Integrated Use of Management System Standards (MSS) is based on the experience and of an ISO task force of 16 members drawn from business organizations representing a wide range of countries and sectors, as well as from standards bodies and academia. The book and CD are available from ISO (www.iso.org) or from ISO national member institutes, including the American National Standards Institute (www.ansi.org) in the United States.

THE AMERICAN STANDARDS INSTITUTE (ANSI) and the ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board-ACLASS brand have agreed to conduct joint assessments to promote the global recognition of services provided by product certification bodies, inspection bodies, and testing and calibration laboratories. For additional information, visit www.ansi.org.

SUPPLY-CHAIN COUNCIL (SCC) has released version 9.0 of its Supply-Chain Operations Reference (SCOR) Model. The update includes expanded risk management capabilities, plus new features to guide companies’ environmental sustainability efforts. The environmental features incorporate and expand the capabilities of GreenSCOR, formerly a standalone variation of the SCOR model. For more information, visit www.supply-chain.org.

A CASE STUDY PACKET that includes documents used for training Baldrige examiners is available through the Baldrige National Quality Program. The packet also can serve as an example of documents used in the award evaluation process by illustrating the format for an application, how an applicant might respond to Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award criteria requirements, and how examiner teams evaluate and score applications. The free packet is available in PDF format at www.quality.nist.gov/Novel_Connect.htm (case sensitive).

A NEW SET OF EIGHT VIDEOS show-cases the five recipients of the 2007 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. The DVD is available from ASQ (item number T1520) at 800-248-1946 or 414-272-8575.

Online On Paper

Quick Poll Results

Each month at www.qualityprogress.com, visitors can take a short, informal survey, and we post the results. Here are the numbers from a recent Quick Poll:

"What is Six Sigma’s effect on innovation?"

55.3% — Spurs innovation.
23.2% — Hinders innovation.
21.4% — Neither hinders nor spurs innovation.

Visit www.qualityprogress.com to answer the most recent Quick Poll question posted:

"Which of these companies is the most innovative in the world today?"

  • Apple
  • 3M
  • Microsoft
  • Google
  • Toyota

Career Change?

Under QP’s "Tools and Resources," click on Career Development and find links to last year’s QP annual salary survey to see how your job title and salary stack up against your peers. You can also search past Career Corner columns for professional advice and access the best employers and jobs in the quality field.

Date In Quality History

QP looks back on an event or person that made a difference in the history of quality.

Sept. 12, 1913

Eiji Toyoda was born on this date. The well-known industrialist helped propel his family’s automobile company into a worldwide force and changed the way automobiles are made.

Eiji’s cousin, Kiichiro Toyoda, created Toyota Motor Corp. but resigned in 1948. Eiji Toyada became involved in the company and was sent to the United States in 1950 to study the auto industry and American manufacturing methods.He returned and redesigned Toyota’s plants with advanced assembly techniques and machinery.

The unique Toyota management approach had three main objectives: keeping inventory to a minimum through kanban or a "just in time" system, ensuring each assembly step is performed correctly the first time, and reducing the amount of human labor that went into assembling each vehicle.

In 1967, Toyoda was named president of the automaker. Under his watch, Toyota sold an all-time high 1.7 million vehicles in Japan and 1.7 million vehicles overseas in 1985, and profits peaked at $2.1 billion.

Toyoda stepped down as chairman of Toyota in 1994 at the age of 81. Today, he holds the title of honorary chair of the company.

Source: www.notablebiographies.com/St-Tr/Toyoda-Eiji.html (case sensitive).

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