Use It or Lose It

Innovators must put the rubber to the road

The overall number of problems reported by owners of 2005 model-year cars improved by 5% over 2007 to 206 per 100 vehicles, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2008 Vehicle Dependability Study, maintaining a six-year trend of quality improvement. Full study results can be found at www.jdpower.com.

But even as customer satisfaction improves, auto sales are suffering, and the industry is working feverishly to respond to global competition and new market demands. Innovation is essential for survival.

As automakers race to bring the ideal vehicle to the market—one that epitomizes the fuel efficiency, style and reliability that today's customer demands—quality's role in the innovation process is essential. The automotive industry is just one example.

To many, seeing the link between quality and innovation is easy. For others—often, it's company leadership—the relationship between quality, innovation, invention, ingenuity and creativity is blurry. Søren Bisgaard's cover story, "Geared Toward Innovation", speaks to this correlation.

Bisgaard writes: "… quality and innovation are related. When we labor to improve quality, either in terms of design or delivery, we are engaged in innovation to maintain or gain market share. It might be an incremental improvement to the product or the process, or it might be a breakthrough change, but it is nevertheless an innovation."

Two other articles in this month's QP fall under the "innovation" theme.

Peter Merrill helps readers distinguish between leading and lagging indicators of business performance in "In the Lead". He describes why people and processes both require proper measurement to ensure a streamlined and effective innovation process.

In "Newer, Better, Faster," James R. Stevenson and Ali E. Kashef build off Bisgaard's thoughts and suggest quality tools that should be applied to each type of innovation (there are four types, according to the Small Business Administration).

The authors advocate the use of define, measure, analyze, design and verify (DMADV) in the creation of innovative products.

"DMADV … is an emergent process in which the emphasis is on learning and rapid incorporation of that learning into subsequent as well as previous development processes," they write.

With companies worldwide investing billions on R&D each year in the pursuit of a better mousetrap, turning lessons learned into profit-producing results has never been more critical.

Seiche Sanders

Seiche Sanders

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