Strong safety

With the nomination of former New York City Health Commissioner Margaret Hamburg to head the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), innovative ideas to enhance food safety are needed now. Here’s one:

We should request that the FDA use non-FDA quality professionals to audit food harvesting, processing and storage facilities for food safety. Specifically, the FDA could make use of ASQ’s certified hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP) professionals to perform local audits and thus expand the inspection capacity of the FDA.

This idea has plenty of positives, including low cost and professional enhancement, as well as some potential drawbacks, such as authority limits and corruption potential. But those issues can be addressed. Food safety enhancement opportunities are there now. We need to take advantage.

John Haury
Principal consultant, Applied Statistics
Camarillo, CA

Bad behavior

Robert P. Warda’s article, "Know Thyself" (April 2009), is a timely and well-written piece that closely aligns, yet improves upon, concepts from Paul Hersey, Kenneth Blanchard and Dewey Johnson’s work on organizational behavior. I heartily encourage Warda to expand this article into a book.

Having been through many quality improvement initiatives in which staff functioned as nails and senior management as hammers, I have firsthand experience suffering through processes that don’t consider or assess the maturity of the prevailing culture.

I strongly agree that project-centered quality improvement without consideration of the supporting culture is best described as the firecracker approach. There’s a lot of sizzle, then a sparkle, then a bang, and there’s the program. But, before long, all that’s left is a cloud of smoke, some bits of paper in the air and the lingering fumes of gunpowder.

Again, this is a great piece of work—hats off to Warda.

Michael R. Engblom-Bradley
Petroleum facility integrity specialist
Anchorage, AK

Delivering improvement

In their article, "Human Touch" (March 2009), John Nelson and Jean-Paul Lemarquis have it right when they say that reducing defects also shortens delivery intervals and reduces cost. There is more to it than that, though.

Consider the lean model of just-in-time (JIT) delivery. Its primary goal is quicker response to customer demand—in other words, shorter delivery intervals. That entails shorter queues and wait times and smaller JIT lot sizes.

That combination of quickness, frequency and leanness exposes defects early while the causal trail is fresh. It also avoids all manner of costs with extensive searches for root causes that, in view of stale audit trails, are often futile.

Get the quality and lean models working together (or treat them as one), and the benefits are compounded.

Richard J. Schonberger
President, Schonberger & Associates
Bellevue, WA

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