Wake-up Call for All?

ASQ experts: All organizations can learn from Toyota’s troubles

Recent auto recalls by Toyota and others will—it is hoped—encourage more organizations, not just carmakers, to reexamine how they do business, become more sensitive to customer concerns and sharpen their focus on quality, a group of ASQ experts said during a recent discussion on the topic.

"It sometimes takes a disaster for companies to wake up and make all of us better in doing what we’re doing," said Randall Goodden, the president of Goodden Enterprises LLC, who participated in the session. "Now, there is so much opportunity for quality to get involved in a number of areas—more than ever before."

Five ASQ members with experience in product safety and liability, the automotive industry, manufacturing, engineering and quality systems addressed a variety of topics related to risk and recalls—and what other organizations from any industry can take away from Toyota’s situation.

Toyota was contacted but declined to participate in the discussion. QP’s attempts to include comment from Toyota were unsuccessful.

"It’s going to be a real learning opportunity for every corporation to pay attention to this [situation] and ask themselves, ‘What could possibly go wrong with our product that could get us into serious trouble and knock us out of business, and how do we prevent this from happening?’" said Goodden, also the chairman of ASQ’s product safety and liability prevention interest group for more than 10 years.

Recalls large and small occur on a regular basis across virtually every business sector and affect almost every type of product.

Last year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that 16.4 million vehicles were part of 492 recalls from automakers.1

In addition to the 8 million vehicles Toyota recalled last year and this year, recent automotive recalls include:

  • General Motors (GM) recalled 1.3 million Chevrolet and Pontiac models in North America for power-steering failures.2
  • Nissan recalled 539,864 cars for fuel gauge and brake-pin problems.3
  • Ford issued a "nonrecall recall" of about 18,000 Fusion and Mercury hybrids to update brake software.4
  • Honda recalled 410,000 Odyssey minivans and Elements for braking problems.5

Discussion participants said that because of the intense scrutiny of Toyota’s recalls and how they were handled, perhaps more companies will pay extra attention to customer concerns and the consequences of recalls.

Because there’s more sensitivity and attention toward being proactive by pre-empting problems, maybe more corporations—even with what seem to be minor concerns or doubts about a product—will delay a product’s launch to address an issue instead of risking a recall.

And it’s possible that additional organizations and consumers will think more about business and products in terms of quality and reliability.

"For me, it’s a paradigm change; it’s a different game now," said Don Smith, a senior consultant at Harbour Results.

"The rules have changed. It really allows each of us to rethink what we’re doing. There are very important roles that quality professionals can play, particularly up front, working with customers and making sure we really understand their needs—basic and safety and others that end up" delighting the customer, Smith said.

Professional organizations such as ASQ must take the lead in promoting discussion and sharing knowledge and lessons learned from the problems Toyota experienced with its recalls, Smith said.

"When you have a professional organization like ASQ, because of the [connections among] different sections and divisions, when we get together at conferences, there’s a lot communication that goes on. Ideas spawned in one industry can be shared with others," said Smith, a retired Ford engineer with 45 years of experience in quality, advanced automation, manufacturing engineering and process engineering.

"We need to take these lessons learned and figure out how to make sure we minimize recalls in all industries and actually make quality an integral part of our lives," said Ron Atkinson, another member of the panel, a past president of ASQ and a retired 35-year veteran of GM. "It’s going to be complex and take time. There will be no finish. It will be an ongoing race—forever."

—Mark Edmund, associate editor


  1. Jeff Ayres, "Toyota not alone in recalls; 16.4M autos affected in 2009," Feb. 28, 2010, http://beta.clarionledger.com/article/20100228/BIZ/2280338/1005/Toyota+not+alone
  2. "Power-Steering Problem Leads to GM Recall," CNNMoney.com, March 2, 2010, http://money.cnn.com/2010/03/02/autos/GM_recall.
  3. Douglas Mcintyre, "Nissan Joins the Recall Club," Daily Finance, March 3, 2010, www.dailyfinance.com/story/nissan-joins-the-recall-club/19380923.
  4. David Bailey, "Ford offers fix for Fusion hybrid brake glitch," Reuters, Feb. 4, 2010, www.reuters.com/article/idUSN0497845.
  5. Tess Stynes, "Honda Recalls Odyssey Vans, Element SUVs," Wall Street Journal, March 17, 2010, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB20001424052748703734504575125732871613888.html.


Innovation, Recession to be at Forefront of World Conference

As the economy shows signs of recovering from the recession, organizations must constantly innovate to keep pace with more educated and savvy customers looking for the best product or service at the best price, according to one of the keynote speakers scheduled to appear at ASQ’s World Conference on Quality and Improvement (WCQI) next month in St. Louis.

"One of the most important reasons for innovation right now … is that customers have changed so much, both in the business-to-business world and in the business-to-consumer world," said Terry Jones, founder and former CEO of Travelocity.com, one of the largest online discount travel services. "We have a very empowered customer today because of the World Wide Web and because of the amount of information and interaction the customers have. Customers are changing fast, and we are going to have to innovate to keep up with them."

Business leaders must also create a culture in which innovation can exist, Jones said during an interview with ASQ.

"I think it’s up to the leader to make sure that everyone understands that he or she solicits new ideas to create a culture where those new ideas can actually be tested and implemented, where people can experiment and where failure isn’t punished. If you can do these things, then you’ll start generating the ideas," Jones said. "Of course, the next step after that is to implement it, because innovation is about implementing ideas, not just having ideas."

Other keynote speakers scheduled for the WCQI May 24-26 are:

  • Alan Mulally, president and CEO of Ford Motor Co., who has been credited with keeping the company out of bankruptcy and on an innovative path of growth in a challenging economic environment.
  • Robert Stephens, founder and chief inspector of the Geek Squad, which has become North America’s largest technology support company.

WCQI activities

In addition to listening to keynote speeches, conference goers can attend workshops, concurrent sessions, career development sessions and "After 5" sessions; visit with exhibitors and sponsors; and view live presentations from the International Team Excellence Award finalists.

The International Team Excellence Competition, held every year at WCQI, allows teams from global companies and a broad spectrum of industries—including manufacturing, service, education, healthcare and hospitality—to present how they used quality tools and methods to solve problems, improve processes and save money. This year, 27 finalists will present at WCQI. For more information about the competition, visit http://wcqi.asq.org/team-competition/index.html.

Additionally, three mini conferences, sponsored by different ASQ divisions, will take place concurrently with WCQI:

Software: Joe Jarzombek, director for software assurance in the Department of Homeland Security’s National Cyber Security Division, and John Towns of the National Center for Super Computing Applications, will be keynote speakers at the Institute for Software Excellence conference, hosted by ASQ’s Software Division. The software conference will include presentations geared toward software purchasers and builders. Areas of focus include: applying quality principles to software, software quality management principles and software process improvement.

Sustainability: The Quality in Sustainability conference sessions will tie together environment, energy efficiency and quality with principles and practices of social responsibility and discuss useful tools to help implement these concepts in organizations.

Continual quality improvement: The first Institute for Continual Quality Improvement conference will highlight efforts behind organizational continual quality improvement programs. ASQ’s Quality Management and Statistics divisions have developed sessions that emphasize hands-on learning and the application of basic and advanced quality improvement methods.

One registration fee covers admission for all conferences. For more on WCQI activities and links to each mini conference, visit http://wcqi.asq.org/index.html.

Nicole Adrian, contributing editor


Lean Tops Six Sigma in Talent Search

When it comes to being a force in continuous improvement activities, there’s no question that lean outperforms Six Sigma.

That’s what one recruiting firm said after it studied nearly 3,000 job postings and found more organizations looking for lean talent instead of Six Sigma talent. The Avery Point Group said this suggests companies are increasingly relying on lean as the core foundation for continuous improvement efforts.

In its sixth annual study of internet job postings, the Avery Group said demand for lean talent has surpassed Six Sigma by a substantial margin as the more desired skill set, "accelerating an already growing shift in talent demand toward lean."

In addition, of the companies seeking lean in job postings, 41% required candidates with Six Sigma skills. Of the companies seeking Six Sigma talent, 55% required candidates to have knowledge in lean.

"For companies seeking lean practitioners, these results may be signaling a possible trend toward a decoupling of lean and Six Sigma, or at the very least a de-emphasis of Six Sigma as a core job requirement for lean talent," said Tim Noble, managing principal of the Avery Point Group.

For more on the survey, visit www.averypointgroup.com.


Survey: Mergers Affect Quality

More mergers and acquisitions in today’s marketplace, as well as compliance issues, are the top challenges faced by life sciences organizations, according to a recent survey.

More than half of the survey respondents, including professionals in pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device industries, said different supply quality standards and mandates across countries or regions are the greatest obstacles to managing quality and compliance.

More global supply chains and greater industry consolidation have caused companies to re-evaluate practices and find ways to adapt, respondents said.

The survey was conducted by Sparta Systems Inc. More survey details can be found at www.spartasystems.com/templates/press-template.aspx?id=2147483760.

Capitol Q

AN ASQ TASK FORCE met with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT last month to present a draft of its Baldrige-based self-assessment tool that could be used by healthcare organizations and physicians to help implement new health IT.

ASQ CONTINUES TALKS with officials from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to explore ways ASQ can assist OMB in forming communities of people interested in advancing performance improvement in the federal government. Additional meetings were scheduled last month.

DIFFERENT ASQ DIVISIONS have been huddling to propose lean methods to state lawmakers in California to help the government streamline its operations. A business plan is currently being developed through efforts by members of ASQ’s Six Sigma Forum and its government, lean enterprise and quality management divisions.

Capitol Q is a regular feature of Keeping Current that highlights ASQ’s advocacy efforts with government leaders. More information on these activities can be found at ASQ’s Advocacy Room at www.asq.org/advocacy/index.html.

ASQ News

NEW ENTERPRISE MEMBERS Ford, General Electric, Becton Dickinson and Booz Allen Hamilton are the latest high-profile corporations to join ASQ as enterprise members. There are now 29 organizations that have joined ASQ as enterprise members. To find out more about this membership category, visit www.asq.org/enterprise.

QMS WEBINAR Experts will talk about transitioning to ISO 9001:2008 in a free webinar later this month. The webinar will be held at 1 p.m. CST Wednesday, April 21. To register, visit www.asq.org/webinars/iso-9001-2008-explained.html.


Quick Poll Results

Each month at www.qualityprogress.com, visitors can take an informal survey, and we post the results.

Here are the numbers from a recent Quick Poll:

"What is at the crux of Toyota’s recent troubles?"

  • Losing sight of quality 45.2%
  • Rapid expansion 29%
  • Poor leadership 14.5%
  • Supplier issues 11.2%

Visit www.qualityprogress.com for the most recent poll question:

"What’s the best way to avoid a product recall?"

  • Good internal communication
  • Identify potential sources of risk
  • Listen to customer feedback
  • Strong social responsibility focus

Who’s Who in Q

NAME: Imran Ahmad Rana.

RESIDENCE: Lahore, Pakistan.

EDUCATION: Master’s degrees in total quality management (TQM) and public administration specializing in human resource management from University of the Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan.

INTRODUCTION TO QUALITY: In 1998, Rana started his career as project coordinator at MQS Ltd. Pakistan. Later, he became a project manager and completed training in TQM and became a Six Sigma Black Belt (BB). Since then, he has completed four BB projects.

CURRENT JOB: Manager of the quality management system at Treet Corp., one of Asia’s largest razor blade manufacturing companies. Rana is responsible for conducting on-site audits and managing customer focus surveys. He also performs continual improvement and Six Sigma projects, TQM training and system control documentation to support external accreditation and certifications.

ASQ ACTIVITIES: Senior member since 2007. He became a certified quality engineer in 2009.

OTHER ACTIVITIES: Certified as a Six Sigma BB by SQI Singapore, an ASQ global partner. Project leader for the Joint Quality Publications World Alliance for Quality, a board member of Asian Network for Quality and chief editor of Quest for Excellence magazine. TQM faculty member at University of the Punjab, Superior University in Lahore, Pakistan, and has spoken at several conferences.

RECENT HONOR: Rana received the professional achievement award from the Islamic Countries Society of Statistical Sciences (ISOSS) in 2009 for his joint work in developing and implementing Stat Way, a module to accompany Six Sigma in manufacturing and services organizations.

PUBLISHED: Rana has created and published several animated games and puzzles related to effective TQM tools implementation in organizations. He has also had many papers and articles published and presented at national and international conferences.

QUALITY QUOTE: Tools soon get rusty if they are left in the toolbox. Ideas are useless unless used. There cannot be improvement without new ideas, and there cannot be new ideas without the participation of all.

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