Built-in Quality

‘Laser’-like focus on quality puts Ford out front

Fortune dubbed Ford Motor Co. President and CEO Alan Mulally the "Comeback Kid" in a May 2009 article. His commitment to quality and emphasis on its role in that comeback has served as inspiration for all in the quality field since he climbed into the driver’s seat at Ford in September 2006.

When Mulally took the stage to give his keynote address at ASQ’s World Conference on Quality and Improvement in May in St. Louis, it was apparent he doesn’t just walk the walk—he talks the talk when it comes to Ford’s dedication to quality and the tools he relies on to accomplish company goals.

In fact, these tools have helped the company withstand the recession while other automakers went bankrupt, and retail market share has increased 19 of the past 20 months under his leadership.

"We look at changes to the business environment every week, every quarter, every year and will continuously improve the business plan," Mulally said.

Mulally’s quality approach and transformational ideas have been a well-documented success story: During his tenure, there has been a push to focus on cars instead of trucks, create best-in-class products and leverage global resources.

Touting Ford as the "strongest vehicle company of any carmaker worldwide," Mulally credits a "laser focus" on continuously improving products and services over the entire supply chain every month—continuous quality improvement (CQI).

Ford’s often-cited Thursday meetings, which Mulally instituted after joining the company, serve to further align the team globally, allowing it to bring to the surface any areas requiring attention.

That selective approach wasn’t always the case. Mulally recalled when he first arrived at Ford, the leadership team displayed its scorecards, all of which were almost entirely green—just after the company lost $17 billion.

When a hydraulic lift failure halted production a week later, there was one area in red. Mulally applauded the person responsible for flagging the problem, and the issue was quickly addressed and resolved. The "entire set of charts looked like a rainbow the next week," he said.

Mulally kept his formal address at ASQ’s conference short. Then, he opened the floor to quality professionals who packed the auditorium for the opening address.

Asked how he became such a quality devotee, Mulally credited "growing up" at the Boeing Co., where he became fascinated with the complicated and intricate machines he worked to create.

One audience member asked Mulally how he viewed ASQ’s brand. He thanked ASQ for a strong commitment to quality and called it the "premier organization professionally." He followed up by saying that every leader on the Ford team has a quality improvement plan.

Citing Toyota’s recent recall troubles, Mulally called himself a student of the Toyota Production System and predicted Toyota will recover. While competitive by nature, Mulally said he hopes the auto industry as a whole can return to vibrancy and bring jobs and manufacturing back to life in the United States.

"We’re fighting for the soul of manufacturing in the United States and worldwide," he said. "We are a key part of the answer," part of which is creating environmentally responsible options, he added.

Mulally summed up his address to a standing ovation: "CQI is the essence of everything," he said. "Either you’re improving, or you’re not."

To view a video of Mulally’s entire address, visit www.asq.org/members/mulally-wcqi.html.

Before his address, Mulally spoke with ASQ leaders on a variety of quality-related topics. Read exerpts from that conversation in "Q&A With Mulally."

—Seiche Sanders, executive editor


Q&A With Ford’s Mulally

Before taking the stage at ASQ’s World Conference on Quality and Improvement, Ford Motor Co. President and CEO Alan Mulally discussed the state of global quality, the quality profession and leadership in the 21st century with two ASQ leaders: E. David Spong, ASQ’s president and a former colleague of Mulally’s at Boeing; and Paul Borawski, ASQ’s executive director and chief strategic officer. Here are excerpts from that conversation:

ASQ: How about we begin with your thoughts today on quality, product quality, customer satisfaction—some of your favorite subjects.

Mulally: To me, it’s about making the products and services that people want and value. At Ford, and also at Boeing, we had a business plan that was about continuous quality improvement in every facet of the business—the products, the processes, the business performance, the people. That’s why it is so neat to be here, at this conference.

ASQ: What you’ve also talked about is that it’s about leadership.

Mulally: Absolutely. I’ve always thought the Baldrige award was a really fantastic approach for organizations striving for quality, and it’s a really reliable process for evaluating their businesses. When it was first released, it offered an entire framework for business improvement.

ASQ: For people in a service business, which may not be terribly exciting, the recognition of a Baldrige award offers examples of excellence, would you agree?

Mulally: One of the things I loved about Boeing and that I thought was important—and now is true about Ford—is that there is a view about the life of the product. When you buy a product, we—as a company—will be there for the life of the product. We make the best products in the world. We make the safest products in the world. For those involved in all the service aspects of our business, product service and quality takes on a whole other, and very important, meaning. That’s our reputation.

ASQ: The reputation is based not only on when your customer buys the product, but whether you be there for them, in five years, 10 years. ASQ supports the Baldrige program, as you know, and its expansion … in the award categories including healthcare and education.

Mulally: What I like about ASQ is the fact that you remain the champion of quality improvement, for professional development, for recognizing continuous quality improvement. You are the organization for professional development in the field of quality.

ASQ: You may remember we had another letter in the name: "C" for control. We figured out it’s really bigger than quality control. We’ve sometimes said we’re about little "q" and big "Q" and everything in between. We’ve sometimes said, "If quality is so good, why ‘control’ it?"

Mulally: That’s great!

ASQ:As a CEO, do you think of quality as a product, as a department, or…?

Mulally: I start with the mission and business performance of the entire organization because world-class companies continuously improve their business performance every year. So when you think about it, at the highest level, what quality is about is providing a reliable process for improvement. When you start at the business level, quality means we have an attitude that every year we will improve the business plan and the business performance. Then, all of a sudden you are using all of the tools of continuous quality improvement and you see them in action. We see we have the products people want—through quality, improved productivity and delivery systems.

Of course, the foundation is that each of us—every person—improve our skills. When you think about the product, the production processes, the people, the business performance, when I think of all that—whether it be a for-profit business, a nonprofit or any kind of organization—quality improvement must be an attitude, a mind-set of the business so every year there is improvement.

ASQ: Do you think your peers have that attitude—that quality is what drives success? Or do you think there is a gap, that others don’t have as great an appreciation for continuous improvement and that it drives success?

Mulally: I do think people who are leading organizations do have a view that it is so important to find what you are about, what your mission is and what your guiding proposition is. More and more, I think we are learning that people with an attitude of continuously improving, that this is the foundation and essential to success. Then, all of a sudden, you’ll start relentlessly looking for every tool and every process you can [find] to improve. It all comes back to continuous quality improvement.


Argentinian Telecomm Firm Wins Gold Award

Telefónica, a telecommunications company in Buenos Aires, Argentina, won the gold award at the 25th International Team Excellence competition, which was held during ASQ’s annual World Conference on Quality and Improvement in St. Louis in May.

Telefónica’s project team demonstrated how the company used Six Sigma to solve transmission problems on mobile networks. The project, developed by Telefónica and Movistar, a telephone operator owned by Telefónica, covered more than 2,300 base stations throughout the Argentina. Ultimately, it reduced the number of service breakdowns and saved the company $4 million.

Allegheny Energy Inc. in Greensburg, PA, took home the silver award for its work improving support services to internal customers. Continental Guadalajara Services in
Tlajomulco de Zuñiga, Jalisco, Mexico, won the bronze award for its work in reducing the chemical materials used at one of its manufacturing plants.

Overall, 28 teams from eight countries took part in the competition. For more information about the event, http://wcqi.asq.org/team-competition/2010-teams/index.html.

About 2,400 quality professionals attended the ASQ conference. Next year’s event will be held May 16-18 in Pittsburgh. Visit http://wcqi.asq.org for details.

Capitol Q

A coalition formed by ASQ and the ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board (ANAB and ACLASS brands) has recommended changes to a landmark food safety bill being crafted by U.S. senators.

In a letter to members of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, the coalition recommended that:

  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act bill must clearly state that the Secretary of Health and Human Services should consider use of accredited third-party conformity assessment bodies to inspect food imported into the United States.
  • The FDA should recognize existing infrastructure for laboratory accreditation that is already used by many federal agencies and industry.
  • Terms and definitions in the bill should be consistent with terms currently used in commerce. This would bring the bill into alignment with aspects of the National Technology Transfer Advancement Act of 1996, which encourages the use of standards that are already in place.

If passed by the Senate, the bill would go to conference to resolve differences with the food safety bill already passed by the House of Representatives.

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.


Registration Open for National Education Conference This Fall

This year’s National Quality Education Conference (NQEC) will be held Nov. 7-9 in Rosemont, IL. Teachers, administrators and support personnel learn about using quality tools and concepts to improve U.S. schools at NQEC.

The conference’s focus areas include:

  • Adopting rigorous standards that prepare students for success in college and the workforce.
  • Building data systems to track student achievement and teacher effectiveness.
  • Using data to inform instruction.
  • Using technology to enhance continuous improvement efforts.
  • Improving quality in higher education.
  • Creating a culture of success.

This year’s keynote speakers will be Jo Anderson Jr., senior advisor to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan; Joe and Judy Pauley, CEO and president of Process Communications Inc.; and Brenda S. Clark, associate superintendent for learning, Iredell-Statesville Schools in North Carolina.

NQEC attendees also have the opportunity to take part in the annual team excellence award. The intent to submit forms are due July 26. Teams that make it to the final round will give live presentations at NQEC.

For more details about NQEC, visit http://nqec.asq.org/index.html.

ASQ’s Education Leadership Summit for Superintendents also will be held in partial conjunction with NQEC. The summit will take place Nov. 6-7 in Rosemont. For more information about this event, visit http://leadership.asq.org.


ISO Group OKs SR Standard to Next Stage

The much-anticipated social responsibility (SR) standard has moved one step closer to publication.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) working group on social responsibility (SR) has approved the draft ISO 26000 for processing as a final draft international standard (FDIS). That means the SR standard is headed to an edit stage before it goes to a two-month FDIS vote.

After the August-September vote, the SR standard could be available by November.

ISO 26000 is a guidance standard that includes:

  • Global agreement on SR definitions, and on SR principles.
  • Global agreement on the core SR subjects.
  • Guidance on how to integrate SR throughout an organization.

For more information about ISO 26000 and the ISO working group on SR, visit www.iso.org/sr.


ASQ members Receive Quality Pioneer Medals

Three ASQ members were awarded C. Jackson Grayson Distinguished Quality Pioneer Medals at May’s ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement. The 2010 medalists are:

  • Spencer Hutchens Jr., senior vice president of Intertek.
  • Brent James, M.D., executive director of the Institute for Health Care Delivery Research and chief quality officer for Intermountain Healthcare.
  • Greg Watson, chairman of Business Excellence Solutions Ltd.

The medals, awarded by the American Productivity & Quality Center (APQC), recognize leaders in applying quality philosophy, methods and tools in the areas of education, healthcare, public service and not-for-profit organizations. The award is named after Grayson, founder and chairman of APQC and long-time quality expert and advocate.

This is the third year the medals have been awarded. Past recipients include: Don Berwick, executive director of Institute for Healthcare Improvement and President Obama’s nominee to lead the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; Terry K. Holliday, former superintendent and Kentucky’s commissioner of education; David T. Kearns, former chairman and CEO of Xerox Corp. and former deputy secretary, U.S. Department of Education; and Sister Mary Jean Ryan, president and CEO, SSM Health Care.

For more information about the award and this year’s recipients, visit www.apqc.org/grayson-medal.


Applications From Healthcare Sector Keep
Rolling In

For the third year in a row, healthcare organizations have flooded the National Institute of Standards and Technology with applications in hopes of receiving the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

Of this year’s 83 applications, 54 are from healthcare organizations. Ten applicants are from the education sector, seven are nonprofit organizations, seven are small businesses, three are manufacturers and two are service providers.

Last year’s total of 70 applications included 42 healthcare organizations, nine education organizations, eight nonprofit organizations, five small businesses, four service providers and two manufacturers.

A high number of applications in one category, however, do not translate to a high number of award recipients in that same category. Last year, five awards were given, two to healthcare organizations. A manufacturer, a nonprofit organization and a small business also were honored.

The 2010 Baldrige review process continues through the end of this year with application reviews and site visits. Award recipients are typically announced in December. Visit www.baldrige.nist.gov for more information about the award and profiles about previous award recipients.

Beginning this month, QP will highlight each of the 2009 award recipients. See "On the Mark" in this month’s issue.

Baldrige knowledge

A new Baldrige resource library has been launched. It contains more than 1,000 articles and videos, as well as content from QP and ASQ about Baldrige and organizational improvement. Visit www.baldrigepe.org to access the content.


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:

"How does your organization support innovation now vs. when the economy was better?"

  • More supportive 46.8%
  • No change 31.9%
  • Less supportive 21.2%

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

"What is the most important characteristic a leader must have?"

  • Confidence
  • Enthusiasm
  • Motivation and innovation
  • Trust and respect
  • Vision


At www.qualityprogress.com, find the link to this year’s QP Salary Survey. The questionnaire will be open the entire month of July. Results will be published in December’s QP.


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

July 7, 1868

Frank Bunker Gilbreth Sr., an early advocate of scientific management and a pioneer of motion study, was born on this date in Fairfield, ME.

When he was a young building contractor, Gilbreth looked for ways to make bricklaying faster and easier. Later, he studied the habits of manufacturing and clerical employees in all sorts of industries to increase output and make their jobs easier. He and his wife, Lillian Moller Gilbreth, founded a management consulting firm, Gilbreth Inc., to teach managers that all aspects of the workplace should be constantly questioned, and improvements constantly adopted.

Gilbreth is known as the first person to propose that a surgical nurse serve as "caddy" (Gilbreth’s term) to a surgeon by handing surgical instruments to the surgeon as called for. He is also remembered as the father and central figure in the book Cheaper by the Dozen, written by his son, Frank Jr. The book inspired two films of the same name.


Who’s Who in Q

NAME: Michael P. Levy.

RESIDENCE: Bedford County, VA.

EDUCATION: Master’s degree in industrial and management engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY.

CURRENT JOB: Levy is the deployment manager for the U.S. Marine Corps continuous process improvement (CPI) program, responsible for developing and deploying a culture of process improvement in the Marine Corps.

PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE: Levy was the Master Black Belt and lean Six Sigma practice manager at Virginia’s Philpott Manufacturing Extension Partnership.

INTRODUCTION TO QUALITY: While in graduate school, Levy attended an overview of the ISO 9000 suite of quality standards. This, coupled with a class on statistical methods, galvanized what he described as a "calling" toward organizational excellence, systems thinking and performance improvement.

ASQ ACTIVITIES: Levy is a senior member of ASQ.

OTHER ACTIVITIES: He has been an examiner for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award since 2002 and a facilitator for annual examiner training the past four years.

PUBLISHED: "Tinkerers Desperately Needed," Industrial Engineer, April 1, 2010. The article addresses the decline of manufacturing and technical education in schools.

RECENT HONORS: The U.S. Secretary of Commerce recently appointed Levy to be a judge for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. Levy was a judge for the Virginia Senate Productivity and Quality Award in 2009.

FAVORITE WAYS TO RELAX: Hiking the multiple trails he cut on the 26-acre mountainside property where he lives.

QUALITY QUOTE: On systems improvement: Any system that has people as one of its components is inherently unstable, and therefore, unpredictable. Proceed accordingly.

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