Initial Quality of New Vehicles Falls

Technology glitches contribute to decline in scores for some automakers

The initial quality of new vehicles launched this year has dropped considerably, according to a recent J.D. Power and Associates study.

Overall initial quality did improve to an average of 107 problems per 100 (PP100) vehicles this year from 109 PP100 in 2010. But the initial quality of launch models—those that are completely new or that underwent major redesigns—worsened by 10% to an average of 122 PP100 in 2011 from 111 PP100 in 2010.

Initial quality, as defined by J.D. Power, includes design factors—such as the usability of features—as well as problems—such as things not working right or loose-fitting parts. The survey employs a fairly broad-based definition of quality that includes design dissatisfaction along with reliability issues. In other words, a cup holder that’s too small will knock down an automaker’s score just as much as a faulty fuel injector.

"Exciting models with the latest features are crucial for winning over today’s demanding consumers," said David Sargent, vice president of global vehicle research at J.D. Power. "However, automakers must not lose their focus on the importance of these models also achieving exceptional quality levels.

"Expected reliability continues to be the single most important reason why new-vehicle buyers choose one model over another, and no manufacturer can afford to give consumers any doubts regarding the quality of their latest products."

Lexus led the overall rankings with 73 PP100 on average. Honda, Acura, Mercedes-Benz and Mazda rounded out the top five rankings. Other highlights from the quality study included:

  • Honda posted the best score among non-luxury brands (86 pp 100), just behind industry-best Lexus at 73.
  • Toyota leapt from its worst-ever 21st ranking last year to seventh best.
  • Cadillac and GMC finished ninth and 10th, above the industry average.
  • The Chrysler brand improved 10% to 110 PP100.

Technology glitches

One factor contributing to faltering of some companies—notably, Ford fell from fifth place in 2010 to 23rd this time around—is new, complex technology many automakers are building into vehicles. An example is technology that allows easier use of smartphones in cars, but there have been problems and glitches along the way that have led to disappointed consumers.

Many automakers have struggled in this area. For instance, problem rates for audio/entertainment/navigation systems in 2011 are 18% higher than in 2010 and 28% higher than in 2009.

"Clearly, consumers are interested in having new technology in their vehicles, but automakers must ensure that the technology is ready for prime time," said Sargent. "There is an understandable desire to bring these technologies to market quickly, but automakers must be careful to walk before they run."

Ford is one automaker taking steps to remedy consumer complaints on its faulty technology within its MyFord Touch system. Knobs and dials consumers formerly used to manipulate the audio and climate controls have given way to touchscreens and voice commands. But a setup designed to help drivers keep their attention on the road proved more confounding than convenient. In addition, some consumers have experienced system crashes and freezes.

Alan Hall, technology-communication manager at Ford, said the automaker went "straight out to the owners and held owner-research clinics both out of Los Angeles and Chicago to solicit their feedback and experience."

Ford also set up a website (http://syncmyride.com/own/touch) that contains videos and tutorials, and took a page from Apple by organizing weekend clinics at local dealerships that help users get more comfortable with the new systems, which includes the MyFord Touch system.



Conference Board High on Quality Management

Quality is uniquely positioned to accelerate organizational growth through better execution and alignment, and it also provides the voice of the customer critical to developing innovative products and services.

That’s the conclusion recently drawn from a survey of more than 700 CEOs and executives from around the world by the Conference Board, a private-sector industry group.

Quality management practices are more than statistical tools and a quality assurance mentality, according to the report.

Members of the board’s quality council said quality deployment approaches are tightly linked to strategy, and take into account trends in globalization, customer sophistication, talent variability, environment and sustainability issues, and new communication channels. Board members include representatives from companies such as Alcoa, Bank of America, Johnson & Johnson, Nokia, Cisco, 3M, Hewlett-Packard and IBM.

Today’s quality leader must not only contribute to operational efficiency, but also possess a macro view of their business—cutting across and linking functions, geographies and business lines, the council said in the report.

Quality professionals can strengthen the alignment between the C-suite and an organization’s quality leaders, and can act as critical partners for accomplishing the goals of the enterprise.

You can find more information on the Conference Board survey or you can see a copy of the full report by visiting www.conference-board.org/press/pressdetail.cfm?pressid=4232.

Who’s Who in Q

NAME: Donnell V. Charles.

RESIDENCE: Baltimore.

EDUCATION: Doctorate in public health from Columbus University, Picayune, MS.

FIRST JOB IN QUALITY: Charles joined Battelle’s Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland in 2005. He worked as a quality assurance/quality control gas chromatography scientist, responsible for inspecting, testing and identifying unique materials, and for implementing quality systems in accordance with government regulations.

CURRENT JOB: Quality specialist for Battelle’s National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC) located in Frederick, MD. 

INTRODUCTION TO QUALITY: While working at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy in Baltimore, Charles gained hands-on experience conducting tests, and inspecting material and equipment for a start-up pharmaceutical company. This covered questions about the safety, efficacy and importance of building quality process into a procedure first, which hadn’t been fully addressed in reading and working as an undergrad in environments unfamiliar with good manufacturing practice.

ASQ ACTIVITIES: Senior member of ASQ and iNarte, a telecommunications association.

OTHER ACTIVITIES/ACHIEVEMENTS: ASQ-certified quality auditor, quality manager, ACLASS associate certified laboratory auditor and certified provisional quality management system auditor (RABQSA).

RECENT HONOR: Recently named recipient of ASQ Inspection Division’s 2011 Inspector of the Year Award.

FAVORITE WAYS TO RELAX: Bowling, riding amusement park roller coasters, surfing the internet and enjoying family time.

QUALITY QUOTE: Poor planning provides poor results. Plan to do things right the first time instead of making time to repeat things.

Picture This

QP opens Facebook photo challenge

Starting this month and running through the end of October, editors want you to photograph yourself holding QP in an interesting, exotic or everyday location for the magazine’s "Where in the World Do You Read QP?" Facebook challenge.

Simply snap the photo (or have a friend take it) and upload it to the Quality Progress Facebook page. Each month, three random winners will receive an Amazon gift card, and editors will publish a few favorites in QP’s November edition to help celebrate World Quality Month.

Visit the Quality Progress Facebook page to see examples from the QP staff and find out more details about the contest. Be sure to "like" the page. Remember to be creative when coming up with the photo, tag any friends or colleagues who might join you within the frames, and write a detailed caption about the photo.


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 best describes the results of your organization’s outsourcing efforts?"

  • Some savings, but some headaches, too. 57.6%
  • Met all financial and productivity goals. 30.7%
  • The goals weren’t met; we’re insourcing. 11.6%

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

"To what extent does your company fund employee training?"

  • Covers 100% of the cost.
  • Helps to cover part of the cost.
  • My company doesn’t pay for training.

QP Classics

To celebrate ASQ’s 65th anniversary this year, each month QP is spotlighting classic content online.

This month, you can download the October 1979 article, "What’s Ahead for Quality Control in the 1980s." In it, Roger G. Langevin, then vice president of Intertek Services Corp., summarized a survey of quality control managers and some of "our greatest challenges during the next decade."

Challenges cited include familiar themes such as consumer concern and customer confidence, government involvement and regulatory agencies, and quality in design and preproduction planning.

Listen In

Listen to Russell Roberson, author of this month’s Quality in the First Person column, tell his personal story about how he used quality tools to maintain his mental and physical health during his battle with cancer.


ASQ Helps Global Students Take Quality Methods Back Home

Eighteen students from Central America and the Caribbean recently participated in a program in which they learned quality skills and information so they could return to their home countries and use those skills to help promote economic development and business relations. Their knowledge development was further enhanced by participation in ASQ events through the St. Louis section.

The Scholarships for Education and Economic Development (SEED) program—which began in the 1980s and is overseen by Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.—is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. SEED provides training to youths and community leaders from underserved and economically disadvantaged populations in Central America, the Caribbean and Mexico. Many of the students are indigenous, and at least half are female. 

Participant selection is based on leadership skills, commitment to community and good grades. After the two-year program is completed, these students return home and use the skills they learned to help their countries perform better economically and conduct business globally. 

"We focus on leadership development," said Susan McKnight, who oversees the SEED program at St. Louis Community College’s (STLCC) Florissant Valley Campus. "They earn a certificate in quality technology. We prepare them for entry-level positions, but many go right into management jobs."

While the students focus mostly on quality technology, they take other courses, including English as a second language, math, manufacturing processes and engineering drawing.

"We try to give them as many skills as possible," McKnight said. "They also are required to take either classes or seminars on U.S. politics, economics and U.S. history so they learn about our system of government."

In addition to classes at STLCC, students also participate in professional organizations, a key element so students really see how what they’re doing applies to real life, McKnight said. "Just networking with professionals in that field is wonderful for them," she added. 

St. Louis Section Chair Kimberly Rochetti, who spent considerable time with the SEED students during section meetings and at a spring conference, says she and presenters were very impressed with the student’s interest, attitudes and professionalism.

—Nicole Adrian, contributing editor


THE BUSINESS OPERATIONS SUPPORT services industry had the most improved wages during the last 12 months, according to the Pay Scale Index, a quarterly analysis of wage increases and decreases by industry, metro area and company size. Those who work in business operations support services—which include HR functions, janitorial work, accounting and payroll—saw wage increases of 1%. Other industries that experienced wage increases over the last 12 months included: wholesale trade and manufacturing; utilities; mining; oil and gas exploration; finance and insurance; and healthcare. For more information about the top 15 industries that experienced wage growth, visit www.payscale.com/payscale-index.

SIX IN 10 AMERICAN workers do not have a financial plan in place to deal with an unexpected medical emergency, according to a recent survey. The survey, prepared by Aflac WorkForces Research, showed that 51% of workers said they were not very or not at all prepared to pay for out-of-pocket expenses not covered by major medical insurance, and 31% said they have less than $500 in savings for emergency expenses. More results from the survey can be found at www.aflac.com/aflac_workforces_report/main_study_findings.aspx.

A NEW STANDARD TO STREAMLINE food safety system alignment between food manufacturers and the packaging they use for their products has been released by the British Standards Institution (BSI). PAS 223—Prerequisite programs and design requirements for food safety in the manufacture and provision of food packaging—provides a common international method for developing a prerequisite program for food and drink packaging safety. PAS 223 is aligned with and supports the implementation of the ISO 22000 series of global standards for safe food supply chains. For more information on PAS 223 or food safety management, visit http://shop.bsigroup.com/pas223.

ASQ News

ASQ AT PRODUCT SAFETY SUMMIT ASQ Chair James J. Rooney will speak at the fourth United States-China Product Safety Summit in Washington, D.C., Oct. 13-14. Rooney will address a session on incentivizing safety as an element of quality at the event.

NEW ENTERPRISE MEMBERS FedEx and Nokia Corp. have become ASQ’s latest enterprise members, joining 40 other organizations at this membership level. Visit http://asq.org/membership/organizations/current-members.html for more information about enterprise membership.

MEDAL NOMINATION DEADLINE The deadline to submit nominations for ASQ’s Distinguished Service Medal is Oct. 1. For more information about the criteria or to access nomination forms, visit http://asq.org/about-asq/awards/service.html. Contact Karen Prosser (kprosser@asq.org) with any questions about the award or the nomination process.

CALL FOR SR STORIES ASQ is looking for stories on how organizations use quality tools and approaches to further their social responsibility initiatives. The first-place award will be an iPad and publication in the Journal of Quality and Participation, the ASQ Knowledge Center and the SRO* (www.thesro.org). The deadline is Nov. 1. For more details, visit http://community.thesro.org/group/srcontest.

NEW BOOK ON ISO 9001 FOR HEALTHCARE A new ASQ Quality Press book, Using ISO 9001 in Healthcare: Applications for Quality Systems, Performance Improvement, Clinical Integration and Accreditation, highlights how an ISO 9001 quality framework can have a major impact on healthcare. Authors James Levett, M.D., and Robert Burney, M.D., write from their own experiences of ISO 9001 implementation in healthcare organizations. View the book’s table of contents and a sample chapter at http://asq.org/quality-press/display-item/index.html?item=H1407.

TEAM EXCELLENCE DEADLINE Entry forms for the 2011-2012 International Team Excellence Awards are due Sept. 12. Finalists will be selected from a preliminary round to participate in live presentations at ASQ’s World Conference on Quality and Improvement, May 21–23, 2012, in Anaheim, CA. For more information, visit http://wcqi.asq.org/team-competition/index.html.

CALL FOR PAPERS Organizers are looking for papers to be presented at next year’s Quality Institute for Healthcare conference, which will be held concurrently with ASQ’s World Conference on Quality and Improvement in May. The theme of next year’s healthcare event is "Measurements That Matter: Achieving and Sustaining Meaningful Healthcare Quality and Performance Results." Sept. 5 is the deadline to submit papers for consideration. More information is available at http://qihc.asq.org.


ASQ Website Redesign Kicks Off With New Homepage

If you’ve recently visited ASQ’s homepage at www.asq.org, you’ve probably noticed a big change. The redesigned page—launched July 20—features an array of new interactive features and rich-media content that bring quality ideas, tools, resources and social networking to ASQ’s community across the globe.

The homepage redesign—which is customized for signed-in members—is the first publicly visible step in ASQ’s full-scale website rebuild, according to ASQ Managing Director Laurel Nelson-Rowe. "The rebuild is part of our continuing brand reinvention," she said. "It’s behind our drive to be more global in our reach and promote the cause of quality, making the world a better place."

Not only does the homepage and eventual full website redesign feature new ways to access tools and resources, but it also will provide an improved experience and access to member benefits through easier navigation and streamlined design.  

"It’s simpler and offers a more high-end design and experience," Nelson-Rowe said. "Content will be refreshed much more often, and the homepage provides a new experience for our website visitors."

The primary aims of the homepage redesign were to reduce clutter, decrease information overload and improve search functionality. The redesigned homepage includes content-packed rotating tiles featuring:

  • QP articles.
  • CEO Paul Borawski’s blog, "View From the Q."
  • Features and developments from ASQ’s national service centers in India, China and Mexico, and from local member communities and world partners in more than 80 countries.

The website redesign will be ongoing, with major changes expected to be completed by Dec. 31. Other enhancements will include:

  • A powerful integrated search function.
  • An improved experience through users’ mobile devices and tablet computers.
  • Streamlined navigation.
  • A preference center for members to select ASQ publications they would like to receive and choose ways they would like to receive communications.

"We’ll continue to invest in and develop the site," Nelson-Rowe said. "We’ll make sure it fits member and customer needs. It’s about what the members want and need. We’ll use the analytics that come from their behaviors on the site to continually improve."

Comments and feedback about the redesigned homepage and ongoing changes to www.asq.org can be sent to ux@asq.org.

—Nicole Adrian, contributing editor


ASQ Members Raise Money For Relief In Japan

ASQ members have joined forces to raise money for Second Harvest Japan, an organization helping those affected by Japan’s earthquake and tsunami. The group has sent food and supplies from Tokyo to Sendai and Minami Souma, areas severely damaged when the natural disasters struck earlier this year. 

Many ASQ member units—including sections 700, 701, 702, 706, 709, 711 in California, and the Food, Drug and Cosmetic (FD&C) Division’s Southern California discussion group—held raffles that raised $1,020. The donation enabled Second Harvest Japan to purchase five stoves, four packs of diapers and 4,080 meals.

"Second Harvest Japan is moving into the second phase of its mission—recovery and rebuilding—and the group will be working with local agencies and relief organizations to establish a food lifeline and food safety net in the region," said Akiko Tagawa, past chair of the FD&C Division. "Their work will always be linked to long-term recovery and economic development."

For more information about Second Harvest Japan, visit www.2hj.org. Donations are being accepted at www.2hj.org/index.php/get_involved.

Editor’s note: This report was submitted by Karina Widjajawiguna, the student liaison for ASQ Region 7, which includes sections in the western part of the United States, and Akiko Tagawa.

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