Food Safety Remains Top Priority for USDA Quality

Despite yet another massive food recall in the spotlight—Cargill’s 36 million pounds of ground turkey and 60,000 pounds of beef from an Ohio facility last month—the head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently said he was confident the government has strengthened industry safeguards and would continue to improve food safety.

"With more than 330 billion meals served to Americans each year, the scale of the challenge to ensure safe food is enormous, but ensuring the safety of our food is USDA’s top priority," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told scientists at the International Association for Food Protection’s (IAFP) annual conference in Milwaukee last month.

"Today, USDA and our federal partners are collaborating more than ever before to improve and modernize the food safety system based on prevention," Vilsack said.

"It is our duty to make sure that producers provide safe food, that consumers and others have the tools necessary to get safe food to their families, and that we’re supporting the research and education needed to ensure advancements in the safety of our food."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate about one in six Americans suffers from foodborne illness or food poisoning each year, resulting in about 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths annually.

Last month, investigators labored to determine what caused the salmonella outbreak linked to the tainted ground turkey, which sickened at least 77 people in 26 states dating back to March. Investigators have also linked the outbreak to at least one death.

After his appearance at the IAFP conference in Milwaukee, Vilsack said the government hoped to find the source of this outbreak very soon. Vilsack said the investigation is complicated, in part, because ground turkey can be in many products.

For the full transcript of Vilsack’s remarks at the IAFP conference, visit www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentidonly=true&contentid=2011/08/0335.xml.



Congress Expected to Act
on Baldrige Funding This Month

Congress was expected to decide by Oct. 1 whether it will continue to fund the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program following House committee recommendations to slash all federal dollars for the program.

The latest talk of federal cuts to the Baldrige program galvanized ASQ and its Public Policy Advisory Council to organize a letter-writing campaign encouraging members to contact their representatives and the secretary of commerce, explain the program’s benefits and urge the Washington, D.C., decision makers to reconsider the funding recommendation.

In early July, the U.S. House of Representatives Budget Committee and Appropriations Subcommittee voted to eliminate all federal funding for the program for the 2012 fiscal year. This followed a recommendation from the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform last fall to eliminate the program to help reduce the nation’s deficit.

Earlier this year, President Obama had reduced funding for the program by $2.2 million in his budget recommendation to Congress. The Baldrige budget was at $9.6 million annually. In early July, the U.S. Budget committee went even further, releasing its own 2012 budget that eliminated federal funding for the program completely.

ASQ President E. David Spong appeared before a House subcommittee in March to speak out against the proposed funding cuts. The Baldrige program "may seem small in size and funding but is very large in the way it affects our country, its citizens, companies, customers and, right now perhaps most importantly, jobs," Spong told the subcommittee.

For the latest developments on funding to the program, visit Quality News Today at www.qualityprogress.com or ASQ’s Advocacy Room at asq.org/support-baldrige.


RAC Audit Process Unfair, Hospitals Say in Survey

Nearly three-quarters of hospitals said the Recovery Audit Contractor (RAC) program can reduce fraud and errors in the industry according to a recent survey, but more than 60% said they do not think the audit process is fair.

Respondents to the Ivans 2011 RAC Audit Survey report said the extra time and money it takes to substantiate an RAC claim affects their budgets and resources that are already stretched too thin. The frequency with which hospitals can be audited—every 45 days—is burdensome to their administrative workflow, they said.

The national RAC program, run by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, is intended to guard the Medicare Trust Fund by identifying improper payments made on claims for healthcare services provided to Medicare beneficiaries. These can be overpayments or underpayments.

Hospitals who responded to the survey, conducted by the healthcare consultant Ivans, also said they believe the review process is too subjective and that they need education on how to reduce future audits.

For more information from the report, visit www.ivans.com/news/news_detail.aspx?id=81.


Organizations Must Manage,
Implement Innovation Efforts

To be more successful and see more cutting-edge ideas come to market, organizations must improve how they manage innovation as a process and actually apply the innovation activities they have developed, according to a recent survey by the Quality Professional’s Resource Center.

The Innovation Quotient survey, developed by the Waterloo, Ontario-based organization following the article, "Organize How You Innovate" (June 2011, pp. 16-22), included 10 questions that helped evaluate typical innovation activities happening within organizations. From the 28 responses, 59% scored as "proactive followers" and 41% as "reactive followers."

Proactive followers are organizations that are first to adopt new solutions and ideas quickly and efficiently. Their success greatly depends on successful partnerships with other companies that are more capable of innovating. Reactive followers are organizations that build business operations on well-established business relations. They don’t plan and execute innovations, but rather rely on their business environment to initiate change.

None of the survey respondents scored as "game changers," "industry leaders" or "passive observers." Game changers are organizations that set the tone for others by making continuous, disruptive innovation to their products, organizational structures and operations. Their products and solutions can make competition irrelevant and open new opportunities for other businesses.

Industry leaders are highly successful organizations that established processes to continuously generate new ideas and solutions that meet and exceed expectations of their customers. Passive observers are organizations that rely solely on purchasing innovative ideas in the form of licenses and other third-party agreements. Often, they are owned by an entity that provides complete governance and supervision.

From the survey responses, the center determined that for nearly all respondents, the most common areas to improve are managing innovation as a process and actually applying the innovation activities: 68% of respondents identified no or limited process management activities applied to their R&D or innovations, and 14% said they don’t use process management for R&D at all. Fifty-four percent said the process management they use for R&D is limited to planning and allocating resources.

Allocating resources for innovation activities scored relatively highly for all survey participants: 57% of respondents said more than 3% of their organizations’ revenues are allocated to R&D activities, and 64% said their organizations’ engineers are alloted time to innovate.


How can innovation activities be managed as processes, and why it is so important? There are many examples of organizations that experience significant success driven by an excellent idea, but later they find themselves in crisis mode when their capabilities to generate innovative ideas aren’t sufficient. One of the most prominent examples is a lesson learned by Apple Inc. in the mid-1990s, when company sales dropped after its initial success.

An organization that relies on sparkling ideas tends to experience rises and falls that may stress employees and deteriorate the organization’s culture. An organization that manages innovation as a process tends to experience stable and continuous growth.

—Natalia Scriabina, managing director at Quality Professionals’ Resource Center, and Anna Banin, marketing director at the center.


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

Sept. 26, 1914

Dorian Shainin, an influential quality consultant, aeronautics engineer and author, was born on this date in San Francisco.

Shainin is best known for practical tools called the "Shainin techniques" that help manufacturers solve problems, including those that previously had been considered unsolvable.

Shainin also is remembered for developing statistical engineering. He specialized in creating strategies to enable engineers to "talk to the parts." The discipline has been used successfully in areas such as product development and reliability, quality improvement and analytical problem solving.

Shainin, an honorary member of ASQ, wrote more than 100 articles and was the author or co-author of several books. ASQ established the Shainin medal in his honor to recognize an individual for developing and applying creative or unique statistical problem-solving approaches related to the quality of a product or service.


ASQ News

DIVISION CONFERENCE ASQ’s Energy and Environmental Division’s 38th annual education and training conference will be held Sept. 25-28 in Las Vegas. For more information, visit http://asq.org/ee.

ENTERPRISE MEMBER HONORED The Tata Group of Mumbai, India, was named India’s most trusted corporate group in a recent survey by Equitymaster Agora Research. The company was recognized for its transparency in financial reporting and its trustworthiness. The Tata Group joined ASQ last year as an enterprise member.

SCHOLARSHIP AWARDED Edward David Zepeda has been awarded ASQ’s Richard A. Freund International Scholarship. Zepeda is pursuing a doctorate in operations and management science, and a master’s degree in statistics, both from the University of Minnesota. He will receive $5,000 for his academic pursuits. Named after the past ASQ president, the scholarship supports a candidate’s graduate study of the theory and application of quality control, quality assurance, quality improvement and total quality management.

SR BRIEF RELEASED ASQ and Business for Social Responsibility have published an executive brief describing the intersection between quality and corporate social responsibility (CSR). The brief highlights shared concepts in quality and CSR practices, and recommends next steps to take. The report is available at http://asq.org/2011/07/social-responsibility/csr-and-quality-connection.html.

Who’s Who in Q

NAME: Jeff Robinson.


EDUCATION: Doctorate in information systems from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

FIRST JOB IN/RELATED TO QUALITY: After Robinson left the military, he worked as a process engineer in a semiconductor manufacturing facility. Because of his degrees in physics and electrical engineering, he became a practicing device physicist and the resident statistician—despite not having a math degree. In his quantitative role, it was his job to fix problems. Because repetitive problems are often process focused, he gravitated toward formal process and quality roles. As a Six Sigma Black Belt and Master Black Belt (MBB), his role as problem solver was reinforced.

CURRENT JOB: Six Sigma process and quality consultant, vice president of technology, co-founder and principal consultant of Accelerated Quality Improvement in Phoenix.

PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE: Robinson was a fighter pilot for the U.S. Marine Corp. Reserves, flying F-4 Phantom jets, and an air-traffic controller. He also wore many hats during his 20-plus years at Motorola including: project and program manager, technology automation expert (computer-integrated manufacturing), management information systems manager, engineering manager, performance excellence regional manager, acting director of quality, and principal Six Sigma MBB consultant. He was an adjunct faculty member at Kaplan University and assistant department chair for technology at the University of Phoenix.

OTHER ACTIVITIES/ACHIEVEMENTS: Writing science fiction and nonfiction articles, and teaching graduate and undergraduate courses in business and technology. Robinson has also been a cartoonist, short-order cook, scoutmaster and marathon runner, and has also written code in 36 different programming languages.

RECOGNITIONS: Six Sigma MBB, best-paper award at Motorola, 10 Silver Quill awards for his technical articles, capability maturity model integration auditor and IT infrastructure library certified.

PERSONAL: Robinson has been married 34 years and has two sons and two daughters.

QUALITY QUOTE: Quality is not something you do in addition to your work; it’s how you do your work.


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:

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

  • Covers 100% of the cost. 47.3%
  • Helps to cover part of the cost. 30.2%
  • My company doesn’t pay for training. 22.4%

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

"Some GOP White House hopefuls have pledged to use lean Six Sigma to erase the national deficit by 2017. How do you view this pledge?"

  • A sincere attempt to infuse more quality into government.
  • Campaign talk that will never get off the ground.

QP Classics

To celebrate ASQ’s 65th anniversary this year, each month QP is spotlighting classic content online. This month, you can download the January 1987 article "The Quality Control Audit," by quality guru Kaoru Ishikawa.

Listen In

Listen to this month’s Author Audio featuring Ron S. Kenett, coauthor of "Site Seeing," discussing additional details about a new risk-based audit approach.

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