Quality Pioneer Taguchi Dies
Genichi Taguchi, for whom the "Taguchi Methods," a well-known statistical technique to improve quality and reduce costs, was named, has died. He was 88.
The statistical methods, a trademarked term for the American Supplier Institute’s quality engineering method, are anchored by his definition of quality as the avoidance of "loss to society."1
Taguchi also will be remembered for developing the quality loss function—the parabolic approximation of the quality loss that occurs when a quality characteristic deviates from its target value—and innovations he made in statistical design of experiments.
In summarizing his many accomplishments, the authors of a Quality Engineering article attributed Taguchi’s success to getting "management’s attention and support for his application by expressing product performance characteristics—and the factors that affect these—in monetary terms through the use of simple loss functions."2
Taguchi first made a name for himself in the United States in the early 1980s after a supplier introduced Taguchi’s methods to Ford Motor Co. Soon after, he was invited to host seminars for Ford executives. In 1983, he was named executive director of the Ford Supplier Institute Inc., which later changed its name to the American Supplier Institute.3
He was the author of Experimental Design and Life Test Analysis and Design of Experiments for Engineers, which helped earn him Japan’s Deming Prize for his contributions to quality engineering.
Taguchi is one of only 24 people named as honorary members of ASQ, having attained that status in 1997. For a profile of Taguchi and more details about his many accomplishments, visit http://asq.org/about-asq/who-we-are/bio_taguchi.html.
- Joseph J. Pignatiello Jr. and John S. Ramberg, "Top 10 Triumphs and Tragedies of Genichi Taguchi," Quality Engineering, Vol. 4, No. 2, October 1992, pp. 211-225.
- About ASQ, "Genichi Taguchi," http://asq.org/about-asq/who-we-are/bio_taguchi.html.
Moving the Needle on Service
New strategy puts fans to work for the companies they love
It never seems to be good news when you need to contact customer service. But in terms of the experience itself, there has never been a better time to do so.
For decades, consumers had limited options when a product didn’t function as advertised. They could either pack everything up and head back to the store to speak with someone face to face, or—more likely—get on the phone and gird themselves for the gantlet of touchtone menus, adult contemporary hold music and customer service representatives named "Becky" in a call center thousands of miles away.
While consumers still tangle with the telephone route, the choices they have for rectifying a complaint are growing, thanks to the ubiquity of high-speed internet and the fact that more shoppers research, browse and buy products on the web. So why shouldn’t customer service happen in that medium, too?
The "click to chat" option has become commonplace for consumers searching for assistance, and providers such as LiveOps have capitalized on that trend with services that connect customers with trained representatives who try to lend a helping hand. But a relatively new face in the customer service industry is tweaking that approach by eschewing polished professionals and putting a different face on the other side of the chat window: fans.
Morgan Lynch, founder of Salt Lake City-based Needle, got the notion to try this "fan sourcing" strategy while shopping for a triathlon wetsuit. Frustrated by the fact there were hundreds—if not thousands—of experts who would be willing to help if only he had a way to contact them, he created a company that does exactly that for clients such as Urban Outfitters, Under Armour and Skullcandy.1
By combing through Twitter and Facebook, Needle finds its clients’ biggest fans and gives them the option to earn a little extra money by helping the companies they already support whenever and wherever they’re able. Via online chat, they answer customers’ questions and pick up between $9 and $12 an hour in the process, plus points toward the company’s products and early glimpses of new offerings.2
Nick Joy is one of the recruits—dubbed "Needlers"—and offers his knowledge of Skullcandy to anyone in need of direction, whether they’re searching for an iPhone case that’ll stand up to an epic tumble or a pair of headphones that will stay put during a day on the slopes.
"I ski with the headphones daily, so I really know them in and out," he told USA Today. "I can relate."3
That connection is paying off for Needle’s clients. For the average e-commerce website, only 1-5% of visitors make a purchase. When the visitor chats with a Needler, the rate jumps to 20-30%. In other words, happier customers equal happier companies.
"This is how things will be happening five years from now," Lynch told BusinessNewsDaily. "It’s social commerce versus customer service. It’s the future."4
—Brett Krzykowski, assistant editor
- Ned Smith, "Forget Customer Service … Try Fan Sourcing," BusinessNewsDaily, Feb. 7, 2012, www.businessnewsdaily.com/1996-fansourcing-online-commerce-future.html.
- Jefferson Graham, "Needle Turns Product Fans Into Customer Service Reps," USA Today, May 30, 2012, www.usatoday.com/tech/columnist/talkingtech/story/2012-05-30/needle-talking-tech/55287900/1.
- Smith, "Forget Customer Service … Try Fan Sourcing," see reference 1.
Ford, Hyundai Improve on Perceived Quality
Ford and Hyundai have had the highest levels of improvement in consumer perceptions of quality among all automakers during the last five years, according to Automotive Lease Guide (ALG), an industry benchmark for vehicle values.
Since 2008, Ford’s perceived quality has improved nearly 37%, while Hyundai’s perceived quality has increased by 25% during that time period. ALG’s 2012 Perceived Quality Study also shows Ford ranking fourth, with Hyundai above average.
Toyota had the largest year-over-year perceived quality improvement of any brand, continuing to recover from its drop in 2010. Honda and Toyota continue to be the perceived quality standard bearers among mainstream brands, with Subaru ranking third.
For more details from the study, visit www.alg.com/press-releases/ford-hyundai-show-long-term-improvement-in-perceived-quality.html.
COLORADO CONFERENCE ASQ’s Denver Section will host the Rocky Mountain Quality Conference Sept. 12-14 in Denver. Scheduled keynote speakers include Joseph A. DeFeo, president and CEO of the Juran Institute, and Forrest W. Breyfogle III, president of Smarter Solutions Inc. For more information, visit www.asqdenver.org.
SCHOLARSHIP AWARDED Winnie MacGregor, a student at California InterContinental University in Diamond Bar, has been awarded the $2,000 Nightingale Scholarship by ASQ’s Healthcare Division. MacGregor is pursuing an MBA in project and quality management and is working toward a project management professional certification from the Project Management Institute. The division scholarship is named in honor of Florence Nightingale, an initiator of the nursing profession who also pioneered healthcare statistics and promoted quality reforms in hygienic hospital care. For more information and eligibility requirements for future scholarship, visit http://asq.org/health/about/awards-health.html.
SEARCHING AND SORTING ASQ’s Quality Information Center now employs a staff librarian to help answer research requests and search for information from ASQ journals, conference proceedings, case studies and ASQ Quality Press publications. With an ASQ membership, you can request these free internal information searches and purchase articles at reduced rates. For more information or to submit a question, visit http://asq.org/knowledge-center/ask-a-librarian-index.
ASQ WORLD CONFERENCE
Sweat the Small Stuff
Keynotes from Boeing, Coca-Cola execs highlight conference events
Following a grand procession of members carrying 30-plus flags representing the home countries of this May’s ASQ’s World Conference on Quality and Improvement attendees, Boeing Executive Vice President James Albaugh began his keynote address for those crowding the Anaheim Convention Center Arena by focusing on Boeing’s "fierce" commitment to quality and continuous improvement.
For Boeing, "People’s lives depend on us getting it right," Albaugh said. "One thing I never worried about was whether I was going to get back on the ground safely."
He spoke of the importance of engineers’ work, noting it is not for the impatient or the faint of heart. "There are no shortcuts in engineering, quality or anything worth doing."
And while companies must make the right decisions, having the right culture is essential, too, Albaugh said. "Accountability, teamwork, open and honest communication, personal responsibility—it’s something you’re never through with. You have to work it each and every day."
To do that, "You need to understand what motivates your people," he said, adding that it includes doing good work for their colleagues and contributing to something bigger for what the company stands for and for its customers. "People don’t come to work to meet the plan."
Supplier management and risk management have been focuses for Boeing, as well as sculpting a carefully refined culture for employees and "sweating the little things," Albaugh said.
Carletta Ooton, vice president and chief quality, sustainable operations officer for the Coca-Cola Co., another conference keynote speaker, spoke of the company’s products being in 206 countries—more than the number in the United Nations—and why quality matters. "Our reputation is tied very, very closely to quality. Taking risks with our reputation is not an option," she said.
"Our tagline for quality is very simple; it is ‘What we do, we do well,’" Ooton said.
Author and leadership expert Simon Sinek delivered a rousing talk on what makes a leader, both among individuals and organizations.
"Great organizations, when they go through hard times, the people come together and sacrifice for each other," he said. "We are not very good by ourselves, but in groups we are remarkable."
Authenticity is a characteristic that builds trust, which inspires loyalty and is the hallmark of a good leader, Sinek said. "Leadership puts into words a reason to believe."
Great leaders have the ability to see a future state that does not yet exist, and they can communicate it so clearly that other people can see it themselves and commit to build it, he said.
Social responsibility advocate Majora Carter rounded out the keynote session presenters, and Joseph A. DeFeo, president and CEO of the Juran Institute, was a featured speaker.
Teeming with competition
The International Team Excellence Award (ITEA) process also culminates annually at the world conference, recognizing the talents and accomplishments of a host of teams from around the globe that showcase their projects.
Argentina’s Tgestiona was awarded gold-level status. Its Delivering Quality team, based in Buenos Aires, used Six Sigma to increase efficiencies and save the company more than $600,000 annually.
Tgestiona is part of the Telefonica Group, which won the gold award in 2010 and 2011.
Thirty-two teams from nine countries competed for gold, silver and bronze ITEA status. Other winners this year were six companies that reached bronze-level status:
- Alcoa Inc., Morristown, TN.
- Anheuser-Busch InBev, Oklahoma City, OK.
- CSX Transportation/General Electric, Jacksonville, FL.
- National Reconnaissance Office, Chantilly, VA.
- Reliance Industries Ltd. Hazira, Surat, Gujarat, India.
- The Ritz-Carlton New Orleans.
For more about the winners, visit ASQ’s media room at www.asq.org/media-room/press-releases/2012/index.html.
About 2,800 people attended the three-day conference. Next year’s event will be held May 6-8 in Indianapolis. For more information, visit http://wcqi.asq.org. To submit a presentation to be considered for next year’s conference, visit http://wcqi.asq.org/call-for-presentations. The deadline is Aug. 3.
QP ONLINE ON PAPER
A Different Angle on Fishbone Diagrams
This month, listen to an audio interview with Kimball Bullington, author of the cover article "Learning to Fish", discussing more about the benefits of using the career excellence diagram, a modified version of a fishbone diagram.
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 most stymies innovation and creative thinking?"
- Lack of leadership support. 46.1%
- Fear of failure. 23%
- No dedicated time. 18.4%
- Inadequate resources. 12.3%
Visit www.qualityprogress.com for the most recent poll question:
"If you had to start a job search tomorrow, how would you feel?"
- Panicked and unorganized.
- Prepared and confident.
- Somewhat prepared, but still nervous.
Who’s Who in Q
NAME: Larry McInerny.
RESIDENCE: Coon Rapids, MN.
EDUCATION: Associate degree through the Navy Campus for Achievement.
CURRENT JOB: Senior inspector for Advanced Inspection Services, a contract inspection service for manufacturers. McInerny programs capability maturity models and inspects products for various customers. A large portion of that work is related to medical devices for companies such as Medtronic and Boston Scientific Inc.
INTRODUCTION TO QUALITY: His first quality-related job was as a systems inspector in the Navy. At the time, systems inspectors were called collateral duty inspectors and mostly checked aircraft electronics systems for a flight’s safety.
PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE: Served 22 years in the U.S. Navy and retired as a senior chief avionics technician.
ASQ ACTIVITIES: Teaches a preparatory course for the ASQ certified quality inspector test and sometimes assists with a certified quality technician preparatory course. Although neither of these courses is provided directly through ASQ, he uses them as opportunities to promote ASQ.
OTHER ACTIVITIES: His position allows him to work with some design engineers and many quality inspectors developing inspection protocols for new and modified products.
RECENT HONORS: Recipient of the 2012 ASQ Inspection Division’s Chuck Carter International Inspector of the Year Award.
PERSONAL: Married for 44 years, two daughters and two granddaughters.
OTHER ACTIVITIES: Traveling, sightseeing, boating and fishing.
QUALITY QUOTE: If you are in the design phase, think about how you are going to measure something. It may help you come up with a better way to make it.