Tools & Resources
Everywhere You Turn
More examples of how quality crops up all around us
Quality processes have become an essential part of my life. It’s reflected in my time management off the job, as well as in family leadership. We are—by default—practicing Deming’s approach on a daily basis. Applying such practices was not easy or welcomed at the beginning, but I see a lot of improvement.
—Mobasher Abdu Al-Asmry, engineer, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
In the summer, I put my husband’s golf clothes on the top of the pile of clean clothes. I know the weather means many impromptu golf outings, and having his golf clothes on the top pile makes it easier for him to grab and go without messing up stacks of already folded clothes. He’s happy, and I’m happy!
—Carly Barry, marketing, Minitab Inc., State College, PA
Editors note: To see Barry demonstrate quality techniques she uses in her home click here.
I’ve been a certified quality auditor since 2001, but I’ve been involved in quality initiatives since 1973. Applying quality principles has become an ingrained habit, so much so that the methods have been incorporated into my general living processes, meaning that many procedural guides and formal steps have become internalized and simplified.
Lack of quality can still bring profits, but always at the expense of someone else’s loss. Real quality, rather than being an added benefit, is actually the underlying reason for the results that benefit all. There are numerous quality principles and practices that have been put into common terms. Phrases such as “including all players,” “considering individual related goals,” “squirreling out the kinks while seeing kinks as hiding keys to correction,” “optimism breeds opportunity” and “leaving room for the unknown to reveal itself” have melded with my personal belief structure.
Using gardening as my example, tilling the soil brings to mind the need to get to the root, which when satisfactorily supported by nutrients, water light and aeration, results in quality being seen in a healthy plant. Quality processes can be seen in a more simplified statement most people know intuitively: By their fruit you shall know them.
—Peter Furka, classification specialist, U.S. Postal Service, New York City
If I can make it to February, I will have served in the quality profession for some 25 years. During that time, I’ve been married for 18 years, raised two children (both driving now), and changed residences, churches, social circles, friends and jobs numerous times.
Besides sustaining a conservative faith, practical use of the continuous improvement philosophy of the plan-do-check-act (PDCA) and/or plan-do-study act (PDSA) cycles is one of very few tenets that have remained strong over these many years. We now live in a tentative, transient, me-first, cyberspace virtual reality society—which is not reality but a watered-down facade of reality—often spouting shoot-from-the-hip comments, emails, texts and other forms of smokescreen communications. This usually produces much more disarray than harmony.
As we collectively suffer through massive information overload, we are not only slowly dehumanizing ourselves, but the quality of information is grossly deteriorating. Some good old-fashioned, deeply personal, reflective, introspective thinking (PDSA) is now more important than ever. As we strive to build relationships in our lives, we can’t forget we are supposed to be working to live, and not just living to work.
Quality in any venue is like climbing a mountain that has no top, and success is oftentimes just continuing to climb. It’s usually after the difficult situations that we look back to see the progress, which so easily eludes us as we go through the trials by fire.
—Jeffrey T. Hill, quality engineer, Duff-Norton, Charlotte, NC
I have applied statistical and quality concepts to the hobby of model railroading. Also, I was the office manager for the National Model Railroad Association’s Pacific Northwest region and am the current registrar of the Southeast region. Through quality tools, I’ve tracked and managed membership data, and solved problems people have with their memberships.
—Steven Prevette, senior quality engineer, Fluor / Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, Aiken SC
Editor’s note: See www.ser-nmra.org/content/burnt-hills-big-flats-layout-tour for a story on Prevette’s current model railroad. Prevette has had an article on traffic flow analysis of model railroads published by the Operations Special Interest Group of the National Model Railroad Association (NMRA). He has also presented on the topic at a national convention of the NMRA. The presentation can be found at webpages.charter.net/prevette/Traffic_Flow_Analysis.ppt.
The most important change that happens to quality professionals over time is in their attitudes and expectations. When a customer service agent for a utilities company doesn’t have the right answer for our question or performs poorly, for instance, instead of venting our anger on the call center staff, we understand it’s the result of poor deployment of the process by their management.
We do suffer from what I like to call “acute quality professional syndrome.” Symptoms include the development of an obsession around getting things right the first time, excessive curiosity about understanding the root cause of a problem and separation of facts from opinions.
—Govind Ramu, director of quality assurance, SunPower Corp., San Jose, CA
Outside of work, I focus on quality in my interactions with companies and service providers. A good example is my internet provider. Recently, my internet modem started failing. I called the support line and for 75 minutes was marched through a complex checklist to troubleshoot my problem.
Using quality knowledge, I decided to game the system-reporting no success even after I stopped trying their suggestions to troubleshoot the problem. Eventually, I exhausted the checklist and was allowed to book a service call and equipment replacement. But as a customer, the experience was very frustrating. External customers don’t care about internal processes and checklists. Customers want efficiency and service, so checklists and troubleshooting must resolve or escalate an issue within a short period of time (such as five minutes) or risk the cost of disappointing a customer.
In business, this cost must be weighed against the cost of developing, teaching and implementing a complex procedure and the value wrung out of avoiding service calls or replacing equipment. In a competitive marketplace, a reputation for efficient customer service may be more valuable than savings achieved by avoiding service calls.
—Alex Saegert, lead engineer, reliability, Westport Innovations, Vancouver, CA