The House of High Quality Articles for Everyone in the World

Dec 21, 2011

Production Optimizes Manufacturing Automation

The production flow in any factory has a very important associate that helps manufacturing achieve its optimum rate. That associate is one piece flow production.

When a production line design includes cellular work stations it is in the best interest of the management of the production operation to consider implementing one piece flow production. Including one piece flow production in the operation is the best way to have manufacturing create only products that are needed. As a product moves through the work stations of the production line there is no accumulation of partially completed products between the work cells.

The scenario called one piece flow production is very simplistic, but it yields excellent benefits. The queue that is allowed between work cells on the line in this scenario can only contain one product at any one time. The first work cell starts the production of a product and when the work is completed at that cell the product is placed in the queue for the second cell to begin its work. There is never more than one product in queue between work cells on the production line. If the queue immediately after a given cell has a product in it that is to be worked on by the following cell, the cell before that queue is idle and does not work. It is only when the queue after the cell is empty that the cell can work on a product.

This one piece flow production process may seem over-simplified, but actually it delivers great benefit to the overall operation. For example, if there is a problem with the work that is done at a given cell in the production line, and the line runs in such a way that each cell is allowed to produce as many products as it can. This could build up a large backlog of products that could be waiting in queue to be processed by the next work cell. Once the problem is discovered, it will be necessary to rework all those products in the queue that are defective, causing an increase in labor expense. If the problem is too great to be reworked, then the defective products may need to be scrapped, causing an increase in raw material losses. As the production line runs and products are accumulated between work cells there will need to be a place for all those partially completed products to be stored, increasing the need for warehouse space. These are definitely extra costs and losses that can be avoided by using one piece flow production.

In order to achieve an effective implementation of one piece flow production in a manufacturing operation, the output of each cell in the production line has to be able to routinely create good products. Each of the cells must be able to accomplish work that is consistently repeatable, so that the single product queue is always filled for the nest work cell. There can be no periodic downtime for equipment that is running on the production line. The proximity of tasks that are done in a well designed work cell can have a bearing on the time required to complete the work at any given cell. This is dictated by the way the production floor is laid out. The work area of any given cell must be designed so that the employees in that cell can reach resources and perform tasks in a reasonable time frame that allows for continuous work.

The design for one piece flow production is best accomplished with manufacturing automation. In fact the likelihood of creating a cost-effective production line with one piece flow production without manufacturing automation would be nearly impossible. The design of the work flow of the production line has to have very precise cycle times for each work cell in the line. Coordination of the movement of products from one cell to the next is easily dictated by well-defined manufacturing automation. The controller for each work cell must be set to give the cell or cells that it instructs timely orders, so that the work of each cell is in perfect relationship with the work of the other cells on the production line.

Cycle times are set up so that at the completion of the cycle at one work station the start of the cycle time at the next work station begins. It should be near a hand in glove relationship, as one work cell completes the next work cell begins its work. When a company is setting up manufacturing automation, one of the main goals of the completed automation process is to have one piece flow manufacturing in place because this type will yield optimum results.

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Dec 19, 2011

One Piece Flow VS Mass Production

It is every business owner's objective to have a streamlined and efficiently running business. This means that its highly productive,improve quality, amply generates revenues, high chance for expansion, and little room for waste.

For accomplishing these objectives, business owners have to decide whether to adopt the lean manufacturing one piece flow approach or mass production.

For the uninformed business manager, one piece flow or continuous flow manufacturing refers to a practice of producing one part at a time with little waste, at the lowest possible cost, free of defects and on time. This practice encourages fulfilling customer's expectations with only manufacturing what is needed. Since parts are done one at a time, tasks become simpler with little room for defects. On the other hand, mass production manufactures goods in large batches before orders start piling in to reduce production cost.

If one piece flow is done right, a continuous stream of activity between manufacturers and shop operators is achieved. This practice aims constant improvement with regards to quality, productivity, and profits without having to create unnecessary inventory.

A one piece flow simulation shows that since products are made a part at a time, cycle time for production is shorter, and you can easily see if there are defects in certain output. Mass production can pose certain problems to businesses. With a large batch, processing items can be very time consuming and they can't move down the line unless they have been processed. Given a large inventory, more manpower and space is needed to store them. Since goods are made by batches, quality of these goods can go down and highly susceptible to defects.

Continuous flow manufacturing can supply a constant stream of goods to customers with little to no lag time. Since tasks are done individually, chances for defects are lowered and problem areas can be easily spotted and fixed accordingly. Less space and labor is needed, since you only produce what is important. Still not convinced? Try a one piece flow simulation.

This practice can be applied in many fields like software, software requirements, order fulfillment, and more. Keep in mind: in order for continuous flow to work, producing quality products should be consistent and easily repeated. If you're looking for options for business management, try a one piece flow simulation to see if it's right for you.

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Dec 17, 2011

Importance of Software Quality Assurance

Software quality is one of the pivotal aspects of a software development company. Software quality assurance starts from the beginning of a project, right from the analysis phase.

Software Quality Assurance (SQA) is defined as a well planned and systematic approach to evaluate the quality of software. It checks the adherence to software product standards, processes, and procedures. SQA includes the systematic process of assuring that standards and procedures are established and are followed throughout the software development life cycle and test cycle as well. The compliance of the built with agreed-upon standards and procedures is evaluated through process monitoring, product evaluation, project management etc.

The major reason of involving software quality testing in the process of software product development is to make sure that the final product built is as per the requirement specification and comply with the standards.

Requirement analysis and definition
Design architecture and description
Coding and logic analysis
Change and configuration management
Testing and standard compliance
Release management and Release Control

Different activities of Quality Assurance are the following:

Maintaining the quality of the project as per the specifications and business requirements.
Defect Prevention. And formal methods for other defect prevention techniques
Defect Reduction
Inspection, formal and informal reviews: Direct fault detection and removal without executing the project scenario.
Testing the project for Failure observation and bug removal.
Risk identification.
Defect tracking techniques and methods
Software fault tolerance.
Concluding Remarks and maintaining reports.

Software quality assurance is concerned with building software products with required quality and maintaining the level of quality. Software processes are important paradigm in achieving the software quality. The software quality assurance (SQA) key process area of the capability maturity model (CMM) consists of activities for keeping track on adherence to the processes and specifications. The term SQA sometimes creates confusions with the quality management concepts. Software quality can be quantified into two major groups such as:

Software functional quality: It basically shows how well the software product conforms to the basic design, based on functional requirements. The attribute can also be described as the fitness for purpose of a software

Software structural quality: It reflects to how well the project meets the non-functional requirements such as usability, accessibility and security that helps in proper the delivery of the functional requirements. It basically defines the degree of correctness of the product.

The Structural quality of a product is defined by the analysis of the software inner structure and its source code. The reason for structural software quality analysis is to check the adherence of the product with the software architecture specification. It is carried out by the developer of the project. In contrast; functional quality is all about checking the functionality adherence with the requirements specification and is measured through software testing.

The major principles required for any software product for quality and business value fulfillment are Reliability, Efficiency, Security, Size and Maintainability

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Dec 11, 2011

Lean Maintenance : Zero Maintenance Time

Zero maintenance time—this goal becomes more of a reality when you align the processes and organization of your maintenance in such a way that the value stream is not disrupted and the useful productive time of machines and systems is used more and optimally instead of being affected by maintenance work.

To achieve this the Lean Maintenance System provides effective methods and approaches. In other words, zero maintenance time does not mean stopping maintenance altogether.

In many companies, maintenance is a constant tightrope walk between guaranteeing adequate system availability on the one hand and the economic efficiency of the production systems, which should not be burdened unnecessarily, on the other. This is because in a lot of companies the maintenance strategies and the organization developed historically. There is no precise orientation to the production system and its requirements. This is where the Lean Maintenance System steps in.

In the Lean Maintenance System you will progress through a four-step process, so that at the end you are closer to having a value stream-oriented maintenance organization and your goal of "zero maintenance time:":

1st Step: Prioritize systems
For each sub-system in a production system, assess the effects of a potential breakdown. Three criteria are used for this: the production system, the value stream, and the customers. The type of effect then determines which priority category the system is allocated to. This system classification is used to define recommended actions for the maintenance strategy.

Critical systems with high priority are given most attention. They are examined in detail, so that a component-specific maintenance strategy can be developed and optimized with the “zero maintenance time” concept.

2nd Step: Classify damage categories
To develop a component-specific maintenance strategy the components of a system are broken down into so-called damage categories. Then, an assessment is made of how damage affects the system operation, whether damage can be foreseen, and how often it occurs. On the basis of this assessment the individual components are classified in damage categories, and component-specific maintenance strategies are developed. Damage categories are also associated with recommended actions for maintenance and keeping a stock of spare parts.

3rd Step: Develop a concept
When system-specific maintenance concepts are being developed, a distinction is made between critical and uncritical systems. Depending on the priority classification, a precisely coordinated plan of action is drawn up which takes account of the system priority, the damage category priority, and the fault clearance time.

4th Step: Develop an organization
When the actions and concepts for the systems have been defined, the organization can then be derived. To do this, the activities are structured and the capacities calculated. The individual results for the various systems are used to calculate the number of employees required for central and decentralized maintenance teams and a pool of specialists on a unit level.

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Dec 10, 2011

Two Trends in Quality Control

In production, quality control has long become a part of management system, a tool to help manager examine and control the product quality. However, because the characteristics of recognition and belief differ from country to country, each quality control method, therefore, has its own approach and effect. Most outstanding of all are the two trends, the two approaches in Quality Control in Japan - the US and in Western Europe.

1. The former trend:

Started from the belief that Quality management is a matter of technology which is decided by technical standards and requirements, materials, machines, technology.... therefore, to control the quality, people base on Statistical Quality Control (SQC) and apply automatic examination tools in and after production time. To make basis for comparison, people create quality standards for the products and unify testing methods. Thereafter, take tests to evaluate the decree of compliance of the product with those standards or technical requirements. On basis of the test results, the product quality will be decided to be satisfactory or dissatisfactory.

In this trend, Quality Control methods are formed such as QC (Quality Control), Product Quality Examination and TQC (Total QC). In production system, there are employees trained to examine the product quality - who work independently and specially.

2. The latter trend:

Differing from the above belief, the second trend assumes that QC by examining and removing defect products will be unable to avoid mistakes. Examination does not create Quality but the whole process does, from design phase, production phase to consumption phase. The quality must be assured in every phase, every work and must involve every employee in the organization.

Therefore, to control the quality according to this trend, people must consider Quality Assurance to be their main duty. This duty is done by regular and planned activities of senior managers. Quality Assurance must be started with being set as a main goal of the company. After being publicly introduced about Quality Improvement Programs, all the employees will do researches to find best ways to fulfill their duties. As a result, in companies following this trend, there are many Quality Movements with the participation of all the employees.

Management methods following this trend can be deeply humanistic, such as TQM (Total Quality Management), TQCo (Total Quality Commitment) and CWQI (Company Wide Quality Improvement). With these methods, people can make best use of the human resource in the company, and the result is that not only the product quality is assured but also the business operations are improved.

Above are the two most important trends in QC in the world. These 2 trends are formed throughout the process of consciousness about relevant matters to Quality and have been verified for over 40 years of application as basis for QC in many countries. However, which trend and which model to be selected depends on many specific conditions of each company, each country and each requirement from reality.

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Nov 15, 2011

Improve Quality by Using Six Sigma Method

Businesses rely on repeat customers and word-of-mouth to get their products and services out there. They want to sell as much as they can so that their business is considered a success. When customers receive poor quality service or products, not only will they not return, but they will also make sure other people do not support the company. This is a good way for a company to fail. In today's cyber-driven world, it is very easy for one satisfied customer to reach millions through online reviews. This means it is more important than ever to keep customers satisfied through high quality products and services as well as great customer service.

The reason for poor quality within a company could be due to one of many things. It could even be a combination of several things put together. The job of a Six Sigma professional is to find out where the flaws are in quality and suggest solutions for change. Sometimes business owners will have worked with certain processes and procedures for so many years; they are uncomfortable changing their ways. They might even be too close to the process to be able to realize where the flaws exist. Six Sigma professionals try to encourage these business owners to advance with the times and change their procedures as technology dictates. The Six Sigma professional can only suggest and recommend these changes. It is up to the business owner to implement the Six Sigma suggested new plan of action and to notify any and all employees that will be affected so that they can adjust accordingly.

Employees must be happy to be willing to put their all into their job. It is never good for employees to be showing up on the job just for a paycheck. If they do not care about the quality of their work, the business' quality overall will suffer. Productivity will also suffer which greatly affects the quantity of products or services sold. Employees who are unhappy also tend to call out more often, which directly affects productivity. Six Sigma professionals often see employee dissatisfaction as a reason for flaws within the processes and procedures. When employees, managers, even executives, become complacent about their job and what is required of them, they will not spot the problem areas as easily. They may be resistant to change and do not want to see what could be done to improve the company. If they do not want the company to fail, however, they will allow someone to come in, analyze the processes, report back with flaws, and suggest improvements. It is always good to get a second opinion or a fresh look at a problem.

Business owners should always be willing to try the advice of a Six Sigma Professional. These professionals are trained, qualified and certified to assist in improving company quality from entry level positions all the way to upper administration.

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Oct 27, 2011

The Principles of Lean Six Sigma

When a company needs a Lean Six Sigma Professional, they may be having a problem with low job satisfaction among employees, creating a low morale and poor work production as a result. They may need to streamline their company processes, reducing and eliminating much of what they were doing wrong.

The Six Sigma professionals would then use these methods to help them eliminate waste and streamline their processes while improving their output quality.

The training involved in learning the lean methods will provide a good overview of the tools that are used and how to apply them to Six Sigma projects. Some of these tools include process maps, affinity diagrams and value stream mapping. This process can be applied to any business or organization, no matter the size or the type of industry. Whether the business in question is in the manufacturing industry or it is a service provider, the processes can be used to streamline the procedures used within the company.

In lean Six Sigma, there are five principles that are used:

• The first of these is the law of the market. This signifies that the customer is always to be put first. The company must implement this immediately and make sure that all employees adhere to it. The company wants the employees to understand that without the customers, there would be no business.
• The second of these principles is the law of flexibility. If a process is easily maneuverable, it is easier to work with. A method of business that cannot be changed for any reason can cause problems.
• The third principle is the law of focus. This is meant to keep the focus on the problems within the company and not the entire company itself. Executives and employees should concentrate on just the portions of the company that are causing problems and fixing those problems, dismissing distractions by other areas of the business that are not having problems.
• The fourth principle is the law of velocity. This means that if a process has many, many details that have to be performed, it may be slowing down the process. The work put into the process should be proportional to the results the company sees.
• The fifth principle in Lean Six Sigma is the law of complexity. Simply put, keep it simple. When a process is complex and difficult, it may have elements that are not necessary. More complexity does not necessarily mean more valuable or more important. In fact, it could mean just the opposite.

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Oct 24, 2011

Six Sigma Roadblocks

There are many issues to deal with when it comes to Six Sigma Roadblocks including issue of speaking to the employees about change; otherwise known as change management. Implementing this type of management methodology can result in resentment from those who have been on the job for a long period of time.

This resentment will lead to resistance from employees. Many times, change is hard for people to accept especially when they have grown used to one way of doing things.

If the Six Sigma process and it's goals and benefits are not properly explained to the employees, they will do everything in their power to work against the change. The process is much more difficult without cooperation from everyone, so this is a major roadblock that must be addressed and overcome when considering Six Sigma Implementation for your business.

This entire methodology is centered on finding flaws in a business system and correcting them in order to produce a high quality product using as little space and time as can possibly be managed. The processes used by this methodology to define a roadblock can be changed to fit any type of business or industry. That is why the program is so unique and popular among businesses.

When learning to identify problems within a production system, it is important that every detail be accounted for. This means even the slightest problem that could occur right down to the very last sticker that is used must be defined. It is important to discover every issue that could result in a quality concern. Then, you will develop a system of rating the various issues to be worked on in priority order along with the help of some very special Six Sigma Tools.

Once the various issues are determined and prioritized, the Six Sigma Team can begin to decide on the best ways to resolve the problems and arrange for the production lines to provide the maximum efficiency and best possible quality output. As the system is streamlined, the progress can be charted and monitored for improvement in the various areas.

Many different industries today are using Six Sigma Training and Certification to produce better products, while saving money and time as well as simultaneously improving customer satisfaction. Using a system that tracks the progress of improvement and quality throughout the industry tends to cause any business to thrive overall.

With any type of business change of this nature, there will be many problems or roadblocks that will need to be dealt with along the way. In addition to lack of cooperation from various areas, there will be issues with products that will need to be worked through. Eventually, however, all of the issues with the program itself will be worked out and the savings can begin.

Initially, upon Six Sigma Implementation, there might be an increase in costs as the necessary tools and changes are made to the production line. These initial costs should be looked at as an investment, because they cause the process to run much more smoothly, thus, creating a better quality product and an even bigger eventual cost savings. Although there are issues, using the process of identifying issues with Six Sigma will prove to be a wise investment once all roadblocks have been dealt with.

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Oct 17, 2011

How to Preparation for Lean Manufacturing

It seems that every manufacturing company is now trying to adapt the Lean Philosophy, invented and mastered by Toyota Corporation. Many companies don't completely understand the true meaning of Lean Manufacturing. Lean Manufacturing, simply put, is "continuously improving your processes to eliminate waste". This sounds simple, but many companies will fail to become truly Lean because they don't have an environment to implement and maintain Lean.

Most people believe Lean is just a set of tools (One Piece Flow, JIT, Kan-Ban, 5S, Six-Sigma, Kaizen Teams, Push / Pull Systems, etc.) that can be used to cut waste. However, Lean is not only a set of tools, it is a culture. If a company has severe issues with employee turnover, employee morale, product quality, product delivery, equipment uptime, plant housekeeping, etc., it will be extremely difficult to shift the employees to a new way of thinking and conducting business. In other words, if your employees are in constant fire fighting mode, they will not be able to properly implement Lean.

Fix the obvious problems first

To prepare for Lean, you must "fix the obvious problems first". Many times employers will know exactly what the problems and solutions are. They just don't have the time, resources, or incentive to fix them. If you have an automobile that is constantly breaking down because of a bad transmission, then fix it! Repair or replace the transmission. Do not implement a Lean Strategy to fix the car. Just fix it. Lean is not used to fix broken processes. Lean is used to continuously improve working processes to eliminate waste. When all the obvious problems are fixed on that vehicle, it's then time to fine tune it to become more efficient. It's time to look at ways to cut waste (cost) to ultimately save money!

A Word about Six-Sigma

Some companies now mandate that Six-Sigma be used to fix problems. Unfortunately, Six-Sigma isn't always used correctly. Six-Sigma is intended to solve complex problems that have numerous variables that cause variation in a process, which ultimately cause defects. Six-Sigma uses statistics to systematically identify what the different variables are doing in the process and points to potential solutions. It eliminates guessing as to what's causing the variations. Again, fix the obvious problems first. Many problems don't have to be analyzed to detect solutions. In many instances, the solutions are obvious: i.e., If the light bulb is blown, then, change the light bulb.

Value Your People

Society generally refers to companies as entities. We speak of IBM, GM, and Microsoft as entities; however, they are really groups of people. GM doesn't build cars, the employees of GM build cars.

To develop that culture as successfully as Toyota Corporation has, companies must first realize that they have to develop, nurture and value their employees. In order to build a culture of people wanting to continuously improve, people have to be engaged in their jobs. They have to feel valued by the company. They have to feel they are noticed and rewarded for their contributions. Ultimately, the company has to value having low employee turnover to create consistency. A company with high employee turnover cannot maintain a successful Lean environment.

To foster this type of environment in today's business world isn't easy. There is low loyalty between U.S. companies and their employees for a variety of reasons. Some companies look at employees as an expense rather that an asset that can be easily cut. If employees of a company do not feel the company values them, they will find other jobs. With today's business world, it's difficult to implement a long term Lean strategy. Yes, a company can dictate to it's employees to use Lean tools to cut waste, however, to sustain that ideology long term require an engaged, loyal, consistent, work force.

Develop and Retain Strong Leaders

Good managers are coaches, poor managers are dictators. A good manager will believe in the team concept where every member of the team is important and his/her opinions are valued. A good manager will value his/her employees and realize that for him/her to be successful, the team has to be successful. A poor manger will dictate to his/her employees, which creates havoc! A good, efficient, business unit with high employee morale will fall apart within weeks if a poor manager has taken over. Poor managers fail because they don't have strong leadership skills. They lack people skills, communication skills, decision making skills, and delegation skills necessary to develop and maintain effective teams. A strong leader must sell the Lean Strategy and realize that ultimately the employees as a team are the ones to make it happen.

Think and act World Class (even if not there yet!)

To become Lean is to become World Class. When walking into a facility that has an unclean, unorganized work environment, one knows he/she haven't walked into a World Class facility. There is no need to look at the productivity numbers to determine whether or not the facility is World Class. If a plant is World Class, it looks World Class as soon as you walk into the door.

A Lean facility is thoroughly organized. Every process is clearly defined via standards. Production is operated via very clear Visual Management. A true World Class facility has the discipline to sustain organization. Outside auditors, potential customers and employees will be turned off if the work environment isn't clean and organized. Keeping a work area clean and organized is simple; however, many companies overlook this simple task.

Make Decisions Based on Logic and Not Politics

Most of the time decisions made senior management are implemented without questioning regardless if the decisions make sense or not. Too many times, decisions are made by senior management without them fully understanding the process and issues. Lower-level managers ultimately implement ideas and strategies that are not based on logic but politics. They will implement ideas even if they themselves do not believe in them. This can create numerous problems which makes implementing Lean Strategies difficult.

Decisions should be made throughout the organization through effective communication. Senior management should not just mandate, but sell their ideas and be open to questioning and suggestions from lower-level managers. Senior management should fully understand the issues and processes by effectively communicating with the managers at the different levels. Major decisions whenever possible should be made as a team vs. an individual.

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Quality Assurance vs Quality Control

Are there any Difference Between Quality Control and Quality Assurance?
Most people use the two terms Quality Control and Quality Assurance equivalently to refer to the same concept. However both the terms are different in meaning as well as purpose.

It is actually very easy to define and explain both the terms.

Let us start by looking at the definitions of Quality Assurance and Quality control as per various standard bodies.

QA is defined as " The planned and systematic activities implemented in a quality system so that quality requirements for a product or service will be fulfilled. "

QC is defined as " The observation techniques and activities used to fulfill requirements for quality."

Clearly, there are marked differences between Quality Assurance and Quality Control.

The most notable difference between quality assurance and quality control is that while QC is product oriented, QA is process oriented.

Quality control focuses more on failure detection. It comprises various methods, systems and strategies to decide certain areas which are below the expectations and standards of the company to its products and services.

On the other hand, Quality assurance pertains to the processes and rules which aim to foresee any potential failure that may occur to prevent this from happening even before it happens.

Another differentiation between QA and QC is that while Quality assurance makes sure that what you are doing are right things in the right way while QC ensures that the results of what you have done are as per your expectations.

QA is a proactive function, therefore a quality assurance program delivers a higher quality of work.

QC is concerned with checking that the work is done correctly, and is compliant. It focuses on correcting deviations after the work has been done. Or we can say, Quality control activities acts as corrective measures.

The difference between QA and QC is also one of power and control. QC is under control of development while QA controls development.

It is often found that while some companies concentrate more on QC, other focuses mainly on assurance of quality. For efficient running and quality products, both these processes must subject to proper evaluation and management.

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Sep 26, 2011

Are There Difference Between Strategy and Tactics?

"Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat." - Sun Tzu

What are the fundamental differences between strategy and tactics? Even the savviest on-line and off-line entrepreneurs frequently confuse the two.

Tactics are the day-to-day activities that are repeatable in your business and relatively clear-cut. Like blocking and tackling in football, they comprise the basic components of the jobs and the daily activities of any organization - or any business - no matter the size.

They are such things as SEO Campaigns, writing an article, creating a website, making a sales call, or perhaps joining an on-line community such as StomperNet, or Rich Schefren's Business Growth System. Tactics are specifically created and selected to reach particular and measurable objectives.

Tactics are the actual ways in which the strategies are executed. They may also include such things as newsletters, press releases, teleseminars, blogs, advertising, websites, and any other tool that your target markets are usually exposed to.

Tactics are easy to copy. If one company observes innovations in another company's products, for example, the observing company can easily duplicate what it has seen, or develop something comparable if straight duplication is not possible. As soon as the process or product is copied, the competitive advantage of the innovation recedes or disappears.

If you are not careful, tactics may end up being simply quick fixes that can bring short term gain, but they will not lead to long-term success unless rigorously applied; and they must be part of an overall plan for success. Therefore, it is critical to look at each tactic from the standpoint of what it will do to achieve your overall strategy.

Most businesses today tend to be tactically focused. You work diligently every day in your office, doing task after task, but most often without a strategic focus.
Being mainly tactically focused will result in a lot of ups and downs in your business, and very likely a long, slow (or very fast) decline in the value of your business.

Strategy, on the other hand, is perspective, that is, your Future Picture and direction. Strategy involves the "big picture" - the overall plan, and how those plans will achieve your goals and objectives. It involves deciding who the important stakeholders are, and which of them will be the recipients of your messages (i.e., "target audiences"), or the targets of your activities.
Your strategy is the framework, your compass that you will use to make decisions that will benefit the future outcome of your business. Strategy is the set of directions you make to enhance your situation and position within your overall market.

Without a well thought out strategy, your business is merely like a person wandering around uselessly in the dark. There is neither a planned direction of where to go in the future, nor which methods to use to get there. Tactics and strategy are always relative to one another, and together they bridge the gap between ends and means.

To succeed in your business environment, it is vital to plan a strategy that connects your activities to your overall plans. If you have a solid understanding of where you want to be at some defined point in the future, it becomes a relatively simple exercise to create a set of activities to get you there. If you know where you are going, there will be a way to get there - always.

Recognize that there is a difference between strategy and tactics, and do not confuse the two. The company that clearly understands that difference is the business that will be the most successful, the most durable - and the most profitable.

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Aug 3, 2011

The Auditor’s Ethical Responsibility

The auditor should express an opinion on a subject only when it is based on adequate knowledge and honest conviction. In all cases, the facts should speak for themselves. Opinions, when given, should be solidly grounded in objective evidence.

The following is ASQ’s Nuclear Quality Systems Auditor.

The leader of an audit team serves as a supervisor and should always be willing to recognize good work and offer constructive criticism for improvement in performance. The lead auditor must demonstrate through actions how the audit team should act. A leader must demonstrate leadership and set good examples. The team leader should require the team to comply fully with the rules, regulations and customs of the organization under audit. This entails compliance with the working hours, dress, lunch hours and other requirements. Team members should attempt to blend into the environment in which they are auditing. Any action which makes the team stand out will reduce its effectiveness in dealing with the audited organization.

In dealing with any problem between the team and the audited organization, the team leader must demonstrate fairness to both parties. The leader must deal with objectivity in obtaining the facts and settle any personality conflicts. If there is significant doubt remaining as to verification of the facts or the correctness of the finding, and additional evaluation fails to eliminate the doubt, the item should be dropped or offered in terms which acknowledge the degree of uncertainty at the post-audit (exit) conference. This type of action demonstrates the objectivity and fairness of the audit.

Should personality conflicts occur between members of the audit team, the team leader has the responsibility to step in immediately and resolve the conflict. The resolution should take place in private and be resolved to the benefit of the entire audit team and organization being audited.

It should be the clearly defined policy of any audit team that there be no surprises involved with the audit at any time. An audit is no place for ‘cloak and dagger tactics,’ ‘witch hunting,’ or the identification of situations which are sprung at a critical time. Ethical audits require full disclosure of any finding (or observation) with responsible members of the audited organization to test its validity prior to formal exposure at the post-audit (exit) conference or formal audit report.

The team leader must assure that he (or she) and the team members maintain their integrity. They should not accept gifts or entertainment of a nature or degree that might possibly prejudice the audit or affect the relationship between the two organizations (auditee and audit team). If members of the audited organization offer to take the audit team to lunch, it is the team leader’s responsibility to clarify the rules by which the lunch is accepted, such as limiting the time away from the audited facility.

During the conduct of the audit, auditors often have access to proprietary information of the audited organization. Auditors have a moral obligation not to divulge this information to anyone. Divulging proprietary information is a violation of this moral obligation and is not in the best business or professional interest of either organization (auditee or audit team). The disclosure betrays a trust and, in so doing, gains a reputation that is not conducive to building better business relations for the auditor’s company or for himself (or herself).

Auditors must avoid the temptation, during external (second party) audits, to discuss another audited organization’s performance with the people they are presently auditing. To do so is akin to disclosing proprietary information and is in bad taste. Exceptions to this may be taken during internal (first party) audits if part of the audit objective is to assess the efficiency of a quality system which is applicable to more than one facility. (For example, two or more manufacturing plants owned by the same parent company.)

Auditors must avoid making false, unsupported or misleading statements that tend to injure or discredit the audited organization’s reputation. This requirement is self-evident and must be adhered to in every respect.

In summary, all auditors must act in an ethical manner which will bring credit upon themselves, their company and the quality auditing profession.

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Jul 25, 2011

Manufacturing Sustaining Lean

The methods of lean manufacturing have been achieving incredible success rates for over 40 years. The first success stories came from the factories in Japan and then advanced to the factories all over North America.

These methods have proven to be a flexible and cost effective way to achieve customer satisfaction. However, there many factories that still perform and look much the same as they did years ago. The reason for this is that sustaining the transition to lean manufacturing can be very difficult.

It’s absolutely necessary to completely commit to the lean concept. Management must commit to the lean efforts continuously and must marry itself to the concepts of 5S concepts and learn to regularly make the required difficult choices.

Many manufacturers consider that their problems are over once they successfully implement lean in some part of their factory that is having problems. The fact is that this is when management needs to learn and apply elsewhere to multiply their successes.

In many factories, boards have been mounted and are displayed on the shop floor to depict their 5S safety and health information and production output. This saves resources and time because graphs, charts, and signs are much more understandable since they are visual, than long computer generated emails and reports.

Also, in order to improve the output and efficiency of their employees, many factories synchronize the flow between their workstations and machines with the workstations and machines that have been repositioned in addition adding a single line of work flow, controlling its processes, and organizing the factory for visual monitoring.

Although there still may be other work to be done, many factories commit to going all the way. Some of these factories have enjoyed a reduction of direct labors by as much as 25% and a 50% reduction of inventory.

To ensure that the employees’ take effect, management should include measurements in the visual sense so that people can gauge how well they’re doing. This puts all the information directly in front of them, without any secrets. If management doesn’t do this, employees will people will simply naturally slide back into their old ways of doing things. Factories that are successful conduct audits regularly to prevent this from happening.

Everybody must make a commitment to lean manufacturing, and those employees who don’t may not survive the transition to lean. This should be expected because those employees are actually part of the problem.

It isn’t management’s fault if an employee resists lean if he/she believes he/she is going to lose his/her job. Lean is not a reason to reduce the workforce.

Lean management needs to understand that they are making an investment. Nobody is trying de motivate the workforce by laying employees off. The concept is to rapidly increase sales and take advantage of the factory’s new lean approach. If an employee becomes unneeded in one area of the workplace, that employees should be moved to another workplace where they will have a positive impact. Lean management should reward their employees for making a contribution to the success of the factory.

Continuously improving and sustaining lean manufacturing is something that any factory can do. Lean management need to keep their employees willing to embrace lean continuously. They should continue to set and achieve lean goals for their employees and encourage them to participate in the success.

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Jul 19, 2011

Quality Control Circle

A small group of employees who come together to discuss with the management issues related to either quality control or improvement in production methods form a Quality Control Circle (QCC). These employees usually work in the same areas, and voluntarily meet on a regular basis to identify, analyze and solve their problems.

It is said that 95% of the problems in workshops can be solved through quality control tools. The Japanese have experienced this! The quality control tools useful for QCCs are Pareto Diagrams, Cause-and-Effect Diagrams, Stratification, Check Sheets, Histograms, Scatter Diagrams, Graphs and Control Charts. Also, logical thinking and experience are a must for solving problems.

The benefits of introducing a quality control circle program in the work place are many.

o Heightened quality awareness reveals faults in the system that might obstruct good practices.
o It improves the quality of your firm's products and services, thereby increasing the value of your brand, and securing your customers' confidence. The quality of customer relationship management can be further enhanced by using help desk software from the likes of
o The people who are part of the quality control circle will feel a sense of ownership for the project. Higher yields and lower rejection rates also result in enhanced job satisfaction for workers, which in turn drives them to contribute more.
o A quality control circle program also brings about improved two-way communication between the staff and the management.
o Finally, the financial benefits will certainly exceed the costs of implementing the program. A study revealed that some companies improved their savings ten fold!

Implementation involves the following broad steps:

o Firstly, the management is informed about the quality control circle process that is being planned.
o A committee is formed, and key persons such as a coordinator and in-house coach are selected.
o The scope is defined, and areas of application identified.
o First-line supervisors in the identified areas are given QCC presentations. It is important to make these impressive, and valuable tips on the subject are available at
o This is followed up with extensive training for coordinators and middle management on the process and their roles.
o Employees are invited to become members of a circle, and trained suitably once they sign up. Thus, a circle is formed and begins work. These may give rise to other circles.
o Problems are discussed and solved in a systematic manner in the QCCs. It is very important that solutions are implemented as quickly as possible, to maintain the momentum.

Usually QCC programs must operate in all sections of the company i.e., in the offices, service operations and manufacturing. But remember, while the size of the company is not important to a program's success, the following factors certainly are:

o Voluntary participation.
o Management support.
o Employee empowerment.
o Training programs.
o Team work.
o Problem solving skills.

Generally, a quality control circle program requires the same framework as an ISO 9000 quality standard with regard to the management structure and training. Hence, QCCs should be part and parcel of your company's Total Quality Management (TQM) initiative. For further information on QCCs, you could go through "Cases on Quality Control Circles".

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Jul 14, 2011

TQM As Organizational Change

Moving to TQM is like any other organizational change. It must be managed effectively, and leaders of the change must take into account aspects of the organization's current "culture".

In fact, although TQM brings a number of benefits to those in the organization, you can expect some people to be cynical and resistant to change. Let's face it. Everyone in government has seen management fads come and go.

Thankfully, a well managed TQM organizational change is likely to bring most if not all people on side over time.

Organizational Change Principles
1) Time
Any change (and its attached benefits) will take longer to realize than you expect. Typically, it may take as long as two or three years to have TQM working at its peak.

2 Resistance
Regardless of the objective nature of the change, some (even many) people will resist it because it is unfamiliar. TQM must be introduced so that it maximizes people's enthusiasm and minimizes resistance.

3. Leadership
Any change will succeed or fail based on the ability of the change leaders to lead. People will take their cues about TQM from the management. If management show that they are committed, employees will become so. If management waffles, hedges, and backs off, then employees will see this as just more rhetoric of little importance.

4. Persistence
Nobody is telling you that this process is easy. The worst thing a manager can do is start the process, and when it gets difficult, stop it. That breeds contempt for both the process and the manager. Managers need to commit over the long haul and realize they must be persistent while the rest of the organizations works at "getting it".

5. Consistency
The primary mistake managers make is that they become inconsistent. Perhaps most of the time, their thinking and actions reflect the principles of TQM. However, not all the time. This tells employees that the manager is not serious. As soon as a manager suggests that a poor product or service be delivered, the game is up. Instant lack of credibility.

Consistency also means including employees in the planning of TQM activities, treating employees as the manager's customers, and a number of other things.

People will embrace changes that they see are in their own self-interest. When presenting or deal ing with TQM changes it is important that managers highlight and focus on the benefits to the other people in tt7e organization.

7. Communication
Change will be accepted or rejected based on the effectiveness of the communication about it. Communication must be frequent, of a two-way nature, and balanced (both positives and negatives). It must begin as early as possible in the process.

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Jul 8, 2011

The Reasons of TQM Fails

Yes, Total Quality Management fails. We don't hear too much about those. When it does not bring about improvement in the workplace, it is usually a result of faulty implementation rather than anything intrinsically wrong with the concepts.

Reason #1: Improper Planning
Organizations tend to be so anxious to begin doing "something", that they start off being unclear as to what they are trying to accomplish and how to get there. There is a time to jump to action and a time to insure that the actions are properly planned and considered. Jumping in too early creates chaos, and cynicism as expectations are frustrated.

Reason #2: Management Confusion
Managers need to lead the organization to quality processes. Too often managers have not considered what this means on a day to day level. Many managers will need some coaching on what their roles might be, and how to carry them out, but quite frequently, managers are not prepared for the tasks they face.

Reason #3: Inadequate Support To Managers
So far, there has been a tendency to hire TQM consultants to visit for a half-day or so to start the process. This puts incredible pressure on managers since they have little ongoing access to the expert help they need to make this work. Also, some activities that are part of TQM are best carried out by "outsiders" who bring a different kind of objectivity to the process.

Reason #4: Partial Implementation (Hedging)
Many organizations jump in by implementing only one piece of TQM, usually focussing on the customer, or collecting information from employees. Customer service is only one part of the puzzle, and empowering employees is not likely to bring about change unless other issues are addressed.

Reason #5: Inadequate Marketing
There is considerable cynicism in the public sector these days. Employees have seen management fads come and go without impact. TQM programs that do not communicate the TQM principles, and management intent usually fail. TQM must be explained in ways which show how it will benefit all members of the organization. Then management must lead by example.

Reason #6: Impatience
Any organization change requires perseverance and patience. Management that is not willing to work at it over an extended time will start backing off the principles and become inconsistent in their actions. That destroys their own credibility, and the credibility of organization change in general.

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Jul 7, 2011

Ten Practical Benchmarking Steps with Review Points

Ten practical benchmarking steps and a number of review points (in the form of questions) can help any Lean Six Sigma practitioner involved in measuring of a company's products, services or processes against those recognized as the best in the world.

In a continuous process improvement program, benchmarking is the regular, systematic measuring of an organization's own products, services or processes against those of the recognized best practitioners in the world. The information collected about a company's own processes analyzed in relationship to the best-in-class practices provides insight into the actions the company can take to improve its performance. Indeed, benchmarking analysis can even provide metrics by which an organization can measure its success in adding value to its business and work processes.

Benchmarking is a management tool for process improvement that takes into account an organization's performance measurement. It also is an internal learning and sharing tool that continually improves processes by motivating culture change based on the idea that the company can be among the best in the world.

The Benchmarking Steps
In any benchmarking process, it is essential to follow a systematic and structured approach. It is best if the project is carried forward by trained and dedicated cross-functional teams so that all aspects of the process are properly discussed at all phases and analyzed for any opportunities, and improvement actions can be initiated.

Four phases are involved in a normal benchmarking process - planning, analysis, integration and action. And in the four phases are 10 practical steps that can help any Lean Six Sigma practitioner involved in a benchmarking a process.

1. Planning Phase
Being the initial phase, this is a most important phase. Any mistakes, errors or incompleteness in this phase generally affects the rest of the phases. Sufficient time and attention has to be devoted during the phase to ensure that planning becomes as error-free as possible, and hence makes the rest of the phases more effective and efficient.

Step 1: Identify Opportunities and Prioritize (What to Benchmark) - The involvement of top management in this particular step is crucial. Top management must decide which processes are critical to the success of the company. This should be the top down approach of selecting the projects from the processes. Once a shortlist of processes to be benchmarked is ready, the processes need to be prioritized as per a predetermined set of criteria to fulfill the requirements of all customers, especially the end customer. Customers' ciritcal-to-quality (CTQ) requirements are studied properly to prioritize the processes.

Step 2: Deciding the Benchmarking Organization (Whom to Benchmark) - The next step in the process is to decide the organization whose processes will serve as the benchmark. Obviously some companies, such as direct competitors, will not be available as places to gather certain types of benchmark data. Several organizations should be selected for study. Information on their processes should be gathered from various sources and the most suitable organization selected. It is always important to ensure that more detailed information about the selected organization will be accessible and that comparison with the organization's process will be relevant and useful.

Step 3: Studying the Superior Process - This step is perhaps the most important, most difficult and most time consuming activity in the total process of information collection. Many times the information on processes and procedures followed at another company are confidential, and it is not always easy to gather authentic information, even after making a planned and approved visit at another organization. The preparation for collecting necessary information has to be planned in such a way that either one visit or a proper authentic data collection source can provide all the details, within a reasonable time period.

The following questions can be asked to review the planning phase of a benchmarking effort:

What are the key business processes?
Where exactly are the greatest improvement potentials?
What are the functions where improvements are most essential?
Are all members of the benchmarking project team familiar with the vision, mission, and long-term goals of the organization, as well as its prevailing business environment and the competitive situation?
Have the critical success factors for the organization been identified?
Do all processes require benchmarking, or only the most critical?
Can all or some of the processes be improved without benchmarking?
Have the ways of measuring the process been decided?
Have the owners of the processes to be benchmarked been involved in the project?
Have the processes been prioritized based on the scope of improvement?
Have the set of predetermined criteria for prioritizing the processes been decided in advance, based on the company's success factors and the competitive business environment?
Has a level of benchmarking been decided?
Has the team compiled a list of possible organizations having best-in-class standards to be used for comparison?
Has the information about all possible organizations to compare been collected?
Is the method of collecting information systematic?
Will it be possible to access information about a chosen organization's best-in-class process?
Is the organization's best-in-class process likely to be innovative?
How has it been decided to collect data on the best-in-class process?
How superior are the results of the process of the chosen organization?
To what extent are the practices of the organization with the best-in-class process different?
Are there basic differences in the structure of the process?
How effectively can the process be adapted?
What would be the cost of changing the company's current process and what resistance can be expected?
What are the potential benefits if the process is modified as per the best-in-class process?
2. Analysis Phase
This phase, comprised of two steps, involves the analysis of all the information and data collected in the Planning phase. All the people closest to the process selected for benchmarking should be deeply involved in this phase.

Step 4: Finding Reasons and Devising Improved Processes - The project team should find out the reasons for better results from the benchmarked processes. This has to be done after the information from the best-in-class organization has been collected and analyzed. Based on the analysis, an improved process should be developed.

Step 5: Goal Setting for Improved Processes - The project team's next step is to set goals for the improvement of the company's existing process. These goals can, and probably should, be stretch goals that will result in a process even better than the other organization's best-in-class process.

The review points for this phase are:

Do the project team's members have both analytical skills and creativity and innovation?
Has a gap analysis been done between the performance of the company process and the benchmarked organization's process (look for effectiveness, efficiency and responsiveness)?
Have the performance gaps in the company's process as compared to the benchmarked process been identified and analyzed?
Have the reasons for better performance been brainstormed?
Have the process definition documents for both companies been compared?
After comparing the descriptive process documents, have the flowcharts of the two processes been compared and analyzed?
Have the work processes at benchmarked organization been studied and compared with the company's processes? Have they been observed at the operator level?
Have the impact of the differences in work practices been fully studied?
Does the team have proposals for making changes in the processes?
Has the team been able to develop an improved process?
Have senior management and/or interested parties in the organization been convinced by the project team that the superior benchmarked process should be adapted by the team company?
Has the revised process been tried to ensure the adaptability?
Have the successes of the revised process been documented properly for any horizontal deployment or to replicate it in other processes?
To get senior management's commitment, have the improvements been converted to financial gains?
Has the cost-benefit analysis been conducted on the proposed revision of the process?
Has the team proposed new performance goals, which can be attained with the revised process?
Has senior management confirmed its knowledge and agreement about all of the above?
3. Integration Phase
This phase also comprises two steps. This phase is a connector between the earlier two stages, planning and analysis, and the final phase, action. This phase moves forward only if the results of earlier phases have been accepted by management. This phase also secures the commitment of the management on the recommended action plan. Because acceptance of proposed process revisions by the company is necessary for the success of the project, this phase is obviously important.

Step 6: Communicate Findings and Gain Acceptance - The proposals for the improved processes should be presented to senior management and the head of the departments to gain approval of the proposed changes. Unless total approval and commitment is secured, there will be hindrance in the implementation of the actions plans.

Step 7: Establish New Functional Goals - When the proposed revisions to the processes are accepted, the acceptance of the revised functional goals is the next big logical step.

The questions to be asked in this phase are:

Has it been decided to whom findings are to be communicated?
Have finding been communicated to senior management so that its approval can be obtained for the implementation of the recommendations?
Have finding been shared with all the departments involved in the process so that they understand and accept the proposed changes in the process?
Have all suppliers of the inputs to the process been informed?
Has the impact of revised quality of the output of the process been communicated to the customer?
Have different types of communication for different audiences been decided upon?
Is there an effort to ensure that the communication will be understood properly by all concerned and that it has been accepted by all?
Have the revised process and the proposed performance goals been approved by senior management?
Have sufficient steps been taken to find out the gaps in every department that holds reservations or is concerned about difficulties in implementation?
Have all the issues raised been addressed properly?
Has there been any amendment in the proposed process that has been accepted by all?
Have the performance goals been converted to operational goals which are SMART (specific, measurable, aggressive [yet achievable], relevant, timely)?
Have operational goals been prioritized and the direction been set for implementation?
Has the impact of change on those elements prior to and those subsequent to the process been studied properly?
If there are any changes in the requirements of inputs from prior processes, has proper care been taken to change the process to meet the requirement needs?
Has senior management approved of all the points mentioned above?
4. Action Phase
The last phase in the process has three steps. This phase is where the improvement parts have been taken into consideration. Ultimate benefit to a company from benchmarking is judged by how well this particular phase has been carried out. The last step of this phase, "Keep the Process Continuous," implies this.

Step 8: Develop Action Plan for Implementation - After the improved process is accepted by all concerned or likely to be affected by it, a detailed action plan is drawn with all key activities taken as inputs. The detailed action plan should carry the important things like a time line, individuals responsible for carrying out the tasks, any short-fall in the completion of tasks and what stretch targets are taken to compensate the short-falls. Those responsible should be committed enough to ensure that the tasks and assignments are completed on time.

Step 9: Implement Specific Actions and Monitor Progress - While those who must complete assignments on schedule have a responsibility, so does senior management. They must be committed enough to ensure proper coordination of various activities, monitor the progress of implementation of the plan and work as a barrier-remover in the implementation process. When the revised process is in place, a complete report has to be prepared, showing the benefits of the revised process compared with the expectations at the time of approval of the proposed revision of the process.

Step 10: Keep the Process Continuous - The successful completion of one project can lead to an important milestone for the organization. The next step would be bringing in additional and more ambitious projects and benchmarking with the best approach. While carrying out the total activities, a mechanism or a system has to be built in to review the performance of the improved process periodically to ensure that the benefits are retained. The process has to be a continuous one and should move at a constant speed and should never be neglected.

The review points for this phase are:

Has the team developed an action plan to implement the changes proposed?
Has the team written down the changes required for implementing the new process and work practices?
Has the team arranged the activities in sequence and decided the sequence as per the order of priority based on the importance?
Have the tasks and assignments been made to the right people in the organization?
Have commitments from the team members, their superiors and all who will carry out the assignments been secured?
Are there different teams for implementation and analysis of the changes (people good at analysis are not always good at implementation)?
Has the new process been ensured by updating all directional documents, such as specifications, standard operating procedures and work instructions?
Does everyone know that the improvement is permanent?
Has the team or senior management developed a mechanism to review the competitive positions periodically in the total implementation process?
One of the biggest advantages of benchmarking is the extent of improvements the organization makes by learning from the processes of others. A better and proven process can be adapted, with suitable modifications for company requirements, with less time invested for inventing new methodologies. Benchmarking also uncovers new ways of improving a company's own processes by motivating actions learned from studying and experiencing those organizations with best-in-class processes.

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Jul 6, 2011

Blackbelts – Who and How ?

An important, but not comprehensive, role of a Six Sigma Black Belt is that of technical expert in the area of Six Sigma methods. This expertise allows the Black Belt to understand the link between complex customer needs and the critical internal process elements designed to achieve them.

In the fall of 2000, I participated as a subject matter expert on a panel to develop an industry-wide Body of Knowledge for Six Sigma Black Belts. The panel, commissioned by the American Society for Quality (ASQ), drew upon the collective experience and expertise of leading Six Sigma consultants and trainers.

It is interesting to note the general similarities between the participating organizations’ training topics. There were, however, two sources of disparity with regard to training:

Some topics were not covered for selected Black Belt programs. For example, a handful of training firms provided only a cursory overview of Designed Experiments and Multivariate Analysis for Black Belts in the services industries, on the belief that those tools were less needed in service industries. These same training organizations tended to ignore Lean Thinking as a viable topic for these clients.
There was disparity on the level of comprehension (i.e. the cognitive level) for some topics.
While there is a credible argument that many Six Sigma projects will require use of only a handful of tools, and that a portion of these will require only rudimentary statistical knowledge, Black Belts nonetheless need to learn these skills. Black Belts should be taught to think critically and challenge conventional thought. Six Sigma levels of improvement require what Juran termed “breakthrough thinking.” Successful breakthrough requires rigorous analysis. Black Belts must be taught to accept ideas and opinions as just that, noting their limitations. They need to learn to use analytical tools to examine these ideas and to find sustainable solutions to the problems plaguing the company. This applies equally to manufacturing and service applications. Statistical tools allow Black Belts to prove concepts with minimal data and process manipulation, so that great advances can be made in a short amount of time. Problems that have gone unsolved for years can be attacked and conquered.

While Six Sigma Black Belts are generally given credit for their expertise in analytical, statistical and problem solving techniques, successful Black Belts must be much more than technical experts. The advancement of an organization from a nominal 3.5 Sigma to Six Sigma represents a vast organizational (and cultural) change. As such, Black Belts are primarily Change Agents.

Effective Change Agents are:

Positive Thinkers: Black Belts need to have faith in management and in the direction of the business and its Six Sigma program. They must be upbeat and optimistic about the program success, or they risk undermining management or the Six Sigma initiative. They need to exude self-confidence, without the pitfalls of being overbearing, defensive or self-righteous. Proper Management support and vision allow Black Belts to both believe in and experience their potential as Change Agents.
Risk Takers: Black Belts need to be comfortable as Change Agents. While ineffective Change Agents agonizes over implementing change, effective Change Agents relish it. They enjoy the excitement and the challenge of “making things happen” and “grabbing the bull by the horns”. They know that change is necessary for the company and the customers’ sake; and that change is inevitable, given the competitive market. Only by leading the change can we hope to steer its outcome. The effective Change Agent wants to lead the charge.
Good Communicators: An effective Black Belt needs to be capable of distilling a vast amount of technical material in an easily comprehensible fashion to team members, Sponsors, Champions and management. Many of these personnel will have only minimal training (Green Belt or Champion level) in statistical techniques, if any at all. The Black Belt that can clearly and succinctly describe to the team why, for example, a designed experiment is better than one-factor-at-a-time experimentation will strengthen the team and shorten its project completion time.Of course, being a good communicator is much more than just being capable of distilling technical material. An effective Change Agent must also comprehend and appreciate others’ concerns. These concerns must be responded to in a thorough, respectful and thoughtful manner. Through the use of the Six Sigma statistical techniques, data can be used to predict the merits of various improvement strategies, and address these concerns. The effective Change Agent will enlist those with concerns to participate in these efforts, either as team members or Project Sponsors. Through participation, these employees learn to understand the nature of the problem and the most viable solution. ‘Buy-in’, a necessary part of sustainability, is greatly enhanced through this participation.
Respected by Peers: It is often said that an individual’s position in an organization can be either earned or granted, but that true power must be earned. Effective Change Agents have earned the respect of others in the organization by their hard work and effective communication. Those new to an organization, or who have not gained respect from others, will find it harder to implement changes.
Leaders: Black Belts will often serve as Team Leaders; other times they need to show respect to others (and true leadership) by allowing them to assume leadership roles. First wave Black Belts will also serve as role models and mentors for Green Belts and subsequent waves of Black Belts.
Many of these Change Agent skills are facets of one’s personalities, but they can be supported through awareness training, management policy, and coaching and mentoring by Master Black Belts and Champions. The best Black Belts are those individuals who show a balance between these softer attributes and the technical skills described in the Body of Knowledge. Many firms demand demonstration of these Change Agent attributes, through work history and personal recommendations, as a pre-requisite for consideration of Black Belt candidates. Depending on the business and functional area, a technical college degree may also be required. For example, a BS in Engineering may be required for manufacturing areas, whereas a Business Degree may be required for sales or business development areas.

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Kaizen for Personal Development

In the pursuit of self improvement we can look at many different areas. An area I have been interested in for a few months has been business, particularly the practice of Kaizen.

Kaizen literally means "To become good through change". It comes from the Japanese words "Kai" meaning school and "Zen" meaning wisdom. It has been adapted throughout the world across many businesses and has been used for years. I remember when I worked as a production operator at Hughes Micro-electronics they used the Kanban Kaizen system.

What is Kaizen?

Kaizen was created after World War 2 as a way of continuously improving the work place. Masaaki Imai is considered the father of Kaizen after releasing the book Kaizen: The Key to Japan's Competitive Success. Kaizen is not a case of the management getting together once a month; it involves every employee in a company putting forwards suggestions for improvement. At Japanese companies, such as Toyota and Canon, 60 to 70 suggestions per employee, per year are written down, shared and implemented.

I didn't really get it when I was working at Hughes as I was there for the money and for partying at the weekend. However having looked at it again it is an interesting concept.

Wikipedia has this to say about Kaizen:

"The goals of Kaizen include the elimination of waste (defined as "activities that add cost but do not add value"), just-in-time delivery, production load levelling of amount and types, standardized work, paced moving lines, right-sized equipment, etc. In this aspect it describes something very similar to the assembly line used in mass production. A closer definition of the Japanese usage of Kaizen is "to take it apart and put back together in a better way." What is taken apart is usually a process, system, product, or service.

Kaizen is a daily activity whose purpose goes beyond improvement. It is also a process that, when done correctly, humanizes the workplace, eliminates hard work (both mental and physical), and teaches people how to do rapid experiments using the scientific method and how to learn to see and eliminate waste in business processes."

Kaizen for personal development

I am working with the idea of Kaizen for personal development. I believe it would be good for all areas of life. One of the principle ideas of Kaizen is to change the easiest things first.

Now that I have read about and absorbed the ideas of Kaizen I have started to introduce one area and implement an action plan every 2 weeks. The first one I have implemented is the wasted amount of time spent on the computer.

At the moment I spend 5 -7 hours on the computer per day. I spend around 3 hours working on my own blog and working on the one I manage. So it leaves me about 4 hours spent "surf without thinking" (SWT). It's a case of surfing and reading blogs on areas that interest me but for no other reason than for personal pleasure. I also work and

SWT together, so I might work for half and hour, SWT for half an hour, work another half hour, SWT for 1 hour etc.

So what I have done now is work first, get all the work thing out the way. That would include writing articles, submitting them to article sites, submitting to social bookmarking sites, promoting the blogs etc. I have found doing it this way I work for longer, so instead of working 3 hours I work for 4 hours. Then I spend two glorious hours SWT. What I have noticed so far is the SWT time has become more focused on work. The SWT time has been cut to two hours as well which saves me 1 hour per day to work on other areas of my life.

When I started wiring this article I began looking for other articles on other blogs mentioning Kaizen and I found a few great ones.

Jason Thomas over at has a great one and discusses how he has implemented into his life. has an interesting article written by Jon Minerich

Kaizen in your life

To implement the practice of Kaizen in your life, pick an area which you think might benefit from change. Look at the process closely and ask what changes could you make to make it better or quicker or have less wastage.

I have found you can implement it in every area of life, from doing the housework to spending more time with the children.

It is a slow process so I wouldn't go head long into this. I would look at one area at a time and build it up from there. The frequency at which you implement changes is obviously up to you however I would space it every few weeks or every month.

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Jul 5, 2011


Some failures are more critical than others, and the audit should highlight those critical failures most deserving of attention and scarce resources. Failure Mode, Effects and Criticality Analysis (FMECA) is one way to spotlight critical (or potentially critical) failure opportunities.

FMECA, like Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (FMEA), is usually performed during the reliability apportionment phase. Also like FMEA, FMECA consists of considering every possible failure mode and its effect on the product. However, FMECA goes one step beyond FMEA in that it also considers the criticality of the effect and actions which must be taken to compensate for this effect. Typical criticality categories are similar to that grouped under the heading of "defects," e.g., critical (loss of life or product), major (total product failure) and minor (loss of function). Preferably, FMECA will result in a design modified to eliminate unwanted seriously deleterious effects. A contingency plan will be prepared for dealing with those effects that cannot be removed from the design. (Pyzdek, 1996)

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), for example, uses criticality analysis as a way of categorizing non-conformities discovered during the course of both its Process-Product Integrity Audits (PPIA) and Supplier Process-Product Integrity Audits. (See Appendix H for an in-depth look at NASA’s Supplier Process-Product Integrity Audit [SPPIA].) For both PPIAs and SPPIAs, audit findings are categorized by criticality in the following manner:

Category 1—Instances where hardware or work product was produced using incorrect work instructions, specifications or drawings with no subsequent inspection operations or tests. When such instances are identified, immediate steps must be taken to identify the problem and allow the normal material review reporting system to be invoked.

Category 2—Instances where hardware or work product was produced correctly, but the work instructions, drawings or both were incorrect. Correction is required before the next application of the operation.

Category 3—Audit findings that were to be incorporated at the next normal revision. Such findings include better practices (enhancements rather than corrections to the engineering, requirements definition, or work instructions) and changes that require further study.

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Jul 4, 2011

Accuracy Improving SOPs

Discover a simple technique overlooked by most writers of standard operating procedures (SOP) which automatically, as if by magic, turn the average employee into a top practitioner in their job. With this simple accuracy improving device built into tasks you will be sure of the right outcomes, you will train people to be top performers in half the time and your people will be known for great results!

The Accuracy Controlled Enterprise –Quality Made Easy
The removal of defects and failures from business processes is the final frontier for controlling unplanned production stoppages. Seemingly random events that combine to cause a breakdown can now be controlled with a new methodology - ACE.
Definition of Quality
o Quality is short term. It is the degree to which a commodity meets the requirements of the customer at the start of its life. In manufactured products quality comes from its design definition and manufacturing accuracy.
o Quality is design specification driven
o Quality is measured at start of life – percent passing specification
o Quality is observable - the number of rejects from production
The Importance of Quality Systems
o Meet customer satisfaction
o Remove process variation
o Standardise manufacturing approach
o Detect non-conformance – identify defects against standard
o Measure performance to compliance
Why Quality Systems Don‟t Work in Most Operations
o Installed for the wrong reason – To meet ISO 9000 demands from customers
- For marketing purposes
- To satisfy senior management initiative
- Because competitor had one
o Not ingrained into the culture – quality is seen as someone else‟s domain
o No training system to lift people to the necessary level of skills and knowledge
o No quality manager who‟s prime duty is to own the system and make it work
Original system documentation falls out of date and becomes irrelevant
o Not set-up as a self-sustaining system that automatically operates.
o No CEO and Executive Manager involvement
Can Quality Results be met without a „Quality System‟?
o Quality aim is repeatable consistency to design specification
o Design specification is a target
o The target specification is built into the operating procedure
o Variation is controlled by use of tolerance around the target.
o Conformance is achieved by measuring if commodity is within specification
o Quality can be achieved without a „quality system‟
Error-Proofing (Poka Yoke) Operating Procedures
If all work done by operators and maintainers is to the approved standard operating procedures there should be no cause of errors. But most SOPs are written by the wrong people and confuse readers so much that they don‟t know when they are no longer following instructions. Error proofing SOPs is the removal of causes of defects and failures from business processes. It is the new frontier for controlling unplanned production stoppages. Seemingly random events that combine to cause a breakdown need to be controlled with poka yoke methodology.
o „Go – No Go‟ proof testing
The Accuracy Controlled Enterprise System
o „Target, Tolerance, Test‟
Accuracy Control is Easier and Cheaper than Quality Control
o Once in the procedure it becomes a the procedure user‟s responsibility
o Self-sustaining as it is a job requirement
o No longer needs a separate quality manager
o Less involvement from line-managers and supervisors
o Focus becomes system quality improvement not task quality control

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Jun 29, 2011

How to plan for quality?

The first step in a quality improvement programme is planning which in itself also consists of five major steps which are discussed below.

1) Product or service selection. The first step in planning for quality is to identify and select the product or service that needs improvement. This topic has been exhaustively discussed in an earlier article.

2) Output definition. Output is a product or service that you produce regularly and pass on to another person or department that uses it. Activities we do which are not passed on are results not output. It must be something you do yourself not what you supervise or delegate to others to do. It is essential not only to know our output but more importantly to know our customers and their requirements.

3) Identify the customer-supplier chain. In quality management, a customer can be both internal and external. the user of you output is your customer who may modify your output before passing it on to another person or department for further modification on and on like that until the final product or service ends up in the hand of the end user.

4) Negotiate the customer requirements. In order for a product to be usable and beneficial to your customer, there may be specific requirements which make the output useful to them. Some of these requirements may be obvious or stated, some may be unstated while others may be unrealistic. Knowledge of these requirements is essential and clearly important before you can negotiate them. Except a product satisfies their requirements the product will not provide customer satisfaction.

Apart from this, knowledge of customer objective is also crucial so that the product or service can be made to fit that objective (custom made). Developing a quality product requires understanding the overall purpose of our customer's need for the product by answering questions such as (a) how will it be used? (b) who will be using it? (c) what will be the ultimate use and who will be the end user?

Next all the requirements should be discussed in a specific and measurable way. Areas of discussion will include quantity (how many), time (date, time, frequency), costs (budget, allowed expenses), size (dimensions), efficiency (to what degree). It is important to be objective in negotiation, ensure you separate the person from the product or service, focus on interests not positions, establish precise goals not generalities and work together to create options that satisfy all.

5) Translate customer requirements into supplier specifications. Supplier specifications describe the precise technical directions for production. This is stated in terms meaningful to the output producer. The fact that it is based on customer requirements will reduce errors and ensure a higher chance of doing it right the first time. T Bar is a useful method for displaying customer requirements and supplier specifications. The translation of customer requirements into supplier specifications is the job of the supplier. Unreasonable customer requirements must be negotiated with the customer and supplier to ensure quality output.

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Jun 25, 2011

Integrate Six sigma in Marketing and Sales

Many marketing and sales managers may be unfamiliar with Six Sigma and why it is important in marketing and sales.

Since most sales and marketing work processes also follow some very basic rules, it would not be difficult to implement Six Sigma and derive the associated benefits.

However, before we discuss these, let us first list some of the main challenges associated with sales and marketing.

Sales and Marketing Problems
The basic concept underlining sales and marketing stresses influencing customers in such a way that it would motivate them to opt for the offered products or services. Doing things that might force customers to reject the offer is fairly easy, but when it comes to getting the desired response from customers, it becomes difficult to define what exactly needs to be done.

This is obviously because customer buying behavior is quite complex and more importantly what works for a customer does not necessary work the same for others.

Given below are some of the most common sales and marketing issues that need to be resolved in order to get the right response from customers.

•How to predict customer buying tendencies
•How to attract new customers
•How to retain existing customers
•How to create more value than that offered by the nearest competitor
•How to augment the brand image and corporate identity
•How to set the most appropriate price for goods and services
•How to increase the perceived value offered by an existing product or service
•How to create the desired market for a new product or service offering
•How much to invest in sales and marketing so as to make it cost-effective
How Does Six Sigma Help?
All the above stated problems do seem quite complex, but even then Six Sigma easily overcomes most of them. It manages to do so because it concentrates on eliminating the root cause rather than just suggest alternatives, something that often creates more problems.

In the first phase of Six Sigma implementations, input, feedback and suggestions are sourced from both existing and potential customers, creating a valuable database of customer tastes and preferences.

After this, the available information is sorted out, analyzed and categorized in order to make some definitive conclusions and to identify some new possibilities, if present. The former is then used for making the necessary changes in existing products or services whereas the latter is used for designing and developing completely new products and services from scratch.

Results derived therein are quite satisfactory most of the time, because in each case, customer tastes and preferences are properly accounted for.

When this is done, it makes it much easier for the sales and marketing department to motivate customers in the desired manner. Products and services that are designed according to customer tastes and preferences prove to be a success a majority of the time, and this is why Six Sigma focuses on this vital aspect.

It is no wonder, then, that Six Sigma has proved so very successful for most businesses that have implemented it to get the desired results from their sales and marketing initiatives.

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Jun 6, 2011

Risk management

While kaizen projects are typically short duration rapid improvement activities more and more businesses are embarking on significant process improvement projects where traditional project management methodologies can be a key contributor towards success.

Typical Kaizen projects usually rely on hands-on employee support and involvement with the teams developing and implementing their own solutions often over a short time scale. These environments, targeted at small scale, rapid improvements are not always overly concerned with traditional project management methodologies rather more with the results (through utilizing techniques such as DMAIC, Poke Yoke or other).

However for larger scale business improvement projects more traditional project practices including risk management have greater relevance.

Why risk management

Risk management is the task of identifying threats that could impact the outcome of your project and developing mitigation tasks that reduce the like hood or lessen the impact.

Typical risks can affect

• Project deliverable (the improvement)
• Project quality
• Project schedule
• Project cost

Does risk really apply to improvement projects?

Yes! Risk really does apply to most projects for example if you look at some common risks you can apply these to many projects.

■Insufficient resources
■Budget fails to be enough to deliver project
■Unable to deliver to the project timescales
While these example risks may seem a tad generic they do illustrate the prevalence of risk.

The nuts and bolts of managing risk

So risks everywhere but how should you manage the issue? For improvement specialists the risk management process can be a bit alien. A lot depends on the likely impact. For example through implementing a Poke Yoke on an assembly line that may take a day or two to implement you may consider the risk of failure as minimal (and would lead to minimal impact) would you carry out a full risk management process, creating a risk log and consulting stakeholders – probably unlikely. However should you as the improvement lead consider risk as part of your activity – absolutely.

In larger scale business change projects risk management should absolutely not be taken for granted and the usual tools, risk management plan, risk log and stakeholder consultation can be used to varying degree.

I guess the key consideration is the extent of what could go wrong. In many businesses the lines of business improvement and project management often become blurred and with those running improvement activities often being seen more as project managers than mere lean practitioners. Without a doubt project management methodologies can sometimes become over bureaucratic however they can also undoubtedly be effective and have their place in the business improvement toolkit.

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