The House of High Quality Articles for Everyone in the World

Mar 28, 2012

Six Sigma Benchmarking

There are different types of scaling used to propel growth. Most people use it to increase the visibility of their businesses. These days, most businesses have websites which they use to interact with their customers.

Through the websites, customers stay informed on new products, improvements, expansions and changes in management. It helps create loyalty among customers as well as penetrate deeper into the market.

Six Sigma Benchmarking, however, is a very complicated concept and can only be performed by trained professionals. The process helps companies understand the main perspectives in their business industries. They include visibility, market effectiveness and website design. If implemented properly, the business will dramatically project new growth and remain competitive in the market for a very long time.

The concept works in review of ten practical steps. Understanding these steps can help companies understand the benefits and drawbacks of the benchmarking initiatives they utilize. Doing this helps businesses identify the best approaches to realize bigger profits. The main aim of this concept is to measure the company's products or services against the most recognized ones in the world.

It is important to understand that the entire Six Sigma methodology is a continuous process. The information, operations and market penetration are measured against those of big companies. Through this, companies learn the best business practices in the world. Having an insight of practices of established companies enable small businesses to understand where they need to put more attention.

An in-depth analysis of performance helps add value to working processes eventually. It is a tool that endeavors to instill professionalism with the belief that the company can also lead while following others. The steps are very systematic and one cannot be done without each other. The benchmarking process can only work perfectly if it is implemented by trained and dedicated Six Sigma individuals. All the steps must be followed to ensure that all aspects are analyzed adequately.

There are normally four important steps the methodology addresses. This includes strategizing, analyzing, integration and actualization. Under these phases are ten practical steps which can help streamline the operations of any business seeking to realize growth. The planning phase is actually the most important. In this phase, businesses identify opportunities and create priorities. The second phase is the analysis phase and, as the name suggests, it consists of analyzing data collected in the planning phase. The integration phase provides the framework that will help implement the recommended plans. The final phase is the actualization phase where everything that the business comes up with is implemented and improved upon. Six Sigma benchmarking is quite beneficial because it helps small businesses learn practices. It helps companies to discover new ways of improving operations to realize bigger growth.

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Mar 24, 2012

ISO 14001 Accreditation

If you are someone who is looking into getting an ISO 14001, then you may be wondering exactly why it is that you have to get this accreditation. First, you have to understand that ISO stands for the International Organisation of Standardisation.

This is a series of standards that have been developed with a singular level of guidance for all companies to measure up to. The particular 14001 deals with the requirements that you will need to have in order to measure up to the environmental standards that have been set forth by the ISO.

While you do not necessarily have to get the ISO 14001 accreditation to operate your business, it is something you can do to prove to your clients and customers that you are doing your part to help out with the environment. However, you may be confused on how to go about getting this important accreditation, but it is not as difficult to attain as you might think, and most businesses should be able to get the certification within a year of the application. You should know that they will want to make sure that you have been following some form of environmental standards for at least three months prior to your application. To do this you can write an environmental review of your company's environmental impact as it is in its current operating state. You will then want to make sure that you provide this information when you send off your initial paperwork to begin the overall process.

In order to help prove that your company is doing its part to be environmentally aware you will have to go through an initial audit once the application has been filled out and filed. After the audit has been completed you will get a list of issues that the auditor feels you need to resolve before you can be certified for the ISO 14001. You will need to work on and correct these issues before the second audit is conducted, and they will give you a time period (usually three to six months) when they will return to check on your progress.

When the second audit occurs they will once again assess the overall business and then they will address the issues that were laid out in the previous audit. If everything goes well then your company will have proven that they are doing what they can to meet the standard set forth in ISO 14001, and they will then receive accreditation. However, this is not the end of the process. Even though you are now recognised as having environmentally conscious policies that are congruent with the international standards, you will have to go through periodic audits every three years to make sure that you are still operating correctly. Not only this, but every three months partial aspects of your company will be analysed to see that they are still working within the standards as well. As long as you remain within the compliance terms you will continue to receive your ISO 14001 certification.

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Mar 23, 2012

On Job Training

On job training is part of every manager's job. But some managers aren't aware that adults learn differently to children. Being aware just how adults learn can markedly improve the quality of on job training.

1. Learning By Doing

In broad terms, children learn by being told. Adults learn by doing. Ensure that your on job training has a strong emphasis on practical action rather than theory and telling. Adults do not need to know "why" in order to learn and practice skills. Few drivers know how a reciprocating engine works. It's the engine that powers your car. You don't need to know how it works in order to drive well.

2. Try Out

Adults like to try out skills. Provided it's safe, allow trainees to "try their hand" extensively. Supervise them closely so that they avoid errors.

3. Discovery

Pose a problem. Give adult trainees the opportunity to "work things out". Ask lots of questions. Don't be too directive. Just make sure you're always on hand to help.

4. Self Pacing

Try to let trainees work at a pace that they're comfortable with. Avoid slow, tedious instruction and avoid rushing through material too quickly. Adapt your instruction to the pace that suits your trainee. If they show that they're learning quickly, provide more opportunities for them to demonstrate their competence.

5. Problem Centred

Make sure you present your instruction as providing skills and knowledge that will help trainees solve a problem. Avoid presenting material that's merely "useful" and lacks direct relationship to on job performance.

6. Making Sense

Adults learn better when the learning process makes sense to them. Elaborate and complex instruction will discourage many trainees.

7. Acknowledge Experience

Take care that you acknowledge trainee's past experience. Test to see what they can already do so that you're not asking them to learn what they know already. That's a huge turn off to adult learners.

8. Results Emphasis

Ensure that you inform trainees what result they'll achieve through the training. Adults like to know the result that they're aiming for.

9. Perceived Needs

Adult trainees want to be certain that on job training meets their perceived needs. Before commencing instruction, make sure that you and the trainee are agreed that the training will satisfy the needs they believe they have.

10. They Are Adults

Treat adults trainees like adults, not children. They may have some knowledge and skill deficiencies that need your training. But they expect you to respect them as mature "grown-ups" not ignorant children.

These principles apply to all on job training, even if it's brief and informal. Ensure that you circulate this article to anyone in your business who's involved in on job training.

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Mar 20, 2012

Employee Conflict

These are some common beliefs about the three stages of employee conflict.

Here are my thoughts - what do you think?

•"The presence of conflict is the sign of a poor leader!" (I think conflict used in a competitive way to generate new ideas or increase productivity to meet an earlier deadline can be a good thing.)

•"Anger is always negative and destructive." (I think anger can become negative and destructive if allowed to develop and grow.)

•"Conflict, if left alone, will take care of itself." (I think that's not always true. I believe leaders should always be aware of conflict within their groups but not always involved. Sometimes it can take care of itself.)

•"Conflict must be resolved immediately." (Once again, not necessarily. This is like the one above that can become a problem but is not automatically one requiring the leader's intervention. A wise leader will observe and see if the participants can work out their own differences. After all, the leader will not always be there to act as a referee.)

Conflict builds in three distinct stages and has these characteristics.

STAGE ONE-"Irritating Daily Events"

Characteristics and clues of Stage One

•Comments are focused on "non-human" topics (machinery, weather, traffic, the "system [computers, the organizational culture, procedures]" etc.)
•Words are in the present tense ("This copier is out of paper".)
•More focus on a solution than the problem ("This copier is out of paper: where is the supply so I can refill it?")

Ways to Handle Stage One

•Initiate a response that examines the situation. ("Looks like the copier's out of paper. Do you know where the stock of it is?")
•Ask yourself if the reaction is proportional to the situation. Is anyone carrying "baggage" from previous situations? How would you know? Hint: What tense are they using to describe their position: present or past?
•Identify points of agreement and work from these points first and then identify the points of disagreement. ("I agree with you that it seems like no one else restocks the copier but you. But at least we can rely on you.")

STAGE TWO - Challenges Requiring "Win-Lose" Results

Characteristics and clues of Stage Two

You must LISTEN FOR these clues:

•Words are in the past tense ("This copier never has paper in it! It's always empty!")
•Comments are focused on "human" topics (machinery maintenance person, weather man, traffic - a particular driver, the "system [computers service people, the organizational culture - a particular person within it, procedures - a particular person who doesn't follow them]" etc. "I hate people who can't even restock a copier run they run it out of paper!")
•More focus on who caused the problem - or allowed it to happen - than a solution ("The copier on this floor needs paper. Who is supposed to keep it full?")

Important considerations for Stage Two:

•Coping strategies DO NOT WORK because people are the problem and the conflicts do not go away.
•Self-interest is very important. "CYA" ('Cover Your Assets') is a survival strategy.
•People take sides, take notes, and keep score. Alliances and cliques may form. A "us" vs. "them" mentality develops.
•Discussion of issues and answers are futile because participants and the problem have become too closely entangled. (Similar to a heated political discussion.)
•Participants deal in terms that are more general. You will hear about the phantom "them" and comments as "everyone thinks...", "always..." and "never" increase in frequency. Each side is reluctant to provide facts without asking, "How will you use this information?"

Ways to Handle Stage Two Conflict

•Create a safe environment to discuss the situation which includes:

a) Make the setting informal

b) Establish neutral turf

c) Have an agenda so there is focus on an outcome

•Be hard on facts, soft on people. Take time to get every detail. Clarify generalizations. Who, by name, are "they"? Are you sure that "always" or "never" is accurate?
•Do not let the participants sit across from each other. Arrange to get them sitting beside each other across from you. (Sitting across from each other so they make eye contact can start it all again.)
•Focus on points of agreement to find a middle ground. Do not suggest that each side "concedes" something because that implies "giving in". Rather, suggest a "trade". "Do you agree this bickering is becoming an aggravation for the two of you? If so, maybe we can work a way to resolve this. Sam, would you be willing to trade proof-reading of your work before you give it to Sue if she will stop making comments about your work quality?"
•Take as much time as necessary to reach agreement without forcing concessions or issues.
•Avoid voting to resolve issues because that leads to a "win - lose" result. (The only way to avoid having hurt feelings by voting is if you are assured of a unanimous decision before you begin!)

STAGE THREE- Eliminating the "Enemy"

Characteristics and Clues of Stage 3

•The motivation is to "get rid" of the opponent, not just win. Being right and punishing wrong become consuming goals.
•The competing parties identify "insiders" and "outsiders". "You are either with me or against me!"
•Leaders emerge from the group to act as representatives.
•You equate your position as doing "what's good for the organization! ["I have to fire you for the good of the organization".]"
•Specific causes of the problem get lost in the emotion. Many newly recruited team members may not know the origins of the conflict.

Ways to Handle Stage Three Conflict

•An outside intervention agent or team (a neutral person or department) is required as a mediator so neither side feels this third party favors the other.
•Details are critical to a thorough understanding of the situation by the mediator.
•You must allow sufficient time to get a true picture of both sides of the case.
•The mediator can ask each side to present their case (without comment from the other) and identify the results they would like to achieve in this process.
•The mediator puts the responsibility on the two teams to find areas of common agreement or trade in search for an agreement.
•Not every participant on both teams may be at Stage 3. Try to break off members at lower stages and redirect their energies away from this situation.

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Mar 13, 2012

Error Proofing

Mistake proofing is an effort to stop defects at the source. The prime objective is to prevent defects from occurring in the first place, but if they do occur, to stop their progression through the process. By stopping a defect at its source, its cost impact is minimized.

The further the defect progresses through a process, the more waste occurs. The more waste that occurs, the higher the cost impact. As a result, the best place to stop a defect is in the design of the process, product, or service. Once the process is in place, waste starts to be generated as a process output along with the product or service.

The first step in mistake proofing is to determine the kind of error, or errors, that caused the defect. In a Six Sigma project, this is what the Define, Measure, and Analyze phases have been isolating on a project level. As part of the Improve Phase, the problem process will be re-engineered. Part of this re-engineering will be mistake proofing the process steps.

There are general classifications of errors that lead to defects. Different organizations may have somewhat different categories.

Concentration: Lack of concentration, breaks in concentration, interruptions
Knowledge: Lack of training or experience
Judgment: Prejudice, expectation
Mistakes: Forgetting, accidents
Speed: Working too fast, working too slow
Standards: The absence of standardized work, absence of performance standards
Independence: Deciding to ignore rules or standards, freelancing
Intentional: Deliberate mistakes, sabotage
Incidental: Equipment failures, environment, surprises
Unknown: These will usually find their way into one of the above categories after analysis.

There are several approaches to mistake proofing. Each approach addresses at least one of the above error categories. The following are some of the more common strategies.

In manufacturing, one of the most common approaches is the use of fail-safe devices. These devices prevent the operator or machine from creating a defect. An example would be the use of a slipping-type torque wrench to prevent over tightening.

The magnification of the senses is another mistake proofing method. Examples would be optical magnification to improve vision and closed circuit video to see where it is not otherwise possible to see (distance, safety, etc.). Also used are pictures instead of numbers (LED bar charts instead or a numerical display on a meter) and multiple signals (audible and visual alarms used together).

The elimination of error-prone steps in a process is another method of mistake proofing. This may require designing a new process or the use of automation. An example of this is the use of ambient-light sensors to turn outside lighting on or off.

Facilitation of the work process will also aid in mistake proofing. This is changing the process steps so that they are easier to do, or easier to do right. An example would be to color code parts that are similar in shape. This would make it easier to identify the correct part for assembly.

Devices that detect an incorrect action or part can be used to mistake proof a process. Examples would include a weld counter to ensure the correct number of welds or a software modification that will not allow incorrect entries.

There are as many mistake-proofing strategies as there are mistakes. It requires communication and cooperation between the operators, the process owners, and the engineering staff to successfully execute. In many businesses these functions are silo'ed and do not work together well. This is why progressive companies are putting together production teams for both products and services. These teams are made up of dedicated operators, engineers, and managers all working in the same process. They all have ownership of the process, and as a result, communication and cooperation are easier to maintain.

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Mar 10, 2012

Quality Control System For Your Online Business

Quality control begins when an order is placed with a business. A system needs to be in place to effectively manage orders placed through the web. This might include a database. When an order comes through you cannot depend on an email going to one specific person because if that person is sick for the week then you might get backed up on orders and cause irate customers.

An order system needs to be in place so that everyone knows how to use it and can access information when necessary.

You should have a return or an exchange policy. If you have a policy of no returns or people are buying products 'as is', then you are most likely losing trust with the customers. Customers trust a company that will back their products with a guarantee or a promise to replace it if something should go wrong. The return policy should be in place to provide refunds or credit. They might be a pain for your business, and may create a small cost with shipping, but they ultimately create trust with the customers. These customers will rave about your products and keep coming back if they are happy with your services.

The ability to track returns is very important. If you have a product that continuously is returned then maybe you need to look into why this product is repeatedly returned. Without the ability to track which products are being returned, you will not be aware which products are defective or making your customers unhappy. A good quality control system online should include a good system of tracking returns from customers.

A quality control system on the web is different because you really need to address issues regarding quality on a case by case basis. When a customer states there is a defect on a product it is important that you verify. You can trust a customer but you must verify. Be sure you always offer an easy solution to the problem. Keeping the customer happy is important if you want them to return and shop with the online business again. Set appropriate steps in place internally to take care of the customers.

Customers need to come first. The web provides a less personal business because the customers do not see an employee or a face when they are shopping. The best way to remedy problems with customers is to assure them right up front that you are willing to fix any problem or do whatever you can to create a satisfaction.

A quality control system needs to be in place with any business whether it is online or face to face based sales. Establishing quality control begins with the order and return process. Be sure you have an easy tracking method for orders placed, shipped, and returned. Always make the customer feel important and let them know you will do whatever it takes to provide a quality product or give them a refund.

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Mar 4, 2012


How do you define it?
This is how our readers define quality.
(Note: these definitions are straight from our database and have not been edited.

"Quality itself has been defined as fundamentally relational: 'Quality is the ongoing process of building and sustaining relationships by assessing, anticipating, and fulfilling stated and implied needs.'

"Even those quality definitions which are not expressly relational have an implicit relational character. Why do we try to do the right thing right, on time, every time? To build and sustain relationships. Why do we seek zero defects and conformance to requirements (or their modern counterpart, six sigma)? To build and sustain relationships. Why do we seek to structure features or characteristics of a product or service that bear on their ability to satisfy stated and implied needs? (ANSI/ASQC.) To build and sustain relationships. The focus of continuous improvement is, likewise, the building and sustaining of relationships. It would be difficult to find a realistic definition of quality that did not have, implicit within the definition, a fundamental express or implied focus of building and sustaining relationships."

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