September 2000 Issue


Membership Newsletter
American Society for Quality, Scioto Valley Section
"ASQ's First Section of the New Millennium"


Volume 3, Number 9

In this issue:

MESSAGE FROM THE CHAIR

The first of two components of this month's newsletter, following this Chair's Message, is a second notice of the upcoming October 10 visit to our Section by the current President of the American Society for Quality, Mr. Greg Watson. NOTE: This version reflects some changes and corrections to the initial notice you may have received on Friday, September 29.

The second is a rather lengthy but very interesting and current "white paper" just issued by ASQ as part of its more aggressive efforts to offer comments on national issues involving quality matters. The subject is "Tire Recall Illustrates Importance of Quality. It's a Consumer Issue - and Sometimes a Matter of Life or Death."

Looking back a few days, our first program meeting of the fiscal year took place September 19 at the scenic and relaxing Canter's Cave 4-H Camp near Jackson. It featured a very timely presentation on the new "QualityPower" alliance between ASQ and Manpower Professional from Mr. Terry Felker, the Business Development Manager for the new organization.

Felker discussed how the new staffing resource could serve both quality professionals seeking new or additional opportunities, and how companies who may be interested in non-traditional or project-related quality task assistance could benefit from hiring these professionals for short-term projects -- and then possibly as permanent employees.

Felker came to Southern Ohio from Milwaukee to give this presentation, and demonstrated his great enthusiasm for this new program for the 21 members of the Scioto Valley Section who were there to hear about it.

While this was a respectable turnout, I'm confident that this 120-member Section can demonstrate much greater support for key representatives of ASQ who travel great distances and expend considerable chunks of their personal time to pass along key Society information directly.

Looking ahead, the upcoming visit on October 10 by current ASQ President Greg Watson may be the only near-term opportunity for such interaction with a Society officer at this level. There are now 249 Sections of ASQ, and Watson has an extremely ambitious personal plan of speaking to about 50 of them during his one-year term as President. You can conclude from this that it might be several years before we're visited again by a sitting President of the Society.

When he attended the ceremony May 9 at the Annual Quality Congress in Indianapolis, when Scioto Valley was presented its Section Charter, Watson came forward and offered to visit us this Fall, and said he wanted "to see what this new Section is all about."

Watson saw evidence of a Subsection that had grown rapidly over just two years and was fully ready for Section status. He saw a group helping prepare its Southern Ohio and nearby area members for certification with preparatory courses, and then making it possible for them to avoid getting up at 4:30 a.m. to get to Columbus or Lexington by 7:30 a.m. as required for a certification examination. He saw a Section that would consistently offer a full annual program schedule of tours and presentations on pertinent topics, something that even some of the long established Sections are not doing routinely. He saw a Section that would be fully committed to working within ASQ's Section Management Plan approach and the Society's Long-Term Strategy.

So on October 10, let's reinforce for him just what we're all about, and display a meaningful turnout of this area's contingency of interested quality professionals who want to continue their professional development and to hear what their current President has to say.

See if you are this month's winner!

Member number:

I look forward to seeing you there.

Timothy L. Matchett, CMI/CQT/CQA
Chair, Scioto Valley Section (SVS)
Nuclear Safety & Quality, USEC, (740) 897-6431

President of ASQ to Address Scioto Valley Section

Mr. Gregory Watson, the President of the American Society for Quality (ASQ), will visit Southern Ohio on October 10 to address members of the Society's local Scioto Valley Section.

The occasion is the monthly dinner program meeting of the local Section, which serves quality professionals in 16 counties in South Central Ohio, Eastern Kentucky, and Southwestern West Virginia. The dinner meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, October 10, on the campus of Shawnee State University in Portsmouth.

Scioto Valley Section affiliates, other ASQ members and anyone interested in the Society or the subject of quality are encouraged to attend. ASQ members holding certifications earn 0.3 recertification units for this program. Representatives of local business and industry, education, health care and service sector organizations and others also are encouraged to attend this program. Paid reservations for the dinner are required. Members and guests can come only to hear Mr. Watson after dinner, but reservations are still required so that we can provide for chairs and space.

Watson will open his remarks with a President's point-of-view of ASQ and how quality professionals can take advantage of its network of resources. He will then address the key forces expected to shape the quality discipline as we head toward the year 2020. In doing so, he will address the Society's strategic planning and the recently completed "Foresight 2020" study.

Watson will also address recent new Society programs and activities in the areas of customer satisfaction, quality staffing assistance initiatives, Internet strategy, introductory quality training and certification, and other new professional certification offerings.

The evening begins with registration and networking from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. This one-hour window provides the opportunity for local Section members and others to meet and talk with Mr. Watson.

Dinner is at 6:00 p.m., with a brief Section business meeting and the speaker at 7:00 p.m.

Here are the arrangements:

DATE: Tuesday, October 10, 2000

LOCATION: The Micklethwaite Room, in the University Center building on the campus of Shawnee State University, Portsmouth, Ohio. A campus map is available on the Internet at http://www.shawnee.edu/visitors/campusmap.html.

AGENDA:

5:00 p.m. Registration and networking
6:00 p.m. Dinner
7:00 p.m. Brief business meeting and the speaker, ASQ President Gregory H. Watson

MENU: Tossed Salad, Baked Pollack Filet Provencale, Roast Turkey, Noodles Alfredo, Glazed Baby Carrots and Dessert.

COST: Pre-registration is required. The cost is $15 each prepaid for ASQ members and guests received by 4:00 p.m. Friday, October 6. Telephone and E-mail reservations will be accepted, but are subject to payment.

Cancellations will be honored with full refunds if received by October 6.

Mail checks payable to "ASQ Scioto Valley Section" along with identification and telephone number of each person attending to the following address.

ASQ Scioto Valley Section
PO Box 1947
Chillicothe, Ohio 45601
Attention: Kathy Tolliver, Arrangements Chair

Kathy's telephone number is (740) 772-0571 and her E-mail address is krt@mead.com.

If you're interested in car pooling from anywhere in the region, contact Kathy and she'll try to help you make arrangements.

Biographical Sketch -- ASQ President Gregory H. Watson

Mr. Gregory H. Watson is President of ASQ for the term July 2000-June 2001. He has held various offices within the Society and its Divisions over the past 10 years and has served on the ASQ Strategic Planning Committee since 1994.

He is a member of the ASQ's Tampa-St. Petersburg Section, where his wife, Lauren, is currently the Section Chair.

In 1993, Watson founded Business Systems Solutions, Inc., a specialized consulting firm based in St. Petersburg and focused on strategic business initiatives. His firm uses such tools as benchmarking, breakthrough planning and systems engineering with emphasis on Six Sigma methodologies to provide services to its clients.

Previously, he held quality executive positions with Xerox Corporation, the American Productivity & Quality Center, Compaq Computer Corporation, and Hewlett-Packard.

Watson has served as a lieutenant commander in the United States Navy, and on a number of corporate and government quality advisory committees. In 1996, he was elected to serve the International Academy for Quality by his international peers. The IAQ is an organization of leading quality professionals. Its global membership is 60 individuals who represent the thought leaders of the quality profession.

In 1998, he was designated a Master Black Belt by the Six Sigma Academy. He is a Senior Member in the American Society for Quality and in 1991 he was certified as a quality engineer.

He has served as a member of the examining boards for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, United States Air Force Quality Award, Florida Sterling Award, New York State Excelsior Award and the Texas Quality Award.

Watson holds a bachelor's degree in liberal arts from Taylor University, a Master of Science degree in systems engineering from the University of Southern California, and a Master of Arts degree in legal analysis from the law school at Antioch University. He has additional graduate studies in applied statistics, industrial engineering, and business management.

His books have been translated into ten languages, sold more than 100,000 copies, and received international recognition as pragmatic, thought-leading contributions to the literature of business and quality management.

Tire Recall Illustrates Importance of Quality. It's a Consumer Issue -- and Sometimes a Matter Life or Death

The recent tire recall drives home a seemingly mundane truth as only a crisis can: Quality still matters.

Facing lawsuits, dozens of deaths and injuries, and federal and congressional investigations, Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. in August recalled 6.5 million tires. Ford Motor Co. shared the unwelcome limelight because most of the tires came new on its sport utility vehicles and trucks.

The potential for disaster represented by defective tires illustrates that quality can be a life-or-death matter. At the same time, it offers important lessons on the everyday role of quality in business success.

The Rise of Quality

The importance of quality as a business imperative entered the American consciousness in the 1980s when U.S. automakers reacted to serious competition from Japan. The bold proclamations of advertising slogans like "Quality Is Job One" were not hollow words. In fact, the Big Three and other manufacturers challenged by global competitors were walking the talk. And the quest for quality paid off as U.S. manufacturers regained lost market share.

Quality soon became a differentiater. More and more, customers began to make buying decisions based on quality, even paying more for what they perceived to be higher quality products. Almost as quickly, a high level of quality came to be considered a given for doing business and a crucial component of business survival.

The ascent of quality to where it's commonplace, even boring, to consumers and to advertisers (who have long since moved on to terms like "excellence" and other euphemisms for quality) is a boon for consumers. But what a challenge for producers! If quality is what the customer says it is -- and that's how enlightened organizations now define it -- then producers and providers of goods and services can ignore it only at the risk of losing market share to competitors who do a better job of meeting consumers' rising expectations.

Quality On the Road

Automobile quality and safety are such that drivers envision the potential danger on the highways in a chance encounter with an out-of-control driver rather than in their own vehicles. Even crash survivors who think they're alive by luck may be alive by quality.

When personal safety is an issue, quality is very much a life-and-death matter. And that's not just true on the highways. Considering all that could go wrong, it's no accident that the products and services we use every day are remarkably safe and of generally high quality.

Experts agree the tires on the road today are very safe when used as intended. Tires are highly engineered products and their producers closely guard the specifics of design and manufacture. But all tires are made to specifications of the Tire and Rim Association, which decides the minimum and maximum amount of air the tire should hold and the size of car or load it should carry. The "DOT" stamp on a tire is a Department of Transportation certification that the tire conforms to the Tire and Rim Association's standards and has passed its tests for puncture resistance, endurance, stability, and so on.

Such product standards are common. They assure consumers of consistent product quality and enable the interchange of like products. You can readily swap your recalled Firestones for another brand because tires within the same size and category classes are all manufactured to the same standards.

A manufacturer's quality function is typically responsible for ensuring standards are met. Inspectors, technicians, engineers, auditors, and others work from design through final inspection to ensure the quality of the finished product. By monitoring processes and then analyzing the data, they can see when things are going wrong-that is, when a process is out of control-and then take corrective action.

Product-specific standards aren't the only means to help ensure goods are safe and defect-free. Nowadays, manufacturers large and small and service businesses often adhere to international quality management standards. Registration to the ISO 9000 standards indicates an organization has been audited to ensure it employs sound practices designed to maintain the quality of its output. The ISO 9000 standards are the basis for the QS-9000 requirements, developed for the automotive industry and its suppliers.

There's no doubt product and management standards have helped elevate the quality of goods and services, and eliminated difficulties for producers and consumers alike. But adherence to standards does not ensure defective or unsafe goods will never be produced. Standards specify minimum requirements that must be met. No standard can completely prevent errors. Nevertheless, sound quality management practices are the best defense against consumers ever receiving defective products or ineffective services.

Customer-Defined Quality

While inadequate or improper quality management practices can have lethal consequences, quality isn't always a life-or-death matter. It's also a vital component in day-to-day relations with customers-and even more crucial in the midst of a corporate crisis.

Critics have assailed both Bridgestone and Ford for their handling of the recall-no wonder, given two companies are involved, both struggling to save both customers' lives and corporate reputations, with a suspect product on the road. But neither can afford to ignore customers clamoring for a fix. That was made clear as soon as the recall was announced.

Bridgestone originally announced a phased recall: Tire owners in warm climates where incidents seemed most likely to occur would be the first to have their tires replaced, while others would have had to wait up to 18 months for replacements. But the company discovered customer-defined quality demanded an immediate fix, not one that could leave people waiting more than a year.

Both companies soon offered a more customer-friendly response. Bridgestone began airlifting tires from Japan to meet demand and broadened its policy for reimbursing customers who replaced their tires with competitors' products. Ford idled plants to free tire inventories for replacements. Top executives of both companies expressed their concern for customer safety on national television broadcasts, in full-page national newspaper advertisements, and in testimony at Congressional hearings.

The challenge for Bridgestone and Ford is far from over. They face continued scrutiny concerning what they knew and when they knew it. Ultimately, the answers will matter not just in terms of courts assigning liability, but also in regard to reputation, customer loyalty, and future sales.

Balancing Quality and Safety

Sometimes the demands of safety and customer satisfaction are in conflict and balancing them isn't easy. Bridgestone's initial plan for a phased recall placed a priority on serving customers deemed most at risk. But that didn't come close to satisfying customers in cold-weather states driving vehicles on which the recalled tires were installed.

Experts speculate the likely factors leading to the tire failures included heat, inadequate air in tires, and too much weight in vehicles. Government data indicate virtually all the recent deaths linked to the recalled tires occurred when sport utility vehicles rolled over after the tires failed, so the safety of the popular vehicles has been questioned along with that of the tires.

Safety groups have urged automakers to make changes to sport utility vehicles, like redesigning the tires and the suspensions, to prevent rollovers when tires fail. For the most part, automakers have rejected such ideas because-prior to the recall, at least-they seemed to be at odds with customer expectations. For example, tire experts say nylon inner coatings would help hold tires together when the tread peels off, as has happened with the Firestone tires. That, however, produces a bouncier ride, which few drivers want. Although a high inflation pressure reduces the likelihood of tire failure, Ford was reported to have recommended lower inflation pressure for tires on its Explorers than did Bridgestone because customers disliked the bumpier ride produced by fully inflated tires.

The Role of Regulators

The recall has also raised questions about the role of federal safety regulators and the responsibility of manufacturers to disclose possible safety problems. While some of the posturing may be political in nature, the role of regulators is a valid concern for quality-minded consumers.

In the 1970s, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) maintained contact with an extensive network of repair shops to collect data on safety defects. The program provided early warning of safety issues but was discontinued in the 1980s. Also in the 1980s, NHTSA decided its legal authority didn't include requiring reporting of overseas recalls, and automakers stopped doing so voluntarily. Now, the wisdom of those changes (and accompanying budget cuts) is in question.

The high incidence of rollovers in the tire incidents has focused attention on the government's intent to publish rollover ratings for cars and for light trucks. Federal regulators announced plans to begin government rollover ratings for cars and light trucks-including minivans, pickup trucks, and sport utilities-this autumn. The recall seems to have brought a halt to efforts by some in the Senate to bar regulators from issuing the rules and ordering the National Academy of Sciences to study the regulators' ratings technique; after a mere 27 years of study by NHTSA rollover ratings may soon become a reality.

Federal officials are also working on tougher tire rules, particularly for sport utility vehicles and other light trucks. A requirement that off-road tires and possibly heavy-duty tires meet the same standards as car tires is being studied. The tire recall could shape sentiment on the issue.

Quality and the Work Force

As the recall story unfolded, Ford disclosed its analysis of Bridgestone/Firestone's warranty-claim data had uncovered an unnerving statistic: The recalled Wilderness tires made at Firestone's Decatur, IL, plant from 1996 to 1999 failed at a rate more than 10 times greater than the same tires made at all the company's other plants combined. That raised questions about the Decatur plant, which employed replacement workers during a labor protest in the mid 1990s. Former employees have testified to inadequate or improper quality practices at the plant during at least some of the time the recalled tires were manufactured.

It has been suggested that replacing experienced skilled workers with inexperienced unskilled workers in a highly technical manufacturing environment could lead to the production of defective and even unsafe products. Whether or not this was a problem at the Decatur plant, it illustrates the need for sound quality practices that can accommodate and transcend work force change.

The American Society for Quality maintains a code of ethics that spells out the fundamental principles quality professionals uphold to advance the honor and dignity of their profession. It identifies the quality professional's responsibilities to the public, employers and clients, and peers. Given the potential implications of judgements made by those working in quality, these are weighty responsibilities. Those who ascribe to ASQ's code of ethics (which is disseminated not just to members but also anyone sitting for ASQ's certification examinations) vow to do all they can to promote the reliability and safety of all products that come within their jurisdiction. Those who adhere to ASQ's code of ethics acknowledge they will indicate to their employer or client the adverse consequences to be expected in the event their professional judgment is overruled.

Because the need for a work force proficient in the principles and practices of quality is a central concern of many organizations, ASQ offers professional certification programs for those working in quality. ASQ certification indicates an individual has demonstrated comprehension of and proficiency within a specified body of knowledge. ASQ has certification programs for quality engineers, quality auditors, reliability engineers, quality technicians, mechanical inspectors, quality managers, software quality engineers, and quality improvement associates.

Consumer Will Dictate the Outcome

Though trends and their accompanying buzz words change, quality remains as important as ever. There's nothing like a crisis to make that clear. Sound quality management practices are behind the high quality of goods and services U.S. consumers enjoy in abundance. And in various ways, a breakdown in sound practices and processes can lead to unmet customer expectations, a corporate crisis, or even life-and-death safety concerns.

The tire recall has been in the news for weeks and it will likely remain newsworthy for weeks to come. The many issues to be sorted out have potential implications for manufacturers, consumers, and government. The principles of quality management acknowledge that customers surely will have the last word. They will speak through lawyers in courtrooms. They will speak through their elected representatives in hearings and the enactment of legislation and regulations. And customers will continue to speak by wielding their purchasing power to support organizations whose products and services embody an ongoing commitment to quality.


Home Page Email News Room