Top 5 Quick & Invaluable Quality Reads for 2013

A thread in the ASQ LinkedIn group piqued our interest a few months back.  It got us thinking about our favorite quality related books and provided some excellent insight into a few we haven’t read yet.

We know life is busy, but we all know the importance of continuous improvement   Our list of quick and invaluable quality related “must read” books includes:

The Daily Drucker: 365 Days of Insight & Motivation for Getting the Right Things Done (Peter F. Drucker)  – This little gem is a quick and easy way to start the day thinking in a quality mindset.  More than a few great ideas and inspiration came from this one, and it can be used more than once.

The Five Most Important Questions (Peter F. Drucker) – This is a very quick read, perfect for a short flight.  In it, Drucker discusses self-assessment, the customer, providing value, measuring results and planning.  This one is likely to require “pen and paper” or Evernote to get the full benefit.  You’ll want to document your answers.

Quality Improvement Made Simple & Fast (Matthew J. Maio) – We have done a write-up on this book before and continue to highly recommend it.  While the length, only a 44 page booklet, may be deceiving, the content is rich and ready to be applied.  This book will guide you through Plan>Do>Study>Act and is written in a way that’s fun to read.  The templates in the back are invaluable.

The Quality Toolbox (Nancy R. Tague) – This book should be standard reading in college courses and a staple on any business person’s bookshelf.  In it, you will find a way to answer any question (or problem) you have.  It gives you the tools you need to get stuff done.  Rather than trying to read it cover-to-cover, this one works best if you make a goal of reviewing one tool per week.  There’s even a chapter on “How to Use this Book.” 

101 Good Ideas: How to Improve Just About Any Process (Karen Bemowski & Brad Stratton) – This book is conveniently segmented in a way that lets you skip around and pick what you want to learn.  It offers examples and tools for improving a process, communicating quality, training for quality, getting feedback, managing meetings organizing/analyzing data, auditing and more.  The ideas presented are general in nature, but provide enough information to get you going in the right direction.

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”  ~Dr. Seuss

“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.”  ~Oscar Wilde

Incorporating quality tools outside of work

In celebration of World Quality Month, the feature story of November’s Quality Progress is “Off the Clock,” which highlights the passion of quality professionals and their tendencies to incorporate quality into their daily lives.  In fact, Jennifer Stepniowski, Pro QC’s Special Project Manager, is included in the article as she discusses using checklists, brainstorming and affinity diagrams to organize summer fun for her family.

For most of us in the industry, quality is a passion.  It’s something we incorporate into our routines seamlessly.  And, it’s something we at Pro QC believe will help raise awareness to those outside of the industry.  World Quality Months provides us with an ideal opportunity here.  We talk so much about the technical aspects of quality due to the nature of the work of we do, but quality can be found throughout our personal lives as well.

A few suggestions from our team for incorporating the quality tools we know and love outside of work includes:

  • Checklists – Checklists are a significant time-saver that come in handy for just about anything.  Outside of work, use them to create grocery shopping templates or to organize travel.
  • Brainstorming – Taking a few moments to really consider all of the options and incorporate others into that process saves time and generates new and fresh ideas.  Outside of work, use it for menu or vacation planning.
  • Fishbone Diagrams – Figuring out what the root cause is saves time and gets problems solved much faster than trying to patch up the “bones.” Outside of work, use it for anything that continues to be a problem such as time management issues. Getting to to the root cause will avoid continuously patching it up.
  • Flowcharts – Flowcharts are excellent visual devices that both educate and serve as tools for identifying continuous improvement.  Outside of work, flowcharts are a great way to teach children how certain tasks and responsibilities should be performed.  It can also improve the efficiency of household chores or other common tasks.
  • Line Graphs  & Histograms (Bar Charts) – Histograms are great for visually representing data collected and line graphs show a pattern of data in time order.  Outside of work, they’re great for organizing chores or even fitness and/or dietary information.  These are also excellent tools for analyzing budget information.

What are some other ways we can incorporate quality into our daily lives?

“Quality begins on the inside… then works its way out.”
― Bob Moawad

Are trade shows still relevant?

In today’s fast-paced digital world, we have asked ourselves if exhibiting in trade shows is still a relevant form of reaching people.  Overwhelmingly, the team agrees that while they are not an inexpensive way to market, it remains one of the most favorable.

Face-to-Face Connections – Emails and Skype calls only go so far to connect people.  At trade shows, we’re able to talk with people one-on-one and answer any specific questions and/or concerns they may have about sourcing and the role of 3rd party quality providers in that process.  We also learn from those visiting our booths, through their shared experiences and perceptions of the industry.

Reconnecting – We have several existing clients that frequent the same shows we exhibit at.  As an opportunity to catch up, it is always a welcome surprise to see a familiar face stop by our booth.

Scanning the Environment – Attending or exhibiting industry shows gives us a unique opportunity to assess the environment.  It allows us to examine trends within our markets and provides significant insight for future strategy development.

As the Global Sources Electronics & Components show comes to an end in Hong Kong, we are pleased with the steady traffic and representatives from so many regions of the world that came together for the event and spoke with us regarding reducing quality risks and cost.  Compared to previous shows, we did see less of a presence from European countries but noted a significant number of attendees from California, Brazil, and Russia.

Candace and Shirley traveled over from Pro QC’s Shenzhen office, and Bruno and Shirley traveled from our headquarters in Taipei, Taiwan.


How do you know if 3rd party quality professionals on-site are ethical?

One concern often expressed from organizations considering third-party quality representation on-site at factories is concerns about ethical behavior. Organizations want to know that engineers, auditors and inspectors truly are unbiased during evaluations and void of any questionable influence from other interests.  It’s a fair question, especially considering the stories many have heard  or have experienced for themselves.

Here’s what works for us:

Recruitment – It’s important to take the extra time to be selective when seeking to add resources, whether it’s a direct team member or a potential partner.  Through the selection process, we are careful to screen interested quality professionals and look beyond resume qualifications. We often pose ethical situations during interviews to evaluate responses.

Training – Training is an on-going process.  For training to be successful, it is also reinforced.  Code of Conduct training is incorporated into many team building events.  Standard ethical behavior within this documentation demands that no compensation of any kind be accepted (monetary, material, meals, entertainment, etc.).  Another point incorporated into the Code of Conduct is that all travel expenses much be accompanied by original receipts.  A copy of the Code of Conduct is reviewed and signed annually.

At Pro QC, our employees are on career tracks, and our HR policies and training are designed so they fully recognize that they have more to lose by accepting a bribe than they’ll gain.  Also, our Technical Supervisor report review process reveals inconsistencies in reports and findings, making it very difficult to initially conceal inaccurate findings, while the traceability of each engineer to each report and shipment will fully reveal the source of any inaccurate findings.  The reviewer is also traceable in the system.  This also holds true for recognition of errors, not only for intentional misrepresentations, and allows us to constantly monitor and improve the quality of our services and training needs of our field personnel.

Correction Action – Although infrequent, should an issue occur where a representative is claimed to have committed an unethical action, an in-depth investigation is conducted.  Often and unfortunate, the factory may place undeserved blame on a 3rd party at a point in time and is deferring other issues unnecessarily.  While many factories welcome quality control efforts, others perceive them as an inconvenience and would prefer to work without an unbiased system of assurance.  An investigation of any allegation is required.

For any team member or partner found to knowingly have engaged in unethical behavior, that individual is no longer used as a resource. Zero tolerance further supports the importance of adhering to the Code of Conduct.  It is also noted with the signed Code of Conduct that personal financial and/or legal liability may result from any claims caused by a violation.

Evaluating inspection reports

Many companies anxiously await product quality inspection results and focus on the “accept” or “reject” status alone.  However, it is important to note that useful information exists within the details that are worth examining.  Here are a few things that should be considered:

Defect Trends – An accepted inspection doesn’t mean that no defects were noted.  It just means they fell within the AQL (Acceptable Quality Limit).  Maintaining a spreadsheet of defect data can help identify trends and areas of improvement.  Using the idea of 80/20 (Pareto), continuous improvement efforts can be targeted at defects contributing 20% of the total, with the expectation that an 80% overall improvement will result.

Packaging Variance – If packaging details are not provided in the product specification, the inspector will report the findings and use the package integrity testing (ISTA drop-test) to determine if there are any issues.  However, it is useful to note variations in packaging when they exist.  Digital photos and metric information is included within the reports.

Product Specification Revision – As inspection reports are issued and findings evaluated, changes to the product specification should be made as a continuous improvement effort.

For additional information regarding understanding the inspection process, click here.