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Entries for 2012

Simulated Design of Experiments to Solve Difficult Problems

Hospitals seeking to improve health care delivery often face the challenge of implementing process changes without benefit of tests of change that could clearly demonstrate success and identify potential risks.  In particular, the disruption of already strained processes can severely affect patient quality of care and safety, thereby constraining the ability to test proposed improvements.  For one faced with the uncertainty of success, risk aversion can limit the range of change considered and derail otherwise successful quality improvement efforts.

Alleviating this problem, simulation and design of experiments (DOE) provide a powerful approach to quality management and process improvement in hospitals.  DOE is a stepwise, statistically based method that efficiently guides the identification and selection of changes that collectively will optimize performance.  Typically, this involves iterative testing of different factors, settings, and configurations, using the results of successive tests to further refine the product or process.  When properly done, a DOE approach produces more precise results while using many fewer experimental runs than other methods (e.g., one factor at a time, or trial and error).  The outcome is a robust design that better meets customer specifications and production and delivery constraints.  A more detailed overview of DOE is provided in Chapter 19, Accurate and Reliable Measurement Systems and Advanced Tools.

A designed, experimental approach is not new to healthcare.  For example, medical researchers use a carefully designed series of experiments to optimize medical divides and drug formulations.  However, a traditional DOE in a hospital requires time-consuming, real-life testing of multiple factors or process variables that cannot easily be done within controlled, protected environments,…

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New Baldrige Collaborative Assessment Announced

The Baldrige Performance Excellence Program announces the opportunity to participate in the pilot of an exciting new assessment service.ampnbspThe Baldrige Collaborative Assessment is designed to help organizations improve their overall ...

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New Baldrige Collaborative Assessment Announced

The Baldrige Performance Excellence Program announces the opportunity to participate in the pilot of an exciting new assessment service.ampnbspThe Baldrige Collaborative Assessment is designed to help organizations improve their overall ...

Read More

New Baldrige Collaborative Assessment Announced

The Baldrige Performance Excellence Program announces the opportunity to participate in the pilot of an exciting new assessment service.xa0The Baldrige Collaborative Assessment is designed to help organizations improve their overall ...

Read More

New Baldrige Collaborative Assessment Announced

The Baldrige Performance Excellence Program announces the opportunity to participate in the pilot of an exciting new assessment service.ampnbspThe Baldrige Collaborative Assessment is designed to help organizations improve their overall ...

Read More

New Baldrige Collaborative Assessment Announced

The Baldrige Performance Excellence Program announces the opportunity to participate in the pilot of an exciting new assessment service.xa0The Baldrige Collaborative Assessment is designed to help organizations improve their overall ...

Read More

New Baldrige Collaborative Assessment Announced

The Baldrige Performance Excellence Program announces the opportunity to participate in the pilot of an exciting new assessment service.xa0The Baldrige Collaborative Assessment is designed to help organizations improve their overall ...

Read More

Acknowledging Excellence – Pal’s Sudden Service

In 2001, Pal’s Sudden Service was the first restaurant company of any size to earn the Baldrige National Quality Award, and was the first in Tennessee to be twice awarded the Tennessee Quality Excellence Award.  Nation’s Restaurant News (NRN) recently ran their bi-monthly publication (which has over 60,000 subscribers) highlighting how Pal’s metrics are “nearly unheard of in the food service world.” They aren’t stingy about sharing the secrets to their success either; every month they share their success stories with the Pal’s Business Excellence Institute (BEI), which sees hundreds of business leaders come through its doors annually.  K&N Management, another food service operation and 2010 Baldrige Award recipient, has visited the BEI 13 times in the past nine years!  At this point, you may be asking yourself, who, or what, is Pal’s?

Pal’s Sudden Service runs 23 double-drive-through restaurants in Tennessee and Virginia, and averages about $2 million per unit since its conception in 1956.  When they aren’t busy winning awards (Pal’s was also just awarded a prestigious international award for the visual appearance and navigation of their website by the International Academy of Visual Arts), Pal’s is heavily focused on delivering excellent customer service.  With their double-sided buildings, they can serve a customer at the drive-through every 18 seconds.  Even at this rate, they make only one mistake every 3,500 orders, and maintain a customer satisfaction score around 98%.  Their unique training methodology may be the culprit here; at Pal’s, every leader needs to have a coaching and training target every single day.  Whether their goals are about motivating the crew or supporting new employees in training, they are constantly making efforts to improve and drive business forward.  In addition to leadership support, employees are constantly getting tested and certified with performance tests.  They’ve implemented training tracking software, which will monitor each…

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Ames Rubber – Still Bouncing Along

Back in 1993, Ames Rubber Corporation was the small business category recipient of the Mac Baldrige Quality Award. Founded in 1949, Ames was experiencing annual sales of about $45-50 million around the time they won. These were primarily sales of rubber rollers that feed paper into printers, copiers, and typewriters, but they were also producing highly specialized parts to protect the trans-axle of front-wheel-drive vehicles. The company is incredibly focused on customer satisfaction; the entire organizational strategy is designed to ensure that the customer is driving business. For example, all of the company’s products are made to order to customer design and specification.

At the time, Xerox was Ames’ prime customer, and then-President Joel Marvil knew that Xerox was transforming themselves with a new concept, “Leadership Through Quality.” Ames decided to undertake a similar effort, brought in Xerox for help with training, and executed their “Excellence through Total Quality” program. By the time their training effort was completed a year later, over 17,000 training hours had been undertaken by the organization, successfully prepping them for a new challenge. Two strategy guides were developed: a nine-step Quality Improvement Process, and a six-step Problem-Solving Process.

Pareto charts helped to isolate and track the company’s greatest problems, and tracking systems were developed to monitor defects throughout the production lines. For Xerox, Ames’ largest customer, the defect rate dropped from over 30,000 parts per million in 1989 to just 11 by 1993. During that same time period, internal productivity increased by 48%. In 1993 alone, team ideas saved the company over $3 million. Ames even had the foresight in ’93…

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Strategic Quality Planning, Improvement, and Control

Quality can be applied as a strategic tool by developing a quality niche that focuses on one or a small number of quality dimensions throughout the universal processes of planning, improvement, and control. Seldom is it advisable, or even possible, to pursue all eight (performance, features, reliability, conformance, durability, serviceability, aesthetics, and perceived quality) of the quality dimensions simultaneously. This is because of both resource allocation toward quality and trade-offs that may be inherent among the dimensions. Similarly, objectives and activities should be aligned so that quality initially planned into a processed product is consistent with and reinforced by day-to-day control and longer-term improvement efforts. As pointed out by Porter (1996), “strategy involves creating ‘fit’ among a company’s activities.” When developing a quality niche strategy, specific, conscious choices must be made. The key is to discover which quality dimensions are most important to your customers and which are poorly met by competing products and firms.

Quality Strategy Failures in Processing

It is instructive to consider quality strategy failures as they relate to processing-based companies and the lessons they suggest.

  • Failure to measure the correct dimensions. Injected drugs marketed on the presumption that efficacy is the driving factor in determining value may be superseded by less effective formulations that take into consideration the convenience of oral, dermal, or nasal administration. As pointed out by…

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