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Quality & You

Make Quality a Lifestyle Choice

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    [post_date] => 2013-02-09 19:54:36
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    [post_content] => A few years ago, a colleague of mine was driving his car and hit a big pothole in the road. He stopped the car to make sure everything was okay. The car was fine, but at some point, he must have dropped his wallet, because when he got home he couldn’t find it. Sure, he had some money and credit cards in there, but he said that he also had some pictures of his family, and was devastated to think that he’d never get them back. A few weeks went by and out of the blue he got a phone call from a woman he didn’t know. She said she had found his wallet. When he went to pick it up, the woman said she just saw it on the side of the road and knew that someone would want it back. Everything was still in the wallet, just as he had left it.

A few months after this incident, he happened to read an article in the newspaper and it turned out that the woman who found his wallet ran a shelter for the homeless. So every year, on the anniversary of losing his wallet, he makes an anonymous donation to her shelter. It’s a simple thank you, and a reminder that there are people in this world who do the right thing.

It’s not the facts of the action that makes this a demonstration of Quality. It’s the “mindset” that this woman possessed that makes it an example of what is possible. This is what impresses everybody so much. Because, what did she do? She rose above the norm. And when people make these extraordinary efforts, they make the rest of us sit up and take notice.

[pullquote]Whatever your station in life, rich, poor; if you are the CEO or the janitor, it doesn’t matter because the same principles of Quality still apply.[/pullquote]

Now I will never forget what this woman did for my friend. It is burned into my consciousness. Wouldn’t you like to have employees who will go that extra mile with you, rise above the norm and make that kind of impact on your business?  Having a “quality mindset” - being honest, having integrity and resisting compromise at all costs I believe, is the basis for starting, fostering and ensuring long-term success both individually and collectively.

Whatever your station in life, rich, poor; if you are the CEO or the janitor, it doesn’t matter because the same principles of Quality still apply. We all have customers who tell us their needs, wants, and desires. We must strive to not only meet, but constantly exceed their expectations. My “Quality is Everyone’s Business” (QIEB) philosophy –allows everyone to understand why having that “quality mindset” becomes the guiding force that allows them to change up their “game” and perform at higher levels than before.

When we make Quality a lifestyle choice – we make it the ultimate choice. When our workforce upholds the Quality Mindset, they have chosen to dedicate themselves to Quality like the woman in this story, and that’s when they will begin to make high-level decisions that will never fail to make positive and lasting impressions.
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A few years ago, a colleague of mine was driving his car and hit a big pothole in the road. He stopped the car to make sure everything was...

Quality & Economics

A Moment of Truth for the Solar Panel Industry

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    [post_date] => 2013-06-01 06:47:36
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    [post_content] => I recently read a commentary in the New York Times (“Solar Industry Anxious Over Defective Panels”; May 25, 2013, link), and something sounded familiar.

Solar panels that are expected to have a 25-year life span are failing. Coatings are disintegrating and other defects have caused fires. Worldwide, the reports are coming in. The $77 billion solar photovoltaic industry is facing a quality crisis.

This is a moment of truth for the solar photovoltaic industry, and yet, many manufacturers will chose to ignore the opportunity and instead repeat the same mistakes that the American automotive industry did in the 1970s.

Remember the Ford Pinto that could explode if was hit from behind? What about Chevrolet's Vega that was rusting before it left the factory floor? There were other spectacular flops like the Cadillac Cimarron, Plymouth Volare, Dodge Aspen, all Oldsmobiles, and GM diesel engines: all self-inflicted wounds that damaged once sterling brands for decades and drove sales into the laps of their international competitors.

Then, as now, assumptions are percolating among solar “PV” industry leaders about the “cause” of production problems they obviously do not understand. Is it really just cost-cutting in manufacturing materials that is causing 5.5% to 22% defect rate in solar modules?

I was struck by the comment from Dissigno CEO, Dave Williams: "Quality across the board is harder to put your finger on now as materials in modules are changing every day and manufacturers are reluctant to share that information.” This is the type of thinking that will cost the industry (and their customers) billions of dollars before they resolve this crisis. In fact, isn’t it time to set a firm finger on quality and hold it there until there until something positive happens?

American auto manufacturers learned three valuable lessons from their quality crisis:
  1. “Problem solvers” will solve nothing but they will drill through wads of cash with very little to show for it;
  2. Nearly all product quality failures begin at the design stage with inadequate specifications, standards, expectations; and
  3. No amount of correction at the production and service end will ever adequately “solve” anything; that’s like trying to put out the fire after the barn burns down.
The solar industry must do as the auto industry has done: they must go all the way back to the design stage, dump their assumptions, check all processes, and re-examine everything right down to the basics of how they envision how their customers will use their products. They must deal with the physics involved, even the markets. Late in the 1980s, the auto industry adopted the practice of "robust engineering" - using extreme conditions of operations the basis of design and engineering. Adding to the quality process, they also considered how people work together and how they discuss and formulate solutions. For the first time, designers, engineers, production managers and marketers got together and discussed not only what the product had to do, but how it might fail. When you design for the two most extreme operating conditions that your product will experience, you eliminate 95% of the potential cause for failure. If your product must operate in a particular temperature range, you must ask, "Can we add 10 degrees either way to our operating design?" In the same respect, consider also how the product will be manufactured and sold. In this case, designers did not take into consideration possible price competition. Haven't we learned that cost-cutting is a reality for commerce and therefore qualifies as a "condition of operation"? This crisis of quality is not, as the writers of the story suggests, China's problem. While true that Chinese manufacturing has supplied many panels, it is up to the world industry to set the standard. The companies that purchase the modules must set the quality process, be honest about the product design, and resist any compromise. I appreciate Suntech CTO, Stuart Wenham's commentary that "we need to start naming names." In my book, those names should include the engineering directors and executives who missed the big cues and forgot the important lessons of what it means to adopt and maintain a robust and sustainable quality process. [post_title] => A Moment of Truth for the Solar Panel Industry [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => moment-truth-solar-panel-industry [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2013-09-01 07:00:17 [post_modified_gmt] => 2013-09-01 07:00:17 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://subirchowdhury.com/?p=1239 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [format_content] => )
I recently read a commentary in the New York Times (“Solar Industry Anxious Over Defective Panels”; May 25, 2013, link), and something sounded familiar. Solar panels that are expected to...

Quality & Process

Enrich the Process

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    [post_date] => 2013-01-22 21:10:47
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    [post_content] => I was at a gas station and saw a sign that claimed that the fuel was “enriched” with a chemical additive that would make my car run cleaner and more efficiently. My wife bought food that was also enriched, fortified with vitamins and minerals that added nutritional value.

As it turns out, many products are ‘enriched’ in some way to make them more appealing by giving them a little value-added performance boost. That’s also what we do all our lives. When we want to make something better, we add to something else that improves, develops, and enhances the original.

From my experience consulting on the day-to-day management of businesses, the enrich process encompasses two intents of the word; not only to help make products and services better, but to introduce greater quality into the processes that manages and produces them.

[pullquote]With realistic goals and reasonable costs firmly in view, you can engage the enrichment process with an attitude that there is always better, yet-to-be discovered alternative.[/pullquote]

Of course, while the goal is to improve our processes, there are always practical limits. For instance, there is no enrichment to be gained if the improvement effort disrupts operations for weeks at a time. I’ve seen managers get carried away — interfering directly with front line processes, pulling too many people away from regular assignments for too long. There is also little to be gained by devoting time and energy to tweak a process that has minimal impact on quality.

With realistic goals and reasonable costs firmly in view, you can engage the enrichment process with an attitude that there is always better, yet-to-be discovered alternative. Here are three guidelines for the execution of a more productive enrichment process.
  1. Do you have a clear understanding of the NOW? Is everybody on the same page? Are all team members are up to date on what is known about customers’ needs and wants? Make sure everyone understands the current state of the problem or the design challenge. Make sure that you have all the information that you need to begin your enrichment work.
  2. Are you really thinking outside the BOX? Resist the urge to reach for solutions that you’ve tried in the past; stretch your team a little with a ‘jamming session’ to brighten the intellectual and creative process. Remember that the innovation process works best when there is fearless engagement from all participants. That means instituting a blanket ‘no-blame, all-ideas-welcome’ policy.
  3. Are you settling for less than the BEST? Set your sights high and don’t give up until you have the solution or the design that will thrill your customers without breaking the bank. Be adventurous, but be realistic. Sometimes doing the BEST is the one thing you can do the easiest.
Don’t be surprised if the enrich process requires a new mindset at your organization. To get the most out of any new process, everybody must embrace ‘the change’ and the idea that what you have now, and what you have done up to this point, simply isn’t good enough. That’s not always so easy for everyone, and especially for organizations that have become accustomed to ‘old ways.’ Maybe you’ll have to bring everybody into a room to signal the start of the change. Maybe it’ll go something like this: “Today, we will move beyond the status quo and reach for continuous development and improvement. This will be our strategy. And our plan will be that everyone plays a major role in this process — including me!” That’s the attitude that carries change forward. That’s the game plan to enrich the most important thing of all – your organization. [post_title] => Enrich the Process [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => enriching-the-process [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2013-10-18 13:53:38 [post_modified_gmt] => 2013-10-18 13:53:38 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://subirchowdhury.com/?p=180 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [format_content] => )
I was at a gas station and saw a sign that claimed that the fuel was “enriched” with a chemical additive that would make my car run cleaner and...

Quality & Me

The Subir Chowdhury Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Student Quality Competition

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    [post_date] => 2013-02-20 17:40:23
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LOGO_sae-foundation-25th

Beginning in 2013, the Subir and Malini Chowdhury Foundation will work with the SAE International and The SAE Foundation, the charitable arm of SAE International, to establish the Subir Chowdhury Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Student Quality Competition.

The goal will be to engage high school and college students in a nationwide competition that will allow them to demonstrate their understanding of the impacts of quality on their lives. It will also serve to help today's students become tomorrow's scientists and engineers.

The competition will be open to high school and college students throughout the United States on an annual basis.  Students will be provided knowledge and skills based on Subir Chowdhury’s teachings in quality and process improvement.  Students will be asked to design a project that will clearly demonstrate their understanding of how quality will impact their lives and the lives of those around them.  Participants will compete at local, regional and national levels and will ultimately be rewarded for their innovative and creative thinking and application with cash awards for the top winners at the national competition level.
    [post_title] => The Subir Chowdhury Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Student Quality Competition
    [post_excerpt] => Is it culture, the weather, geography? Perhaps ignorance of what the right policies are? Simply, no. None of these factors is either definitive or destiny. Otherwise, how to explain why Botswana has become one of the fastest growing countries in the world, while other African nations, such as Zimbabwe, the Congo, and Sierra Leone, are mired in poverty and violence? 
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Beginning in 2013, the Subir and Malini Chowdhury Foundation will work with the SAE International and The SAE Foundation, the charitable arm of SAE International, to establish the Subir...