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Dr Geert Letens teaches project, process, supply chain, performance and engineering management at the Royal Military Academy and guest lectures on organization development and change at various International Universities and Business Schools.
Geert is a co-author of the book ‘Six Batteries of Change’ and an internationally recognized speaker on Organization Development and Change and Lean Product Development. As the CEO of TchI-Innovation, He has provided training and consulting services to various Fortune Global 500 companies around the world for almost 20 years.
As a former president of the American Society for Engineering Management (ASEM), former president of the Society of Engineering and Management Systems, and current President of ASEM Europe he has contributed to the development of the Engineering Management field and the collaboration of Engineering Societies around the world.
Geert is a research fellow at Vlerick Business School and a visiting research faculty at Virginia Tech.
About the Bernard R. Sarchet Award
More information about the award is available here:Bernard R. Sarchet Award
A list of past recipients is available here:
List of Past Recipients
NOTE: ASEM wants to recognize all 2018 award winners. If you received an award and did not provide your biographical information, you still can. Please help us by completing this short Google form at https://goo.gl/WULsGW - thank you!
Professor Simon P Philbin is Director of the Nathu Puri Institute for Engineering and Enterprise at London South Bank University in the United Kingdom (UK). The Institute is focused on driving enterprise into engineering education and industrial practice. Simon joined LSBU in 2018 and previously worked as Director of Programme Management at Imperial College London and Executive Chairman of Imperial College Projects Limited. While at Imperial and over 15 years he held a number of senior roles associated with both pre-award and post-award management of a range of multidisciplinary research areas and programmes.
Prior to joining Imperial in 2003, he was at the UK Ministry of Defence (DERA) and originally worked in the field of energetic materials. Simon is published across several areas including project management, research & technology management, and chemistry. He has presented at conferences across North America and Asia, and given lectures and seminars at several different universities. Simon holds a BSc (University of Birmingham) and PhD (Brunel University) in chemistry as well as an MBA (Open University Business School). He has experience of working with different industrial sectors, especially defence but also oil and gas, nuclear power, healthcare and pharmaceutical. Plus, he has worked as a commercial consultant for major oil and gas companies.
Simon currently serves as a Board Member of the American Society for Engineering Management and has been elected as the President of ASEM for 2019/20. Previous academic roles include Visiting Fellow at Imperial College Business School and Visiting Research Fellow at Birkbeck, University of London. He has won several academic and best paper awards, served on journal editorial boards and as an external examiner as well as other academic and professional assignments.
About the ASEM Fellow Award
Nominees who receive majority support from the Fellows are selected as new inductees. No more than five new Fellows are elected in a given year.
More information about the award is available here:
A list of past recipients is available here:
Link to Past Recipients
Dr. Hiral Shah is a Professor in the Engineering Management graduate program at St. Cloud State University, Minnesota. She received her M.S. and Ph.D. degree in Engineering Management from Eastern Michigan University and B.E. degree in Mechanical Engineering from Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, India. Dr. Shah is a recipient of Frank Woodbury Outstanding Service Award in 2013 and Meritorious Service Award in 2012 from the American Society for Engineering Management (ASEM). She is a faculty advisor for the ASEM student chapter at St. Cloud State University. She has served on the ASEM Board of Directors as a Regional Director, as an EMBOK Editor, and more recently she is serving as a Publications Director for four major ASEM publications: EMJ, EM Handbook, EMBOK Guide, and EM Practice Periodical. Dr. Shah has been a part of ASEM’s certification exam development and professional development committee wherein she lead the project to publish the third and fourth edition of the Engineering Management Body of Knowledge Guide (EMBOK Guide). The 4th edition of “A Guide to the Engineering Management Body of Knowledge” (EMBOK Guide) is translated in Chinese and will also be published in Portuguese language. Dr. Shah also lead the efforts to create and validate questions for the CAEM and CPEM certification exams based on the 3rd and 4th edition of EMBOK Guide using subject matter experts (SMEs). Dr. Shah also conducted a “Role Delineation Study” for the AEM/PEM certification exams in 2015. This study validated the body of knowledge for the Engineering Management profession and helped to develop an exam blueprint for the CAEM and CPEM certification exams. Dr. Shah is currently leading the project to publish the 5th edition of EMBOK Guide. She is also a member of Project Management Institute. Her research interest is in the area of online teaching, curriculum and certification exam development, project management, and lean manufacturing. Dr. Shah is a Certified Enterprise Integrator (CEI), Certified Professional in Engineering Management (CPEM), and Project Management Professional (PMP).
More information about the award is available here:ASEM Fellow
A list of past recipients is available here:Link to Past Recipients
Frances Alston, PhD, CHMM, CPEM Director, Environment Safety & Health
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Dr. Alston has built a solid foundation of more than 25 years where she has led the development, management, and implementation of Environment, Safety, Health and Quality (ESH&Q) programs. In these leadership and program management roles, she has worked with a wide array of regulatory agencies and organizations, stakeholders, and communities. Her experience also encompasses international collaboration where she designed and championed implementation of an occupational hygiene program based upon European Health and Safety Standards for use in the United Kingdom.
She has a Ph.D. in industrial and system engineering and a MSE degree in engineering management, both from the University of Alabama. She earned a master’s degree in hazardous and waste materials management/environmental engineering from Southern Methodist University and a bachelor's degree in industrial hygiene and safety/chemistry from Saint Augustine's College.
Dr. Alston is the President and a Fellow of the American Society for Engineering Management (ASEM). She holds certifications as a Certified Hazardous Materials Manager (CHMM) and a Certified Professional in Engineering Management (CPEM). Dr. Alston is the author of Culture and Trust in Technology-Driven Organizations, Lean Implementation: Applications and Hidden Costs, and co-author of Guide to Environment Safety & Health Management and Industrial Hygiene: Improving Worker Health Through An Operational Risk Approach.
About the Past Presidents of the Society Award
This annual award is given to the individual who served as President of ASEM during the past year. At the International Annual Conference during the “passing of the gavel,” a plaque is awarded to the outgoing president.
More information about the award is available here:
Past Presidents Of The Society Award
A list of past recipients is available here:
List of Past Recipients
(EMBOK Blog Post #9)
Dictionary.com defines innovation as “something new or different introduced.” Engineers of all stripes are involved daily in creating and introducing new and different processes and products. We work in the creation of new knowledge that pushes the boundaries of scientific understanding. And we work to improve the efficiency and productivity of manufacturing systems to deliver products and services to a global customer base. At the heart of innovation is providing “new and different” to customers.
Domain 8, “Management of Technology, Research, and Development,” in the Engineering Management Body of Knowledge (EMBOK) complements Domain 7, “Marketing and Sales Management in Engineering Operations” because only innovations that support market needs are desired. Domain 8 also directly ties to Domain 4 and Domain 5 which discuss financial management and project management, respectively. Finally, Domain 3, addressing strategic planning, is a key input to any innovation process. (Get your copy of the EMBOK here.)
Innovation is comprised of several areas of technical expertise and of engineering management practice. Innovation starts with the organization’s strategy to provide a mission for R&D teams, developers, and design engineers. As described in Sections 8.2 and 8.3 of the EMBOK, companies are striving for higher levels of innovation to deliver product and process improvements faster due to pressures from globalization and rapid technology advances. Industries are being disrupted by low-cost competitors as well as alternative products and services that previously didn’t exist.
Consider that today we call an Uber or Lyft ride from our cell phone and pay a negotiated rate, when just a few years ago, we instead queued up at taxi stands and paid a rate fixed by the local government rather than a rate fixed by the local government rather than a free market rate.
Engineers and engineering managers are involved at all stages of innovation and technology management and may find themselves working in different arenas at different points in their careers. For example, a newly minted engineer may work on process improvements in the plant or factory as a contact engineer. Innovation assignments at this stage involve improving process throughput and reducing defects and downtime to improve the product quality. (Please also see the post on Domain 6, “Quality, Operations, and Supply Chain Management.”)
Next, an engineer may work on the design and development of a new product or process. New products are typically created following a standard project management process and follow stages as described in Section 8.5.
An important element to successful new product development (NPD) is to consider life-cycle design, including “D4X” or “design for ____”. Successful innovations address D4X upfront, such as Design for Environment (Section 22.214.171.124) and Design for Reliability (Section 126.96.36.199). Attention to such details improves the acceptance of the new product or process by both internal and external customers.
Engineers and engineering managers may also spend time working in R&D labs. As described in Section 8.1.1 of the EMBOK, R&D activities range from scientific discovery to applied technical research, and to design and development functions described above. In research labs, engineers and engineering managers work closely with specialists, such as chemists, physicists, and material scientists, to convert conceptual ideas into practical manifestations. R&D engineers often bridge the gap between fundamental science and functional implementations. After all, most inventions are not profitable until they are translated to innovative products which are manufactured and sold into a marketplace.
Finally, at advanced career stages, engineering managers help to direct and frame the R&D and innovation programs to meet strategic goals of the organization. Some innovation strategies will involve projects to address weaknesses and threats to the company or industry by global competition or from new technologies. Other R&D projects will capitalize on the strengths and opportunities of an individual company that has discovered new technical applications to improve existing products or operations. Engineering managers will also work closely with other corporate executives to select the most appropriate portfolio of innovation projects to advance the organization’s strategic vision.
Innovation is a tremendously exciting field in which engineers and engineering managers are privileged to work. Domain 8 of the EMBOK provides a tiny taste of the wonderful and vast career opportunities in new product development and R&D. As you read through Domain 8, you will note that innovation touches and is touched by virtually every other domain in the EMBOK. Engineers and engineering managers create and improve products and processes deploying a wide range and depth of skills and competencies. And while every day is different and technically challenging, engineers and engineering managers that support innovation activities are never bored!
Please feel free to contact me for more information on innovation – it is my passion and I feel lucky to share this brief overview of EMBOK Domain 8, “Management of Technology, Research, and Development”.
Today, consider how your work as an engineer or engineering manager impacts innovation. What can you do to improve technology in processes or products?
Teresa Jurgens-Kowal, PE, CPEM, PMP®, NPDP, is a passionate lifelong learner. She enjoys helping individuals and companies improve their innovation programs and loves scrapbooking. You can learn more about Teresa and her new Innovation MasterMind group by connecting on LinkedIn.
By Patrick Sweet, P.Eng., MBA
(Blog #8 EMBOK series)
Photo credit: https://stocksnap.io/author/rawpixel
In this month’s installment on The Business-Savvy Engineer, I tackle Domain 7 of the Engineering Management Body of Knowledge (EMBoK): Marketing and Sales Management in Engineering Organizations.
For many, marketing and sales seems like it would be far outside the scope of what an engineer would care about – even an engineering manager. However, that’s not really the case. Engineers everywhere are involved in activities traditionally reserved for marketing and sales people. Figuring out how to meet a customer’s needs, helping convince a prospective customer to choose a product or service, and developing spec sheets for a conference are all marketing and sales activities that engineers are routinely involved in.
When you consider the link between engineers, customers, and the development of winning products, it’s easy to see how knowledge of marketing and sales could be of significant benefit to engineering managers.
The rest of this post will touch on some of the most important elements from Domain 7 in the EMBoK.
Sales is the act of motivating a potential customer to make a decision to purchase a product or service. Advertising is communicating to a target audience in an effort to make that audience aware of products and services that exist. Both advertising and sales are critical to helping get the products and services that engineers create into the hands of the right people.
It’s important to understand that, when advertising and selling internationally, differences in culture and language need to be taken into account in order to be successful. One example of this was shared by Blackberry co-founder, Mike Lazaridis, at an engineering conference I went to while in engineering school. He shared with the audience that they had hired a marketing firm to help them come up with the name “Blackberry” to ensure it translated well in several languages and wouldn’t be awkward in other cultures. The name Blackberry was the last of over 100 names that the company had come up with. Contrast this with the Chevy “Nova”, which roughly translated to the Chevy “No Go” in Latin American markets.
Customer satisfaction is important for any organization to measure and manage. Engineering managers are not exempt from this. Customers are well-informed, intelligent, and able to chose different providers if they aren’t satisfied with your products or services. This counts as much for internal customers as it does for external customers. I’ve experienced situations where my company paid external service providers to do work that an internal division were capable of because the internal division was too difficult to deal with. This is a clear example of poor customer satisfaction.
In order to improve customer satisfaction, it must first be measured. Traditional techniques for measuring customer satisfaction include surveys, focus groups, and interviews (see ASEM’s current membership survey here). It is very important to design these tools carefully, as poor design can obfuscate results, and even lead to drawing incorrect conclusions. Managers may consider hiring outside experts for launching new customer satisfaction initiatives.
Marketing is the act of determining what a given market needs and how to satisfy that need given what the organization’s capabilities are and what competitors are doing. Marketing involves four primary elements, commonly known as the “Four Ps” of marketing:
Engineers play a key role in developing an organization’s products and services, establishing cost structures (which informs price), setting up distribution channels, and developing product specifications and trade show materials.
Branding is about giving products an identity that acts as shorthand for the attributes of a given product. BMW’s brand stands for luxury and performance. Walmart’s brand stands for value and convenience. Both brands say very different things, but are equally powerful. Engineers play an important role in giving brands credibility through their design decisions.
Products progress through lifecycles. After a product is launched, it will process through a period of growth, reach maturity, hit market saturation, and eventually decline. It is important for organizations to have an array of products at various phases in their lifecycles so that the risk of a product falling out of favour in the market and leaving the company stranded is reduced.
Another important way to look at products is through the “Boston Matrix”, which plots products on a chart with relative market share on one axis and industry sales growth rate on the other. The matrix can be split up into four categories, as shown in the table below:
Relative Market Share Position
Industry Growth Rate
Understanding where products fall on the Boston Matrix can help organizations understand what to do with each product in their portfolio and where to invest product development dollars.
With globalization, companies in every industry will be faced with at least one of the following: competition from abroad, needing to source materials or talent from abroad, or trying to enter overseas markets. As was discussed in the section on advertising in foreign markets, it is important to bear in mind that values and management practices differ throughout the world. Managers cannot assume that business as usual will work in any other market.
Given that operating in markets outside your home can necessitate different practices, it is important to be aware of the various options that are available for doing business abroad. Domestic companies can import or export goods, invest directly in foreign entities, license their products or services to others, set up franchises, or use management contracts to profit from outside markets.
A product’s price is what the customer pays for a given product. Pricing is something of an art and must take into account the customer’s ability to pay, the organization’s goals and targets, the product’s cost, and how the competition prices alternative products. Pricing should not be driven by cost alone and needs to reflect the value conferred by the product. For example, books generally cost pennies to produce, but are priced orders of magnitude higher. This is because they provide much more value than the sum of their physical parts.
Engineers can be heavily involved in product pricing, especially with respect to controlling product costs and understanding how competitors’ products are positioned.
At first glance, this domain may seem out of place in an engineering management book. In reality, marketing and sales management is tightly coupled with engineering and engineering management. An understanding of the business side of product development, marketing, advertising and sales on the part of engineering managers can be of enormous benefit to both managers and the companies that employ them.
Patrick Sweet, P.Eng., MBA, ASEP is a recognized expert in engineering management and leadership with expertise in systems engineering, project management and product management. You can read more from Pat at the Engineering & Leadership blog.
Most of us have great ideas that we think could turn into great businesses. Just the other day, for instance, I told the blood donation attendant about my great idea to have a manicurist perform her magic during the procedure. Of course, there are some obvious holes in my “great idea”.
Yet, other people can convert ideas into business success. How do they do this and is there a formula for entrepreneurs?
Amy Wilkinson, author of “The Creator’s Code,” says, “YES!” And she shows us six essential skills in her book. The text is based on interviews with over 200 entrepreneurs who started companies that generate greater than $100M in revenue each year (pg. 9). These include companies like Under Armour, Airbnb, Dropbox, Chipotle, and JetBlue.
The first step is to identify an opportunity that others don’t see. Sounds easier said than done, but the author explains that some people are able to transport solutions from one industry to another. For example, Howard Schultz didn’t invent the idea of a coffee bar. Instead, he saw a unique culture in Italy and transported the community of coffee into the Starbuck’s business model.
Next, successful entrepreneurs seek the future over the past. Wilkinson calls this “to-go” thinking over “to-date” thinking. Research shows that considering what you have left to do to complete a task enhances motivation (pg. 58-59). Retrospective thinking can make us lazy.
The third skill in “The Creator’s Code” is to “fly the OODA loop” (Chapter 3). The acronym OODA comes from a Korean War era Air Force pilot: observe, orient, decide, and act. Success entrepreneurs gather a lot of data (observe), interpret the data (orient), make quick choices (decide), and then implement a plan (act). Feedback from markets, customers, and experiments go back into the cycle as observations to continue learning.
Chapter 4, “Fail Wisely,” describes the next skill in the “The Creator’s Code.” Creators share one trait: failure (pg. 101). Of course, failure doesn’t feel good, but it does provide learning. Successful entrepreneurs are okay with making low-risk mistakes and are self-aware enough to ask for help when necessary. Creators utilize a “growth mindset” (pg. 128-130, see also the book review on Mindset.)
Next, successful entrepreneurs use opportunity identification and learning from failure to build cognitive diversity. Wilkinson calls this “networking minds” (Chapter 5). As design thinking teaches us, we cannot solve problems in isolation. Collaboration and feedback help us to generate the best solutions (pg. 141).
Finally, the sixth element of “The Creator’s Code” is to “Gift Small Goods” (Chapter 6). In short, the author explains that collaboration, networking, and doing favors for others pays back. The author relays the Christmas card study by Phillip Kunz at BYU. He hand-signed 600 cards and sent them to absolute strangers. He received over 100 return greetings, complete with well wishes for his family, photos of kids and pets, and hand-written message. People appreciate acts of kindness and will repay them.
So, the six elements of becoming a successful creator and entrepreneur are more about behaviors than technical skills. Wilkinson teaches us that we need to identify unsatisfied customer needs, to try and try again, learn from failure, and collaborate with others. How do we apply these skills as engineering managers inside corporations instead of acting as solo entrepreneurs?
I believe “The Creator’s Code” gives engineering managers tools to enhance and empower teams. Corporate product and project management also depends on finding gaps in markets and technologies that match the core competencies of the firm. Success as engineering managers also requires us to “fly the OODA loop,” to fail wisely, and to network minds. Recognizing the strength of those around us and building an entrepreneurial environment can also build success for our engineering and project teams.
I recommend “The Creator’s Code” for engineering and engineering manager who are curious about curiosity and want to understand the traits of successful creators. The stories that Wilkinson presents are intriguing. It’s a quick and easy read – maybe a book suitable for scanning while you lay on the beach this summer!
What skill can you transport from the entrepreneurial world to make your engineering project teams more successful?
It has been a beef of mine that many management studies look at successful companies and try to figure out best practice based on what these top performers do. If you hear that (hypothetically) 75% of successful companies have a matrix organization and 25% have a hierarchical structure, you may think a matrix is for you. However, it is difficult to get a lot of data on the companies that struggle whereas they like to advertise success. With my example, if you hear that 95% of the poor performers have a matrix versus 5% hierarchical, that provides a different picture.
I like that the authors of Six Batteries of Change have extensive experience consulting on change management programs. Geert Letens is familiar to many readers as a former president of the American Society of Engineering Management and I like his practical and critical perspective of EM principles. This book is based on data collected from participants at 111 companies. Two people at the same company can have differing opinions on its performance and culture that makes you wonder if they are confused about where they work. This book recognizes this and therefore multiple sources at each organization were used. They also recognize the different perspectives (or realities) of workers on the floor versus the planners in the “ivory tower.” By having these multiple inputs and a diverse range of sizes and business types they draw from, we are presented with a nice spectrum of traits of those that are successful and those that struggle with transforming their business.
During my career, six particular companies stand out that would have benefited from this book. All six could see that they needed to change or fail. Three talked about “burning platforms” but continued on their downward trajectory and closed shop. The other three initiated formal cultural change programs but these fizzled out prior to them closing for business. Unlike much of the literature I have read, this book generally agrees with my views on organizational culture and change.
I was in a meeting recently with directors who were reviewing a new program. As mentioned in this book, executives are busy and do not want to be bombarded with too many concepts. The key to getting buy-in is to have a few fairly simple points and to repeat them in a variety of ways, driving home the message. For implementing change successfully, the authors developed a concept of relating behavioral characteristics to energy levels in a battery. These are put in a grid with one axis for the often competing motivations in people: the emotional and the rational. The other axis separates the strategic policies needed to create proper alignment from the operational procedures to assure solid execution at the ground level. As was recognized at least as far back as the Hawthorne Experiments of the late 1920s, good ideas can fail if improperly implemented and yet irrational, counterintuitive plans can have positive results if rolled out in the right way to appeal to the workers. Hence, we are presented with a framework of six categories of batteries (or energy levels) that will lead you to greater chance of success when these batteries are properly topped up. The book provides examples of both good and poorly charged batteries in companies familiar to many readers, such as Yahoo, Nokia and ING. It provides symptoms of good and poor cultures and steps for charging the batteries in areas that are low, establishing an architecture for positive change.
I started out by reading Chapter 9 first as check for the book’s usefulness as a quick reference or as a refresher. I was able to follow the concepts easily without having to rely upon any complicated or specialized vocabulary built in the earlier chapters. I liked that there was a definite lack of prescriptions for success, since the authors recognize that organizations are now in a world that is VUCA - volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. They also recognize that change is not achievable through the actions of a small group and it must be driven throughout the organization. I have painfully watched my former employers bring on a small group of experts tasked with somehow fixing the organization’s ills under a two-month contract, which goes a long way to explaining why they are former employers.
Many people who will read this will be somehow connected to a cultural transition program within their organization. Using this book to help guide the process will be a smart move.
Dr. Kennedy has been a regular attendee of the ASEM conference since 1999, with particularly good participation at the informal late evening "discussions" (sometimes making it difficult to get to the morning plenaries). He has spent much of his time working on large construction projects in remote areas, lecturing at a few universities, and is now trying his hand in an unfamiliar role as a director of engineering in R&D.
The next day Trish and I visited ASEM member Rod Grubb at the 4M headquarters http://4mio.com/. Rod played a number of valuable roles with ASEM in the past and we wanted to drop in on him while we were in Knoxville. During the tour of the facilities, Rod was clearly proud in the success of his company and the fascinating developments in the future for carbon fiber. Afterwards, we were introduced to Rob Klawonn and Mike Agentis who were also excited about the advances. Each conversation circled back to engineering management and networking.
Over the two-day visit, Dr. Conner and Rita Gray coordinated visits for us on the beautiful campus of the University of Tennessee. We visited with Dr. Eric Boder, Dr. Gabriel Goenaga and Dr. John Kobza to discuss the value of ASEM to their students as they [the students] move into a future management role. With many students attending through distance courses, a conversation in developing a virtual student chapter was a focus. Dr. James Simonton also helped to develop a vision statement to guide the next steps. It will be exciting to see the University of Tennessee as part of the ASEM family.
Dr. Harold Conner was instrumental in putting all the parts together to make the trip a success. It was evident by our conversations that Dr. Conner has strong beliefs in engineering management and he appreciates the role that networking plays throughout the career of an engineering manager. This was demonstrated through his connections with multiple professional societies and with the University of Tennessee. ASEM thanks Dr. Conner for his support as a sponsor. It’s great to see Dr. Conner continue his support by bringing a student to the ASEM IAC to experience conferences and to build their network. This year, Dr. Conner is bringing Jake Beatty (bio below).
About Jake Beatty
Jake Beatty, from Clarksville, Tenn., is in his senior year as an industrial engineering major at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville (UT). He is also working toward a minor in reliability and maintainability. He served a 2018 summer internship at URS | CH2M Oak Ridge LLC (UCOR) supporting UCOR’s LEAN program. That support included working to consolidate eight different waste software programs into one. Jake is a member of the Knoxville Chapter of Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers and has participated in 20 hours of volunteer work each semester at UT.
This summer, ASEM took promoting the society to a new level. We welcome new members from the Minneapolis (ASCE-EWRI) and Evanston (IEEE-TEMS) conferences. We are looking to expand our presence at more conferences through the New Year. I’ll share more plans in upcoming eNews articles. I’m also looking for networking stories to share with our society. If you have a similar story to share about mentoring success or professional networking, please send it to email@example.com
(EMBOK Blog Post #7)
I am currently in the market for a new car. One of the first characteristics that I can list is that I want the vehicle to be of high quality. But, what, exactly, does “quality” mean? Domain 6 of the Engineering Management Body of Knowledge (EMBOK, 4th edition) teaches us about quality as well as operations and supply chain management.
As noted in the EMBOK (pg. 165), quality is “defined for each product based on what the customer wants in … measurable characteristics.” Certainly, this definition helps as I want my car to have at least 200 hp, not cost over $40,000, and be reliable for a lifetime of ten years. Rather than getting a sales pitch from a car dealer, they can instead show me new models that have specifications matching my desired quality characteristics.
The foundations of quality management in US, Canadian, and Western European industries started with the automotive industry. But, the principles of quality date further back to WWII when General Douglas MacArthur sought good radios in Japan. Influential quality gurus like W. Edwards Deming, Joseph Juran, Phillip Crosby, and Kaoru Ishikawa not only helped MacArthur in his quest for good radios, but also spawned the total quality movement. The Toyota Production System (TPS) is known for yielding high quality, low variability parts and a novel approach to manufacturing (which we now call “lean”).
The quality gurus shared a common belief that management must actively participate in quality improvement and that systems and data drive performance improvements. Ishikawa delineated a list of data-driven tools for engineers and managers to improve quality. These are shown in Table 6‑4 of the EMBOK (pg. 168) and include the affinity diagram and the prioritization matrix. R&D engineers will be familiar with these tools as project managers are also intimately familiar with the activity network diagram.
Quality in organizations today is supported by international standards, such as ISO 9001 and ANSI. In the US, the Malcolm-Baldrige Award is presented by the President to organizations that have demonstrated commitment and improvement through total quality management (TQM).
Of course, quality is more than a measure of the final product. Process improvements to drive and support quality are a key task for engineers and engineering managers. Systems like lean manufacturing and Six Sigma encourage continuous improvement by eliminating waste and minimizing variation. Section 6.2 of the EMBOK compares and contrasts the principles of lean with Six Sigma improvement projects.
An important concept in lean is “flow,” especially for batch operations. Tools in lean help to reduce wasted time as a machine or downstream customer waits for work. The Kanban board is a visual tracking tool to show planned work, work-in-progress, products undergoing testing, and complete work. New work does not enter the “flow” until the Kanban board shows capacity of the work team to accept new work.
Like lean, Six Sigma is also driving a goal of continuous improvement. Six Sigma is project-oriented to find the root cause of a quality issue and implement an improvement. The core philosophy of Six Sigma is the DMAIC cycle, which includes the following steps:
Of course, quality and operations management are not standalone functions. Operations must support product manufacturing and involves creating sales forecasts and inventory management. For example, production of one new car (Volvo XC40) is unable to meet customer demand because of underestimated sales forecasts, resulting in a waiting period to even test-drive the vehicle and an even longer waiting period for purchase. Engineering managers use a variety of forecasting, scheduling, and inventory management tools to avoid these situations. (Supply chain management is discussed in detail in Section 6.6 of the EMBOK).
While not all engineers and engineering managers work directly in quality assurance (QA) or quality control (QC) labs or even in operations or supply chain, each of us must be fully committed to quality management. As Domain 6 of the EMBOK points out, engineering managers influence and impact quality from the concepts of new product development through ongoing continuous improvement activities. We must remember at all times that it is our customer and our customer’s customer who define quality.
Oh yeah, and I want a blue car…
What activities are you doing today in your job as an engineer or engineering manger to improve quality in your organization?
Get your copy of the EMBOK here. There are also many great tools on economics and finance in the EM Handbook here. Past articles in this series include:
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