Book promotion


Excerpts (C) 2000, ASQ Quality Press/ Intersil

Preface: Why ISO 9000 for Frontline Workers

Role of the frontline worker in organizational success

Beyond compliance: taking ISO 9000 to the next step

The book's audience (designed for frontline workers)

Friction: Sand in the Machine

Friction from a frontline worker's perspective

Sample discussion questions

ISO 9000 at the Front Line
by William A. Levinson

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NEW: PowerPoint slide set to teach your workforce how to use ISO 9000:2001 to improve productivity and quality as opposed to just complying with the standard
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    1. Don't work for ISO 9000; make ISO 9000 work for you to improve your company's productivity and quality.
      • Your frontline workers can be management's "eyes and ears" as they discover ways to reduce costs and increase productivity.
    2. Use this book to teach front-line production and service workers the principles of ISO 9000 and QS-9000
      • Suitable for in-house training, high schools, vocational schools, community college levels
      • The book focuses on aspects of the standard that workers can use to improve the system in which they work
    3. The book covers the all-important concept of friction ("muda" in Japanese): chronic problems, waste, and inefficiency that is built into the job-- and that people no longer notice because they can "work around it."
      • "Gold in the mine" and "hidden plant" refer to often-overlooked opportunities to save money and increase productivity.
      • "Friction" is from General Carl von Clausewitz' On War. "Muda" is from Masaaki Imai's Gemba Kaizen ("Continuous improvement of value-adding frontline activities")
    4. Activity Initiation and Tracking System draws on James F. Halpin's Zero Defects to outline a system for assuring follow-through on worker-initiated projects.
      • Halpin's book is out of print. (Try the Advanced Book Exchange.) P. B. "Phil" Crosby was at Martin while Halpin was developing this book.


The following material is (C) 2000 ASQ Quality Press, Intersil Corporation. Only "fair use" reproduction per U.S. copyright law is permitted. Citation is Levinson, William. 2000. ISO 9000 at the Front Line. Milwaukee, ASQ Quality Press
Preface: Why ISO 9000 for Frontline Workers?
This section answers managers and executives who ask, "Why should we teach our frontline workers about ISO 9000? Isn't ISO 9000 an activity for managers, engineers, and other professional staff people? Don't frontline workers have enough to do without worrying about ISO 9000?" This book shows why companies should involve frontline workers in ISO 9000, and it provides training and organizational tools for doing so. Here is a brief outline of the book's contents.
  • This Preface is primarily for managers, executives, engineers, and professionals who are thinking about training frontline workers in basic ISO 9000 principles.
  • The Introduction is for managers and professionals, and also for frontline workers who want to know more about the underlying goals and principles of quality management systems like ISO 9000.
  • Chapter 1, the Introduction for Students, is for frontline workers who will use the book. It explains how ISO 9000 can help them improve the system in which they work, in contrast to just getting the registration certificate for mere compliance with the standard.
  • Chapter 2 is the body of the material; it teaches the basics of ISO 9000. Readers should not worry about memorizing section numbers. The book will achieve its mission if readers absorb principles they can apply to their everyday work.
  • Chapter 3 handles the additional provisions of the QS-9000 automotive quality management system.
  • Appendix I, Guidelines for Instructors and Trainers, includes a pre-class questionnaire that encourages students to bring examples from their workplaces. These examples are often more meaningful than textbook exercises.
  • Appendix II, Activity Initiation and Tracking System, is an overview of a system that frontline workers can use to improve the system in which they work. Existing or commercially-available corrective action tracking systems are adaptable to this mission.
The Frontline Worker's Key Role in Organizational Success
The famous Russian field marshal Alexander V. Suvorov (1729-1800) could easily be the greatest military commander who ever lived. He never lost a battle and, like Alexander the Great, he led his soldiers to achieve what everyone else considered impossible. Among his principal "success secrets" was his recognition of the key role his enlisted soldiers, who were his frontline workers, could play in achieving success. Suvorov summarized this book's basic principle in his Science of Victory: "The principal weapon is the man. [1]  All the men must strive for victory and understand how to achieve it. 'Every soldier must understand his maneuver'" (Ossipov, 1945. Suvorov). General George S. Patton Jr., Suvorov's intellectual if not actual reincarnation, said essentially the same thing.

Intersil's Mountaintop plant puts its self-directed work teams in the inner circle of its organizational diagram (Wentz, in Levinson, 1998, p. 70), whose central focus is the plant goals. This diagram recognizes that teams of frontline workers are central to achievement of the plant's business objectives. The Society of Manufacturing Engineers' (SME's) Computer and Automated Systems Association's (CASA's) New Manufacturing Enterprise Wheel  places "people, teamwork, and organization" in its inner circle, whose central focus is the customer.

Management's Role
Many books focus on management's role in ISO 9000, or on surviving audits. Management plays a vital role in ISO 9000 by providing direction, resources, and vision. Managers must show commitment to the program to set the proper tone throughout the organization. The quality management system needs commitment and support from all levels of management, especially the highest levels, before it can be effective. "At any company, commitment to meeting ISO 9000 Standards must come from a high level of management, ideally from the chairman or president" (Greene, 1998). The company must also survive, or pass, the audit to get the certificate. Organizations must, however, look past management's role and "audit survival" to reap the greatest benefits.

Beyond Compliance: Taking ISO 9000 to the Next Step
This book takes ISO 9000 to the next step. "Once you have turned your company's managers into ISOholics, pumping up hourly associates becomes the next challenge. … Don't just tell employees about ISO 9000, empower them" (Suzik, 1998). Dana Corporation's Automotive Components Group is already doing this. "It's my dream to have everyone on the [shop] floor thinking like a manufacturing engineer. … The ISO standards are tools that enable workers to implement good ideas in a consistent fashion" (Greene, 1998).

Front-line production and service workers are closest to the job and often understand it better than anyone else. An engineer, for example, can use a computer-assisted drafting (CAD) system to design a product that works very well on paper. A machine tool, however, not a CAD system, has to make the product. An experienced machine tool operator might know the design is not manufacturable in a real factory. Hands-on experience positions the front-line worker to identify quality exposures  and even opportunities to improve quality.

"Frontline workers" means people who add direct value to a product or service. Everybody in the company (hopefully) adds value directly or indirectly, but it is usually hourly production or service workers who are closest to the work. The Introduction will discuss gemba, which is Japanese for "real place": the front-line work environment where the value-adding action really happens.

This book's purpose is to teach frontline workers the basic principles of the ISO 9000 quality standard. It will not go into detailed or highly specialized aspects of the standard. Instead, its mission is to teach the major principles that often affect everyday work in manufacturing and service operations.

This Book's Audience
Most books on ISO 9000 are for managers, quality professionals, and engineers. This book's basic purpose is to teach ISO 9000 to frontline workers. These are the people who work in gemba, the "real place," every day. The people who have their hands on the job every day are often in the best place to improve it. We specifically mean manufacturing workers, production operators, and service personnel.

This book is meant for interactive (classroom) training, but it is also usable for self-study. It is also usable in high schools and vocational schools. High school graduates who have training in ISO 9000 (and quality in general) should gain an advantage when seeking employment. To get the most from the book, though, high school students should have experience with a part-time job or a shop class. They will gain more from it if they can relate its contents to a manufacturing or a service activity. We have found that a course takes about 4 hours. A high school shop teacher or vocational teacher could therefore teach it in one week (assuming five 50 minute periods per week).

This book's purpose is to help frontline workers understand the basic principles of ISO 9000. It reinforces the principles by presenting short case studies and asking readers, "What (if anything) is wrong with this? How would you change it to strengthen the quality assurance system?" We cannot overemphasize the importance of interactive training, in which students apply the principles as soon as they learn them. Instructors should encourage frontline workers to apply the lessons to their jobs, and share job-related examples in class. The book will then achieve its mission: putting ISO 9000 on the organization's front line.

Frontline workers also are often in the best position to identify friction in the workplace. Friction is a useful catch-all term for chronic problems and inefficiencies that undermine productivity and quality. It refers, not to major or obvious problems, but to little everyday problems that people can "work around." People begin to ignore them because they can work around them, and these inefficiencies become part of the everyday job! Since ISO 9000 helps prevent problems, errors, and so on that undermine productivity, it plays a key role in suppressing friction— and suppression of friction is often a key factor in competitive success.

General Carl von Clausewitz' On War (1976) defines friction as, "…the force that makes the apparently easy so difficult… Countless minor incidents— the kind you can never really foresee— combine to lower the general level of performance, so that one always falls short of the intended goal." Tom Peters (1987) echoes this principle: "The accumulation of little items, each too 'trivial' to trouble the boss with, is a prime cause of miss-the-market delays."

Imai (1997) uses the Japanese word muda to refer to "waste," and it corresponds to friction. There are seven forms of muda: overproduction, inventory, rejects (rework and scrap), motion, processing, waiting, and transportation.  Just-In-Time (JIT) or synchronous flow manufacturing (SFM) address the first two forms of muda.  Excessive processing creates more chances for rework and scrap, and transportation creates chances for damage or deterioration. Neither transportation nor storage adds value to a product, and products with limited shelf lives can deteriorate in storage.  ISO 9000, in fact, addresses packaging, handling, storage, and delivery concerns. ...

Imai's muri, or strain, is a type of friction. When the job is difficult for the workers or the machinery, it's more likely that defects (or poor customer service) will occur [2].

Friction from a Frontline Perspective
It is useful to summarize the key concept of friction in a single sentence that will help frontline workers recognize it when they see it. Halpin (1966, 60-61) discusses the error cause removal (ECR) system for quality improvement, which was developed at General Electric. During the program's first month at GE, workers submitted 3000 ECRs, of which 90 percent could be addressed by the first-line supervisor. The solution often involves little or no cost.  Examples of ECRs included:
  • A poorly placed lamp
  • A left-handed operator had to use a machine that was set up for right-handed workers. (This is an ergonomics or human factors issue.)
  • A telephone was on the wrong side of a desk.
Halpin summarizes the key point: "They turned out to be the little things that get under a worker's skin but are never quite important enough to make him come to management for a change" (emphasis is mine). Compare this to General Clausewitz' and Tom Peters' descriptions in the preceding section. Halpin is saying exactly the same thing, and this one sentence is a good definition of friction for the workplace. Levinson and Tumbelty (1997, 24) also provide a one-sentence definition to help frontline workers identify friction. "If it's frustrating, a chronic annoyance, or a chronic inefficiency, it's friction."

Sample Discussion Questions
The book contains questions that illustrate ISO 9000 principles. Students are encouraged to bring examples from their workplaces, but the book provides examples from the history of quality management, everyday life, and even actual internal audits. Here are two examples from "Control of Measurement and Monitoring Devices."
  1. "Between 1907 and 1997, USDA procedures for inspecting meat and poultry in processing plants remained largely unchanged. Inspectors judged abnormalities and contamination on the basis of what they saw, felt, and smelled as carcasses rattled past on a chain or conveyor belt" ("Chicken: What you don't know can hurt you." 1998. Consumer Reports, March 1998, 12-18). What could go wrong with this inspection and testing method?
  2. In ancient times, people measured plots of land with ropes. Juran (1995, 46) cites the Talmud (Baba Bathra, V:89b), which says that one must not measure ground for one person during hot weather and for another when it is raining. Hot weather makes the rope dry and unyielding, while moisture makes it stretchable. What kind of standard is this?
    Answers (not all-inclusive, students might come up with others)
  1. The test is subjective; it relies on the inspector's judgment. Also, the human nose is not the best gage for borderline situations. While an obviously sick food inspector would probably stay out of the work area, an incipient cold could impair the inspector's sense of smell before the illness became apparent. That is, the "test instrument" could lose its sensitivity or go out of calibration. Also, the human nose can desensitize itself to certain odors. That is, continuous operation reduces the "test instrument's" sensitivity.
  2. The Talmud is actually citing a temperature and humidity standard. Temperature and humidity can affect the gage (in this case, the measuring rope).
[1] Suvorov used the gender-specific term because, of course, he was leading an all-male organization. Today we can write, "The principal asset is the frontline worker."
[2]Muri, or strain, was recognized more than 2000 years ago. The Chinese general Wu Ch'i's term "easy" refers to strain's opposite or absence. "If you know the difficult and easy ground, ground is easy for the horses. If fodder and grain are provided at the right times the horses will draw the chariots easily. If there is an abundance of axle grease the chariots can easily carry the men [preventive maintenance]; if their weapons are keen and their armor strong the men will fight with ease [reliable equipment]."
More on preventive maintenance: "Now horses must have peaceful places to rest. Their drink and fodder must be suitable and they must be regularly and properly fed. ... The hair of their manes and tails must be cut and their four hooves carefully trimmed. ..." (Griffith (translator), Sun Tzu's The Art of War, 1963, pp. 158-161).
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Item H0987. $10.00  ISBN 0-87389-397-2 Bulk discounts are available.

PowerPoint Slide Set

ISO 9000: Use it proactively to drive continuous improvement and cost reduction 171 PowerPoint slides (including Notes pages for handouts), $85.00
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What your participants will learn:

This 4-5 hour overview of ISO 9000 is designed primarily for manufacturing engineers, supervisors, foremen, and shop personnel. This course goes beyond a mere technical overview of the standard by explaining how its proper use is profitable, and it emphasizes the front-line worker's role in using ISO 9000 to improve the system in which he or she works. This makes ISO 9000 the organization's servant instead of its master, and a money-saver instead of a costly annoyance.

1.      What is ISO 9000?
  o       ISO 9000 is an international standard for quality management systems (QMSs)
  o       ISO 9000 is a moneymaker (as opposed to a costly annoyance) if used properly.
  o       ISO 9000:2000 is process-oriented
2.      The Front-line worker's role in ISO 9000
  o       The organization must empower the front-line worker through appropriate training and infrastructure (e.g. the ISO 9000 hiyari or scare report).
3.      Friction: the Hidden Enemy
  o       This also is known as muda or waste. It is often overlooked because people become used to working around it.
  o       ISO 9000 as a "proactive servant" that eliminates friction, instead of a "reactive master" to which the organization responds only when a required internal or third-party audit finds a problem.
4.      Provisions and Requirements
  o       How it works: "Say what you do, and do what you say."
  o       Document hierarchy
5.      Management Responsibility (ISO 9000:2000 section 5)
6.      Resource Management (6)
7.      Product Realization (7)
8.      Measurement, Analysis, and Improvement (8)

The course includes an in-depth discussion of closed-loop corrective action and closed-loop proactive action.

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