Oct 24, 2002

Measuring Quality


Performance measurements are critical to any business
organization. No management system can hope to succeed without the proper metrics
in place. However, for many people these measurements still are poorly

Performance tools are designed to help companies/utilities
improve quality and increase customer satisfaction. (For a look at how one
company used performance tools to rebound and revitalize its business, turn to
page 14.)

There are three major quality initiatives aimed at achieving
goals. The Malcolm Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence, ISO 9001:2000
and Six Sigma offer a different emphasis to help organizations improve
performance and increase customer satisfaction.

Conferred by the U.S. Department of Commerce through the
National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Baldrige Award focuses on
excellence in performance and productivity. The criteria measures seven
components required for quality, productivity and success: leadership,
strategic planning, customer and market focus, information and analysis, human
resources, process management and business results.

ISO 9001:2000 concentrates on fixing quality system defects
and product/service nonconformities. The standard specifies requirements for a
quality management system for any organization that needs to demonstrate its
ability to consistently provide product that meets customer and applicable regulatory
requirements and aims to enhance customer satisfaction.

The standard is based on eight quality management
principles: customer focus, leadership, involvement of people, process
approach, system approach to management, continual improvement, factual approach
to decision making and mutually beneficial supplier relationships.

Six Sigma is a structured, data-driven methodology for
eliminating defects, waste or quality control problems. Its methodology is
based on the combination of established statistical quality control techniques,
data analysis methods and the systematic training of all personnel at every
level in the organization in the activity or process targeted by Six Sigma.

Some spectacular Six Sigma success stories have been well
documented. The technique basically identifies an area where there is a
problem, measures it, works out why there is a problem and then fixes it.

In 2000, Operations Management International, Inc. (OMI)
became the first company in the water/wastewater sector to earn the Malcolm
Baldrige National Quality Award. OMI has been dedicated to a culture of
excellence. Their slogan is "obsessed with quality."

While these approaches to quality are different, they can be
compatible. An organization's needs should drive the choice. More information
on these techniques can be found at www.quality

About the author

Bill Swichtenberg is Editorial Director. He can be reached at [email protected].