It was a beautiful spring morning but the traffic was horrific on HWY101 so I had to hurry. I didn’t have time to enjoy the ride even though I had pulled back the rag top on my little red Miata. The traffic was doing its snaking thing. Moving fast for a half mile then suddenly stopping. I didn’t understand why we all couldn’t just accelerate at the same time all pushing on the pedal at once and stop this infernal snaking. It appeared every hill in the road caused someone up there to brake as they were afraid to top it without first stopping and easing over. I knew just ahead we’d reach the last hill and a valley would put an end to this traffic dance. Not long after topping the hill and getting up to a respectable speed it happened. This car startled me passing on the median going 90 to nothing. I watched it weave through traffic never once seeing its brake lights. All of a sudden it cut off a white van appearing to nick the front bumper. The driver of the van must have been as startled as me because he swerved and the van toppled. As it skidded all hell broke loose. An enormous amount of dust and smoke just blew cars off the road in every direction. I pulled my car to the side of the road jumped out and raced to the scene. That morning I reset three broken bones, performed a tracheotomy, and helped a woman give birth and oh yes among the wreckage I found a nuclear device that I disarmed before HASMAT arrived. I had to, the countdown was almost completed!
At least that’s the excuse I used with the technology group that morning as to why I was a few minutes late. Almost in disbelief they asked how I had accomplished this unbelievable feat. I took out my cell phone, got on the internet and showed them the Automated Reasoning Technology software website. With this software they would be able to perform these same actions flawlessly.
But I told them that they would ultimately face much more dangerous situations. I explained that every day a couple billion people go to work, some performing complicated tasks that will directly affect each of our lives. Decisions will be made by people on our behalf in government, healthcare, pharmaceutical and transportation businesses all requiring faultless work to be performed if we’re to remain healthy. There are plenty of examples of what can happen when things go wrong. How will they be able to accomplish it?
One example is the reduction of counterfeit materials through the use of UID’s (Universal Identification Databases). Counterfeit materials are being uncovered in precarious places like aircraft landing gears, etc. Today there are various databases being setup by entities such at the Department of Defense in the US, NATO in Europe and others that can identify, catalogue and track all materials and equipment that is worthy of tracing. When finished anyone will have the ability to scan in a traceable item and see immediately what it’s supposed to be, who made it, its genealogy and where it supposedly resides.
Along with this capability, an Automated Reasoning Technology application can use multimedia presentations to explain where this material is used, provide expert step by step guidance on installing it, etc. This guidance will not just be about identifying and using the proper tools and materials. The application will also utilize an expert knowledgebase to provide directions on what to do in real-time, point of activity guidance with feedback, on each step in whatever needs to be accomplished. When equipment or tools are to be used the application will first ascertain that they are the right tools for the job and in proper working order if required. If not the application will explain what tool is required and where the nearest ones are. At the most appropriate steps the application will verify that those steps taken thus far were completed successfully.
If problems arise during verification or during the completion of an activity on an operational step the application will select the best alternative action that should be taken and guide the person through those activities to assure the work is completed successfully and most efficiently.
To accomplish this a change in the traditional approach with traditional technology and methodology is required. By and large technology companies and consultants alike are marketing and promoting solutions that unknowingly perpetuate the problem while incidentally lining their pockets. This statement may sound odd especially given recent history which would indicate that technology has been a positive influence on quality and productivity improvement. Since the 1970s, companies have relied upon information technology to run or assist with key business functions. Older technologies collected data while analysis remained a manual task. Just as these systems were a major improvement over manual data collection methods, the current solutions are light years ahead of previous information technologies. Today’s data warehousing systems provide complex, versatile, multidimensional time series analysis, rather than just data collection and viewing. This has given rise to a couple of major problems.
First, organizations are now drowning in data and will succeed only to the extent that they are able to harness it to make better, more informed decisions (Business Intelligence Portal). The solution proposed by big technology companies? Data warehouse appliances, software designed to handle complex analyses on terabytes of data are a fundamental new way of enabling companies to conduct in-depth analyses of this data and leverage the important trends and information contained within it. At least that’s the scenario used to promote these latest offerings. Additionally, software is being promoted that supposedly takes the next step of automatically acting on the data analysis. Performance management is just one application that’s based upon managing, motivating, rewarding and developing employees to improve performance and positively impact business results with the analysis. Performance Management – Catching the Wave
Second, in the CFO magazine article “Burn Down the Data Warehouse” author John Goff reports that about 30% of the data stored in these warehouses is bad. He estimated the resulting costs at over $600 billion.
Even if the data were 100% correct there is a fundamental flaw in approach that thanks to recent technology improvements can be overcome. The traditional approach to improving quality has been CAPA (Corrective Action Preventive Action). CAPA programs are mandated for government contracts and most companies in the private sector develop similar programs. All of these programs have at least one thing in common. They are engaged at the recognition of a problem. This means the problem already exists and a costly solution must be developed to counteract it and its affects. As you might imagine this task can be especially daunting if you’ve never seen the problem before or are unfamiliar with the specific technology associated with the problem. The fact is, most companies spend between 40% to 60% of their resources on efforts aimed at recognizing, collecting, organizing, analyzing, reporting, monitoring and fixing situations…And guess what, a 2009 research study from Axendia says only 6% of problems handled in this manner are successfully eliminated.
While software corporations are promoting Data Warehouses, Intelligence portals, Performance Management applications, etc. the real solution doesn’t lie in this technology. What’s wrong with this structure? It always starts with a problem! In other words, it’s always after the fact. As the flat world approaches, organizations that are able to bypass this structure will have a major competitive advantage.
In the traditional quality approach the methodology assumes we know nothing about the problem and need to gather information, usually starting with the customer. Only after the problem becomes frequent enough to be costly and worth the time to expend the resources needed to research a root cause will an attempt be made to fix it. While the traditional approach assumes ignorance the new approach assumes, if you will, WISDOM (the ability to use knowledge and understanding successfully to solve problems, avoid or avert dangers, attain certain goals, or counsel others in doing so. It is the opposite of foolishness, stupidity, and madness, with which it is often contrasted).
Are most quality problems difficult to resolve? No, the vast majority of problems are caused by omissions or mistakes at the point of activity. These problems can be avoided by locking down the work process and verifying work activities to business rules, regulations, specifications, etc. in real-time at the point of activity. What about problems caused by suppliers or generated in other parts of the supply chain? No matter where the problem is created there is almost always someone in the extended supply chain that understands the problem and knows the solution. Harnessing that knowledge and making it available to the worker in real-time is the solution I’m proposing. Fortunately the technology now exists that allows the prevention of problems.