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Thirteen Paths to a Quality Workplace

QUALITY is a lot like puppies and motherhood. All three are something we know we are supposed to love. But sometimes our picture of quality is warm and fuzzy like puppies, instead of being at least as mature and clear thinking as the moms who raised us.

In some circles (no, not in quality circles), the term is discussed without any specific means of measuring quality. Sure, our industry has companies that have successfully completed the QS or ISO processes. Others are Qualified Vehicle Modifiers. But many of us could benefit from transforming our general ideas about quality into some specific behaviors and performance guidelines.

The National Truck Equipment Association has been developing some objective quality standards for years. The association's Gold Star program, announced at its convention a decade ago, was an attempt to establish performance standards for truck equipment shops. For a number of reasons, NTEA found it impractical to “certify” that entire companies comply with these standards. However, the association has shown that certification for individual mechanics is not only feasible but successful.

NTEA has been working with the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) to develop an objective way to test the abilities of technicians in truck equipment shops. This required a completely different set of tests from that given to the typical ASE shop, one that took roughly five years to develop. A joint effort between ASE and truck equipment industry volunteers produced one separate test on each of these three areas: basic truck equipment installation, electrical systems, and hydraulics. After five years of development, NTEA began offering the tests to truck equipment technicians 18 months ago.

According to Jim Carney, executive director, the tests provide a good way to train shop personnel. Few individuals are able to pass the test without studying, he says. Just the process of preparing for the ASE certification makes for more knowledgeable, more professional technicians.

By passing all three tests, an individual is certified as a master truck equipment technician. Shops that employ such technicians are able to post the same ASE sign on the front of their building that consumers have grown to know when searching for a shop to service their automobiles.

Less formally, other companies are employing their own methods to help themselves translate “quality” into terms management and employees can visualize. For example, Don Tuttle with Ameri-Tech Equipment Company in Casper, Wyoming, recently sent us his list of 13 ideas to insure quality. The list, Tuttle says, “really helped us clean up our act. It has made a big difference. We hardly ever have equipment brought back now.”

Here is Tuttle's list of ways to achieve a quality workplace:

  • Speak to the customer in a way that makes him feel important and that his input is appreciated.

  • Respond to the customer's needs no matter how meaningless or ridiculous they may seem.

  • Call the customer back when you say you will.

  • Have the job done when you say you will, regardless of who you are in the company — including the boss.

  • Keep your work area clean. Nobody likes a junkyard, especially the customer.

  • Be proud of yourself, where you work, the products you sell, and the work you turn out. Why speak negatively?

  • Help others in the workplace attain perfection, no matter what their position in the company. Perfection can only be attained through dedicated teamwork.

  • Cooperate with other departments. If you don't like how other departments operate, it is up to you to submit suggestions to that department. But remember, they might do the same to you.

  • Quality means listening to the problems of others.

  • Quality means checking and rechecking work to make sure it is done properly.

  • Quality means having others check your work to see that nuts, bolts, hose ends, wheel nuts, and other items are tight and in place.

  • Quality is insuring that the products the company turns out are clean inside and out. No greasy hand-prints.

  • Quality means completing the job in a timely manner and as instructed.

As most in this industry would agree, customer expectation levels are becoming increasingly stringent — one of many ways the market is changing. He sums it up with this axiom: “When the rate of change outside our company exceeds the rate of change inside our company, we are in trouble.”

Quality. It's something everyone has come to appreciate. PS: Happy Mother's Day, Mom.

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