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Week of 9 October 2017: When you can't figure out how to fix your quality

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Wait a minute--you did not know your quality was broken? Your product or service quality is always broken. It is always broken because quality is a moving target. What may have been the best quality among your peers last month may send you to the bottom of the heap this month.

Consider automobiles. Compare what might be perceived as the highest quality automobile of 1960, perhaps a Cadillac, Lincoln or Mercedes. Compare that to a run of the lot Hyundai today. No comparison--the Hyundai will beat the old marquee brands hands down.

The problem we face in the pulp and paper world is that the customer expectations seem to change so slowly. It is hard to make step changes in markets that move glacially when it comes to improvements--unless you make them move. For instance, if you sell paper, what would happen if you adopted a system of customer notification of the status of their orders that rivaled Amazon's near constant reporting on the last $10 item I bought from them? What if you told the customer when their order went to your shipping-out warehouse (at the same time sending them the measured specifications results on the order) and then kept up a constant stream of information to them until the order reaches their docks? Would that not give you an advantage over the competition?


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Or, perhaps you rent equipment to mills to be used on shutdowns. What might happen if you gave your prospects and customers a continuous stream of data about the equipment available, special pricing, delivery and pickup status, just as my rental car provider does for me?

And if you can't think of anything else to do about quality, do these things. First--look at your competition. What are they doing? Are you at least keeping up with them? Second--ask your prospects and clients what they want in the way of better quality in your field. Be prepared to give them some ideas just in case they are not very creative. And--have a human being call them--we all get too many emails, too many robocalls wanting to know our opinions. This last idea can turn into a selling opportunity, too.

So, the first step is to assume your quality is broken. The second step is to see what your competitors are doing. And the third step is to survey prospects and clients--do something novel, ask them what they would like to have.


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How often should you do all of this? At least once per year in a business like ours. In more dynamic businesses, more often.

These principles apply to your safety program, too. For instance, one of the latest safety innovations I have seen is this. Keep a supply of tampons in all your safety kit locations. What are they for? They are perfect for keeping an individual from "bleeding out" in the case of a puncture wound. The military figured this out years ago. This works great for gunshot wounds. There is always something new you can do to improve the quality of your safety program.

Be safe and we will talk next week.


Nip Impressions has been honored for Editorial Excellence by winning a Tabbie Award!


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