Audit Responses- Just the Facts Please

Jerry thought that the audit had gone pretty good.  Ralph had called several weeks before and setup the on-site audit.  Ralph is a Quality Engineer for one of Jerry’s largest customers, a privately owned company with an eccentric and visionary CEO.  Let’s call this company “CT”. Making a good impression could mean developing a good customer relationship and future business.

The Audit – The introductory meeting is well stocked with a continental breakfast and plenty of coffee.  As Quality Manager for Acme Corporation, Jerry begins the meeting by introducing the Management Team:  Amy, the Operations Director and her team- Jason, Production Manager, Amanda, Purchasing Manager, followed by the staff supporting CT’s product line- Josh, Process Engineer, and Ashley, Buyer/Planner.  The introductions go well, and shortly thereafter the management team exits cordially.  Ralph goes through the audit checklist and all the questions are pretty standard- so Ashley excuses herself since PO’s don’t place themselves and there doesn’t seem to be any questions related to on time delivery and there’ve been no requests to lower prices (which is astonishing by itself, but maybe this is going to be a good week after all, Ashley thinks to herself).

Ralph continues talking about how he used to be a Quality Manager at Satellites R Us (SRU) and how he used to manage the entire Southwest territory.  Satellites R Us had a really good Quality Management System, Acme’s was alright.  But nobody could really compare to SRU.  Jerry can tell that Ralph is more interested in talking about the “Good Old Days”, so he quietly excuses Josh.

Lunch is brought in to the conference room, Ralph insists that going out to lunch simply wastes precious audit time, and the Management Team comes in as the food arrives.  Lunch goes well, there’s some chit chat and pleasantries.  People quietly leave as Ralph goes back to his audit checklist.

“The paperwork review is almost done,” Ralph says, “however, I really like to see the production line when I visit a supplier.”  Jerry hastily calls Josh back in, Josh thought he was off the hook this time!, and Jerry and Josh escort Ralph out to the production line.

“We all wear safety glasses and shop coats when we enter the production area,” Jerry explains.  Everyone puts on the safety glasses, which are like clear sunglasses and light blue shop coats.  Ralph makes some random comments and asks to see some shop floor travelers.  The shop floor travelers have all the job order information, which steps have been completed, each step signed off, they even remembered the in-process quality check this time! (Will miracles never cease?)  After the successful spot check, Jerry hurries Ralph on to the next production area (no need to stay too long and give Ralph an opportunity to look at more shop travelers.)

“This is Shipping and Receiving,” Jerry introduces the next area. “Please stay within the lines marked on the floor, anyone entering the warehouse needs to wear steel-toed shoes and there’s a lot of forklift traffic in the pallet rack aisles”.

“This all looks pretty standard,” Ralph intones. “I certainly am glad to see so many Lean practices in place.  Visual management practices are one of the things that CT uses when evaluating supplier maturity.  It’s not as good as SRU was, but it’s better than many suppliers I’ve seen.”

Jerry, Josh, and Ralph head back to the conference room.  Ralph needs a few minutes to summarize his audit notes, and the Management Team comes back in to the conference room.  Ralph thanks everyone for how they’ve supported the audit and that he’ll be sending an audit report in a couple weeks (he would have provided it sooner, but Acme isn’t the only supplier Ralph is auditing and he has to confirm some supplier corrective action effectiveness checks at the next supplier…)

The Audit Report – that’s why Jerry was so surprised at the audit report.  It didn’t seem to have any relationship to what Ralph was saying during the audit or at the Closing Meeting.  Everyone (including Jerry) thought that things had gone pretty well.  Jerry has a sinking feeling in his stomach- humph. What happened? What to do next?

The Audit Response – Remember that the audit response is an interaction with the customer.  Treat it like you would any communication with the customer.  Keep things positive and solution oriented.  The customer is always right, but they may not really understand what they are asking for and whether it will really get them what they need.  Keeping an open dialogue whenever possible is key- this allows misunderstandings to be cleared up for both the customer and the supplier (the auditor and the auditee).  Gently remind the Auditor about the audit scope, and try to combine corrective actions when it makes sense to do so.  Jerry makes some notes to himself for the next customer audit- which is next month!-

  1. Always escort the Auditor when they leave the conference room.
  2. Make sure that everyone at Acme knows that there will be an audit.
  3. Sensitive materials are removed from conference room white boards, hallways, any area that the Auditor may have access to (and even areas that they may not have access to!)
  4. Continually ask the Auditor- “Do you have any concerns”, “Is there anything that we can follow up on for you”, “I’ll need to provide an update to the Operations Director tonight, what things stand out for you?”


Acme Organizational Chart

Fish Bones, Cause and Effect

The Ishikawa Diagram has been an old standby in Quality Management and other applications of structured problem solving for quite awhile.  You may know this technique by another name: the fishbone diagram, the cause and effect diagram, 6M’s, etc.

Let’s use a children’s story, the Pied Piper of Hamlin, to illustrate the use of this technique.  As the story goes, the good people of Hamlin were plagued with rats.  The rats were eating all the grain and food in town.  The angry people went to the Mayor, insisting that the Mayor do something about this horrible problem.  The Mayor had read the Global Quality Blog and remembered a problem solving technique, the Fishbone diagram.  The Mayor drew a horizontal line, like this:


The Mayor used the “Measurement, Materials, Methods, Manpower, Machines, and Mother Nature” categories (6M’s).  The Mayor also used’s reference page for the Cause and Effect diagram.


Luckily, the Mayor wasn’t left to do this alone.  The Townspeople were more than glad to help out.  They were tired of chasing rats out of their houses and finding rats in the grain bins.  So, the Mayor asked the Townspeople- “How many rats have you seen?”

The Townspeople answered, “Lots and lots of rats!”

The Mayor, replied- “Ok, more than 10?”

“Yes, hundreds of thousands of rats!”, exclaimed the Townspeople.

The Mayor added this to “Measurement” on the fishbone diagram.

The Townspeople and Mayor continued adding ideas for why there may be rats in Hamlin.  “There seem to be more rats in winter than in summer, but I never see a rat in town before harvest time.” “I wonder why there’d be more rats in winter?”

“I see them in the fields in summer and they’re not much trouble. Günter (my hound) scares them off pretty easily.”

“I’ve seen them run across the ropes to the pier from the river boats!”

“I saw one chew right through the floor boards of the grain silo.”

And on it went.  They added to each category of the fishbone diagram, and it looked like this:


“If the rats come for the grain, can’t we just get rid of the grain?”

The Miller is not too happy about this, “If farmers don’t bring grain to Hamlin, I won’t be able to make flour”.

“What! No flour?” said the Baker.  “If there isn’t any flour, then there’ll be no bread!”

“No bread! Then we’ll be as hungry as the rats!” said the Townspeople.

“Hold on, now” said the Mayor, “Let’s look at our drawing.”

They all look at the drawing and start talking about what may be bringing rats to Hamlin.  They circle the most important causes.


“Rats are always on the ships and barges, but the ships carry the most grain.”

“Well, there were holes in most of the grain sacks.  I saw a bunch of spilled grain on the ground.”

“Ok, if we all mend the sacks and baskets then maybe there won’t be spilled grain on the ground.”

And that’s what they did.  They also fixed the floor boards in the grain silos.

The End

Learn More:

-What may have really happened in Hamlin-

-Rat plagues of the Middle Ages-

-Support Wikipedia-

The Karvonen Formula

The Karvonen Formula is based on the fact that exercise training load can be expressed as a percentage of the heart rate reserve- the difference between your resting heart rate and your maximum heart rate.

The Polar website has a detailed definition of the Karvonen Formula: Heart Rate Reserve Calculation

I’ve found that the Karvonen Formula combined with the idea of Heart Rate Zones, determined by using the Karvonen Formula, are an effective way to manage exercise intensity.

Here’s a spreadsheet that you can download and modify for your own use: HR Zone Training Spreadsheet

If you have a heart rate monitor, or take your pulse, you can determine your resting heart rate and your maximum heart rate.  Alternatively, you can use these averages from based upon your age:  Target Heart Rates

These training concepts are detailed in Training for the New Alpinism.  Different sports require different types of exercise.  Endurance sports emphasize “lower” heart rates (but still above your resting heart rate) and sports emphasizing strength or short, fast bursts of speed emphasize “higher” heart rates (a.k.a. high intensity).  In addition to training for your desired sport, you need to identify your Achilles heel.

I enjoy hiking, scrambling, and skiing in the mountains but I spend my week at a sedentary desk job.  So, perhaps not surprisingly, I need to train for endurance with long easy distance (LED).

Quality Concepts – Plan, Do, Study, Act (The Shewhart Cycle)

  1. Plan:
    1. Identify your Goal
    2. Find a performance metric or key performance indicator
  2. Do: Measure the performance metric
  3. Study: Compare to Goal
  4. Act: Identify areas for improvement & repeat

Free spreadsheet!

Support Wikipedia!

Next blog: The Foundation & 5 Pillars

Last blog: Fitness First



Fitness First

The winter wonderland that is the Colorado Rockies in January is off to a slow start this year- the warm weather keeps melting the snow! This unusual weather pattern has made it easier to spend time outside.  I’m on week #7 of my base fitness training- emphasizing aerobic exercise.

The training log follows some recommendations from “Training for the New Alpinism” written by Steve House and Scott Johnston, Published by Patagonia Books.  The book is a wealth of information, correcting a lot of misinformation and hype that’s pretty common in fitness advertising.

I’ve used a training log before, even one based on “Training for the New Alpinism” before, but it seems to be more effective now.  You may wonder, “What’s the difference?” and “I thought this was a blog about Quality?”

I’ll answer the first question first, since the differences are easier to explain.  Some new elements in this training plan are: tracking # hours slept and grading the workout quality (A, B, C, etc.)  I’m tracking the number of days per week I’ve done significant activity (for example, jogging, hiking, or skiing).  While I knew that the number of hours slept would influence workout quality, I didn’t really believe it until I started to see the correlation between # hours slept and the workout grade.  Sleeping 7-8 hours a night is consistently correlated with workout grades A & B.  Sleeping less than 7 hours a night is consistently correlated with skipped workout days.  For right now, I’ll leave this as an observation.  Once I have 3 months of data, I’ll see if this is a statistically significant correlation or not.

The exercise training log is similar to a check sheet, a tally sheet or a run log kept in manufacturing.  The columns are days, the rows weeks.  Each day, I have a plan to exercise or to rest.  The goal is to consistently workout 5-6 days per week.  At week #7, I’m working out 4 days a week (on average).  The workout grade lets me judge whether to increase the training load or not.  Consistent workout grades of B or better indicate that the training load is appropriate for my current fitness level.

At this point, I can address the second question- “I thought this was a blog about Quality?”  It is a blog about Quality.  The exercise training log embodies two key Quality Management principles- (1) What is measured gets improved and (2) Only complete activities that help you accomplish your goal.

Next Blog – The Karvonen Formula.


The DIY Dilemma

Disclaimer: I’ve ruined a few watches trying to change the battery.  Tiny, fragile pieces- if you bend the leaf spring or loose a screw you are S.O.L.  Polar Elektro & Polar USA, the manufacturer of the FT1 heart rate monitor, does not recommend changing the battery, for these reasons I’m sure.  For the brave of heart- march on!

The DIY Dilemma is: can I do it better / cheaper / faster than a professional?

My experience has been- sometimes.  Here’s an example.  I’ve had the  Polar FT1 heart rate monitor for a few years.  I’ve replaced the chest strap, 6 months later I started getting the low battery indicator on the watch and it gave up the ghost a few months after that.

I looked into getting the battery changed by a Polar Service Center- the price is pretty reasonable at $19.99.  The problem was, I didn’t want to ship the watch to a regional service center.  I was pretty surprised to find out that in one of the outdoor recreation meccas in the U.S.A. – namely Boulder, Colorado – that we don’t have a service center.  The service centers are predominantly located on the West Coast, in the Great Lakes Region, and on the East Coast.

Not wanting to ship the watch to a service center, wait for it to be repaired and then returned, I decided to tackle it myself.

Problem #1- How to remove the back of the watch? It turns out that the watch back is held in place by very small, specialized screws requiring a fairly uncommon type of screw driver to remove.

Solution #1- A quick search on Amazon and I located a set of tools for changing smartphone screens and batteries.  I’m an Amazon Prime member, so there were no shipping costs.  The tool set was $9.88.

Problem #2 – Getting a replacement battery.

Solution #2 – The watch uses a coin type battery, so it was pretty easy to go to Walgreen’s and pick up a replacement.  I had to buy a pack of 2 batteries- Walgreen’s was sold out of the single packs.  Cost: $7.99.

Cost of tools & materials – $9.88 + $7.99 = $17.87

Did I achieve the DIY goals of better / cheaper / faster than a professional?

Did I do better? No extra pieces and the watch turned on. So, the same.

Did I do it cheaper? A little bit: $19.99 – $17.87 = $2.12

Did I do it faster? Yes! I ordered the tools on 12/21, they arrived 12/24, battery replaced on 12/25.  5 days – no shipping charges.

So, I enjoy the challenge of fixing things.  I saved some time, a hand full of change, and in 2 years I’ll be able to change the battery when it runs out of charge.

I do have the satisfaction of a job well done.

What’s your DIY story?