Sunday, March 22, 2020

Working From Home: Inexpensive Desk

Working From Home: Inexpensive Desk

I work at a laptop in my home. A couple years ago, I developed back pain that was aggravated by excessive sitting. My mobile stand up desk has been the solution to working at a desk without back discomfort.

It was a beautiful day so I moved my office outside!

A bonus feature of this particular desk is the wheels allow it to be moved around the house and out on the deck. Check out the link by clicking the Amazon advertisement below. Let me know what you think in the comments.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Platform Shifts on LinkedIn

Social media platforms are subject to change. Rules on content and timeline algorithms are regularly evolving. As Social Media Coordinator for a large Raleigh-Durham-Research Triangle Park professional organization since 2014, I've seen a few shifts on LinkedIn that affect content effectiveness.

Pin to the Top

This organization has over 1000 members on its LinkedIn group. Under the current platform, any member can post to the group timeline. In the past, I could post an event and pin it to the top of the group's LinkedIn page. This made the event very visible. The "pin to the top" feature is no longer available. Since the top post is now the most recent post, I have to repost an important event to keep it "at the top" in the most visible position. 

Previously, posts could be labeled as promotional and appear in an alternative timeline. This way they did not detract from the organization's event. This feature was eliminated.

An option is to delete new posts which I hesitate to do unless the post is completely irrelevant to the group's interests. I've contacted a frequent poster who is promoting his Texas-based podcast and asked he hold up on posts until our annual conference is over. I wanted to make sure the conference post stayed "at the top."

Email Promotion

Also in the past, posts were promoted on emails to group members. If I wanted to publicize an event, I could post on LinkedIn and all group members would receive an email. That feature was eliminated. It may have created too much email.

New Member Requests

New member requests are held up for manager review. When I first started administrating our LinkedIn group, new member requests were automatically approved. Member request approval isn't necessarily a bad thing, but, when group managers are busy, membership reviews could be delayed.


Changes in LinkedIn that affect me as a group manager:

1. No pin to the top feature

2. No emails communicating group post topics

3. Changes in new member requests

Like many other things, nothing is certain but change. Have you noticed these changes on LinkedIn? If so, how do they affect you?

Friday, June 1, 2018

Add Quality to Your Communication by Verification

While we were in church recently, my son received 3 emails from me. It was about 10:30 am on May 20. We thought the emails must have been delayed in an iPad outbox. The strange thing was these emails were dated May 16, May 4, and April 29. April 29th!

Actually they were not sent through iPad email. They were written and sent using the Gmail app on my iPad.

Gmail is the backbone of my communication system. I have all my business and personal emails organized in folders by subject. The idea that some emails are not delivered or delivered late is very unsettling.

Three weeks ago, my father left a voice mail on my phone. Because of the time of day, I knew it was him, and expected his message. Much to my surprise my iPhone showed not one, but 3 "new" voice messages. His message from that day (May 3rd), his  message from March, and a business message from April. Needless to say, I was mortified that I thought a business contact ignored my call and didn't return it. In fact, she did call and leave a message.

I have had some discussion with my mobile service provider to see if this can be avoided in the future.

Lastly, in April my brother sent me a text with order information. I didn't get it at all so after some back and forth, he resent it.

I have gone through all this just to point out that when you send an email, or text, or even leave a phone message, one cannot assume that communication was received. I have just shown serious examples of system failures.

What can we do to make sure important information is received? With emails, it is helpful if the receiver responds in some way. Just a "got it" will work. Same with a text. A smiley emoji or "thanks."  If a voice message goes unanswered, call again or send a follow-up email or text.

And if you see the person, "Hi! Did you get my email?"

This article originally appeared on my Web Technology blog here.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Making Your Home "Smart" with the Internet of Things

Back in June 2015, I wrote about the Internet of Things for ASQ (American Society of Quality). Two years have passed and devices that manage technology in our homes are becoming more commonplace. The term "smart home" describes the control and automation of lighting, heating, air conditioning, security, and appliances.

Honeywell Device for Detecting Leaks

Leak detection prevents water damage
The device shown above serves as a leak detector. The wire is a sensor for moisture. The box is a WiFi interface. This device can be placed near a water heater or washing machine. In the case of a leak, an email is sent to the owner.

Email Advising of Leak

Controlling temperature from a phone or other mobile device
More and more people are replacing their thermostats with models that connect to the internet via WiFi and can be controlled through an app on a mobile device. In this way, the home temperature can be checked and adjusted remotely.

WiFi Thermostat

One use is to raise the air conditioning setting while out of town. Once you are on your way home, you can remotely lower the setting so the home temperature will be comfortable when you arrive.

Mobile Phone App Screen Controlling Thermostat
Tablet App Screen Controlling Thermostat

Home security
Many internet of things in the home improve security. Lights and televisions can be turned on and off while on vacation so the home looks occupied. Cameras can be installed inside and out, and viewed on a device from another location (see screenshot below).
Tablet App Showing Camera Views of Business

An internet-enabled doorbell with camera allows the homeowner to respond by voice to someone at the front door even when they're in another location. This uses an app on a mobile device.

New home construction offers smart home technology. The addition of internet-enabled devices to older homes is being simplified to do-it-yourself home improvement projects.

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Saturday, July 8, 2017

Industry 4.0: How Quality Professionals Can Stay Relevant

Stay Relevant by Studying Aspects of Industry 4.0

Some aspects of Industry 4.0 are automation, data exchange, the internet of things, cloud computing, cybersecurity, and computer innovations.

Quality professionals need to stay relevant. By relevant, I mean they need to understand these aspects on a general level and stay updated on technical applications and systems that interconnect, exchange data, and prompt autonomous decisions in their industries.

In some cases, this understanding is no further away than a Youtube video. The internet has made staying technically relevant easier. The quality professional should take advantage of all in-company resources as well as local chapter and national ASQ educational opportunities. If you want to request speakers on new technology, reach out to chapter leadership. If you have Industry 4.0 experience, offer to exchange information in the form of a talk or tour with your local chapter membership.

Part of this article appeared in ASQ's July 2017 Roundtable discussion.
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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Small Business Cybersecurity: The People Connection

Data from 2015 shows that 20% of U.S. businesses hacked are small with less than 250 employees. 60% of those fail after the attack. For small and medium-sized businesses, the average cost of a data breach is $21,000.

In 2016 an accountant was hacked and financial information and social security numbers from accounts were stolen. By the time the breach was discovered, a false return had been filed with the IRS in my family's name.

Cyber criminals or hackers use stolen information to obtain money. Sometimes they use the data, but often it is sold to other criminals. With names and social security numbers, criminals can file fraudulent claims for tax refunds.

Hackers also steal bank account information, credit and debit card numbers and authentication details, personal information, medical records, trademark information, trade secrets and others. A list of names, phone numbers, and addresses can be used by IRS scammers. Those criminals make threats and convince people to wire money or mail debit cards.

Preventing business cybercrime requires several levels of defense. Employee internet habits are one layer of cybercrime security that should be addressed. Since downloads of software are one of the primary causes of virus attacks, employee internet policies need to be solid and well communicated.

Steps to prevent cybercrime caused by employee behavior:

Company policies

Robust and clear company policies need to be written, distributed, and updated regularly.
These policies would cover the following areas:
  • email and internet use
  • protecting confidential information
  • policy communication and updates

Security training

Periodic meetings should be held to discuss security issues and concerns. Use recent news reports and videos to highlight different security concerns. Be clear about new threats from cyber crime and security changes to address those threats. Employees should be educated to be alert to phishing emails and suspicious attachments or links. A cybersecurity manager should be named who can respond to employee questions in a timely manner. This person should also insure policies are written, updated, and communicated.

Control Access

Limit administrative and password access. Regularly change passwords and establish limiting access to levels of data where possible. When employees are terminated, immediate changes in network access should be made.

Protecting organizations from cybercrime is a complex issue. Employee internet behavior is one area that should be managed to keep business information secure.

A cybersecurity tip sheet for small businesses by the Department of Homeland Security can be found here.

This article originally appeared on my Web Technology blog which can be found here.

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Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Boomer Generation Spends More Time Viewing Content than Others

If you're in the business of preparing web content, it helps to know your audience. It may be surprising to learn that the generation known as baby boomers
spends more time consuming content than millennials or generation xers. The 2015 United States census reports a population of 74.9 million boomers.

Generations (Years vary slightly with source)

In some ways, boomers view web content the same as others. This means:

  • Facebook is the top platform for sharing content (64%)
  • Videos and images are shared more than other content
  • Article length of 300 words is most preferred
  • Most favorite content types are:
  1. Blog articles
  2. Images
  4. Ebooks
  5. Reviews 

Web viewing habits unique to boomers are:

  • More content viewed between 9-11:59 a.m. 
  • Most common internet access through desktops and laptops
  • Top subjects viewed:
  1. Entertainment 19%
  2. World News    18%
  3. Politics            13% 
  4. Healthy Living  9%
  •  Least favorite content types are:
  1. Memes*
  2. Webinars
  3. Flipbooks
  4. Slideshares
  5. White papers

Keep the above viewing habits in mind when sharing information with the boomer demographic. As a boomer, most of the stats above track my habits. I consume more content during the day than at night. I use both a laptop and desktop computer for ease-of-use. I check social media on my iPad and post tweets with photos from my phone. I veer from the demographic by using Twitter more than Facebook. Healthy living, nature and business are my trending topics. What about you? Do the figures above track with your internet use? Please let me know with a comment below.

Boomer viewing habits were extracted from data presented by Red Website Design here. In Financial Facts about Boomer Power, I explore the financial power of the boomer demographic. Please click the italicized title to view.

*meme- humorous video, image, or text that is shared rapidly via internet

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

ASQ Raleigh Members Tour Caterpillar's Plant in Clayton, NC

ASQ Raleigh Members at Caterpillar Plant in Clayton NC

Last month, ASQ Raleigh members toured Caterpillar's Clayton plant where wheel loaders are assembled. The plant was an impressive example of forward-thinking and progressive manufacturing. Gone were the loud noises, gas fumes, and beeping forklifts one expects in a truck factory.

The shift hummed along quietly. Digital "scoreboards" hung from the ceiling with statistics on the day's progress towards manufacturing goals. Work stations were ergonomically arranged to the worker's height to avoid muscle strains. Because the truck body moves along the assembly line on an electric track there are little or no fumes in the building. Promotions for safety and quality were abundant in the tidy work areas. The line is paused for quality meetings where all employees attend.

Headsets dialed into our tour guide's voice allowed clear communication. I've attended tours where it was difficult to hear the guide over machinery.

The Clayton facility was re-purposed years ago from a circuit board manufacturing plant. In our throwaway society, it is commendable anytime manufacturing recycles a facility. This location also boasts test tracks and an engineering center.

ASQ Raleigh very much appreciates the time and energy extended by the visitor care team at Caterpillar.

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Friday, November 4, 2016

ASQ Raleigh Members Volunteer at Food Bank

ASQ Raleigh Members Prepare to Sort Eggs

Since 2005, members of ASQ Raleigh have volunteered on Saturday mornings once a month to support the Food Bank of Central and Eastern Carolina.

Members meet at 9 AM for sign in and Food Bank staff instruction. Jobs are completed assembly line style to prepare food for distribution from a central warehouse to smaller facilities.

The distribution of fruits and vegetables are an important Food Bank initiative. These foods are received in bulk and sorted into family-sized containers by volunteers. ASQ Raleigh members have processed eggs, grape tomatoes, potatoes and beans.

For each Food Bank event, 8-12 members sign up on ASQ Raleigh's Eventbrite post committing to work on a specific Saturday morning. Other social and employer groups from the  Raleigh-Durham area as well as individual volunteers gather on the loading dock and are given instructions. The Food Bank staff is well prepared for the volunteers, and massive amounts of food are handled in the short 3-hour shift. At the end of the work shift, Food Bank staff calculate the work completed in terms of meals. Volunteers leave feeling good for their contribution in helping the area's hungry population.

Volunteers Listen to Instructions from Food Bank Staff

The Food Bank of Central and Eastern Carolina was established in 1980. The food warehouses where ASQ Members volunteer support sister agencies and smaller distribution centers in a network covering 34 North Carolina counties to disburse food as quickly and efficiently as possible. In the 2014-2015 fiscal year 57.2 million pounds of food and non-food supplies were distributed.

In October 2016, Hurricane Matthew caused massive flooding in North Carolina. Many people had to leave their homes. At the time of this writing, many homes are still uninhabitable. The food needs of Eastern North Carolina are greater than usual because of the devastation from this natural disaster. Donated groceries are sorted into family boxes for flood victims. Extra sessions at the Food Bank are helping. In 2 hours, 9 volunteers and staff packed the equivalent of 3368 meals.

Click here for the Food Bank of Central and Eastern Carolina website

This article was written for posting on ASQ's Social Responsibility Technical Committee's LinkedIn page.


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Saturday, October 29, 2016

Book Review: Eat to Cheat Dementia

Eat to Cheat Dementia by Ngaire Hobbins explains the effect of diet and exercise on dementia. Dementia is the abnormal decline in thinking processes. Alzheimer's disease is a common type of dementia.

Neurotransmitters form a chemical communication pathway between nerve cells. The brain's system of neurotransmitters is unique and manufactured in the brain. The required components of amino acids (proteins), vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fatty acids must be available for assembly. Thus the influence of diet on the brain is critical.

Muscles play an important part in supplying the brain with fuel. When we sleep or between meals, the brain still requires fuel to run the body. Muscles serve as a reservoir for this fuel (proteins). As we age, the condition of our muscles becomes critical. Bouncing back and resuming exercise after illness becomes even more important.

Blood Flow
The bloodstream carries nutrients and waste materials throughout the body. Any blood flow restriction can affect brain health. Some factors are: high cholesterol, obesity, and high blood pressure. Dietary substances like alcohol and caffeine also affect blood flow.

This book offers advice and explanations for those wishing to stack the deck against a dementia diagnosis as well as those seeking a better lifestyle with that diagnosis. In her own words, Ngaire Hobbins provides an easy read from "scientific gobbledygook." This book has a wealth of helpful information and I highly recommend it.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Voice of the Customer

ASQ's Quality Mission

The customer is the driving force of organizations. Your customer may be a manufacturing plant half way around the world or a department down the hall. Nevertheless, without customers to require goods or services, organizations would not exist.

The Voice of the Customer or VOC is the customer’s requirements for goods or services. It is their description of what they need. It is of huge importance. The VOC should be used by the quality professional to establish quality parameters within which to produce the goods or services.

Use face-to-face meetings to gather VOC standards

The best way to gather Voice of the Customer standards is through face-to-face meetings followed up by written and verified specifications. In my experience, the earlier the quality professional is involved in communication with the customer, the better. A relationship is built so an exchange of quality data can flow back and forth. This foundation of trust and professionalism creates a basis for quality improvement and superior products and services.

Part of this article appeared in ASQ's April 2016 Roundtable discussion.
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Monday, February 29, 2016

Use Baldrige Performance Excellence Program to Meet ISO 9001:2015 Challenges

Terry Burns Of Burns & Associates of Richmond, Virginia recently presented "What's all the fuss about ISO 9001:2015?" to ASQ Raleigh.

Mr. Burns made a case for using the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program for meeting the new ISO 9001:2015 requirements. The Baldrige Excellence Builder is available in a free download here.

The Baldrige documents can offer direction in understanding the new standard by offering explanations of similar clauses.

ISO certified organizations have 3 years to transition to the new 2015 standard. Some of the changes are:

  • New Annex SL Format

  • 10 Clauses (from 8)

  • More easily lines up with other standards

  • "Risk-based" language replaces "preventative action"

  • Inclusion of Planning to achieve quality objectives

  • New Quality System Management model (Leadership is center)

  • Services added to Products (before it was implied)

  • Quality Manual no longer required (with some exceptions)

  • Audit top management to insure hands on involvement - drive quality management to top levels

  • Process focused

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Saturday, January 2, 2016

Quality Improvement Blog: 5 Most Read Articles of 2015

In order of popularity, the most read articles of 2015 (with links) are:

  1. Ways I Use Lean Thinking at Home

  2. 7 Practical Ways I Use Internet Technology at Home

  3. Communication from 3 Sources Encourages Studies in STEM Subjects

  4. Managing the Quality of Internet-linked Products

  5. How Company Culture Relates to Quality

I look forward to writing more articles on the subject of Quality Improvement. ASQ's Influential Voices program is changing, and they will not be assigning monthly article topics. I'll draw inspiration for future articles from local chapter activities and workplace situations. Thanks for reading my articles.

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Credits: Graphics produced by the author using Adobe Illustrator
© 2016 All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Defeat Barriers to a Successful Quality Culture

Once upon a time there was a small metal shop producing parts for the automotive industry. Although a quality system was in place, employee turnover was high and profitability was down. Management blamed employees; employees blamed management. What approach could best address cultural barriers between management and employees to strengthen a culture of quality?

For December's ASQ Influential Voices guest post, Luciana Paulise has written Facing Cultural Barriers by Leaders to Strengthen a Culture of Quality about the case described above. Ms. Paulise explains cultural changes made to turn plant performance around, and details can be found at the link above. Below I'll summarize.

4 Helpful Changes to Improve Quality Culture:

1 - Unite middle managers with common goals to promote cooperation and a healthy company.

2 - Train corporate leaders to understand process variation and to correctly identify problems.

3 - Train leaders to make conclusions based on data instead of hunches or previous experiences.

4 - Center on understanding and respecting people to create a workplace that promotes cooperation to reach goals.

The 2 minute ASQ video below describes the role of a culture of quality in business success.

In August, Influential Voices wrote about company cultures and how they affect quality. My article, How Company Culture Relates to Quality, can be found here.

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Credits: Graphics produced by the author using Adobe Illustrator
© 2016 All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Corporate Communication: 5 Keys to Success

For November's Influential Voices blog topic, Dr. Suresh Gettala of ASQ India, has written Talking To the C-Suite About Quality. He offers 5 helpful approaches in communication with the C-Suite. They are summarized below. Please refer to the full article (link above) for details.

C-Suite is a term for the corporate leaders in an organization.
 The "C" refers to Chief Operating Officer, Chief Financial
 Officer, Chief Executive Officer, etc.

1. Link short term changes to long term success.

2. Explain with numbers.

3. Show financial impact.

4. Tell a story with examples.

5. Seek to improve quality company-wide (not just products and services).

As with any presentation, a quality discussion with the C-Suite should be tailored for that audience. Using the 5 tips above will help ensure successful communication.

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Credits: Graphics produced by the author using Adobe Illustrator
© 2016 All Rights Reserved
Photographs obtained from iStock by Getty Images 
The author's iStock portfolio can be viewed here.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Improving the Future of Quality with Early College High Schools

North Carolina (U.S.) has increased high school graduation rates and achievement with early college high schools. These high schools are offered by local school districts and coordinated with institutions of higher learning as an alternative to the local high school. Students typically attend the school for 5 years rather than 4. Along with completing high school classes, students enroll in college classes at no cost to them. Upon graduation, they receive a high school diploma as well as an Associates degree (or college credit).

Early college high school programs are customized to fit the host campus. Franklin County Early College High School in Louisburg, North Carolina, is located next to the Franklin Campus of Vance-Granville Community College. This allows students to earn an Associates of Arts and Sciences. Wake Early College of Health and Sciences in Raleigh, North Carolina, partners with Wake Technical Community College and WakeMed Health and Hospitals. Students can earn a degree, diploma, or certificate in a health or sciences field.
Wake STEM* Early College is located on the North Carolina State University campus in Raleigh, North Carolina, and emphasizes a strong STEM-based education. Students can earn up to 2 years of college credit. The 4-minute video below has interviews that cover the demographics and features of the program.

In 2010 there were 70 early college high schools in North Carolina. Students that would be first generation college students are given admission preference.

North Carolina New Schools is a nonprofit that supports the early college program as well as other innovative high school programs designed to improve high school graduation rates and academic success. In 2014 they were awarded a $20 million Federal Grant to ramp up efforts towards early college programs.

The 5-minute video below features a Caldwell County Early College High School graduate's story. In 2012 Amelia Hawkins received a full scholarship to Princeton University.

Edwin Garro, ASQ Fellow, has written about a High School Quality and Productivity Technical degree program in Costa Rica. The program was developed to address a shortage of quality technicians in FDA regulated industries. His article, A Day with the Future of Quality, can be found here.

*Acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math

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             © 2015 All Rights Reserved