November 2001

Vol. 3, No. 11

Kimball International:
Documentation alone is not enough

Quality professionals at Kimball International, a manufacturer of products ranging from pianos to hospital beds and furniture, found themselves, like many organizations, 'documenting everything ' in their efforts to improve product quality and meet customer expectations. But Denise Gadlage, continuous improvement manager, points out that documentation alone is often not sufficient to understand a process. That's where CHARTrunner comes in.

Kimball's decision to purchase CHARTrunner for its upholstered products division was made after substantial research by Joe Huddleston, IT application developer, who was working on ways to chart non-standard labor data that is stored in Oracle databases. He wanted charts to visually communicate to the department leaders the extent to which they were using non-standard labor. 'CHARTrunner was everything we were looking for, ' Gadlage says. She had participated in a 'Beyond Excel ' seminar at PQ Systems, and when she saw the way CHARTrunner worked, commented to a colleague at the seminar, 'We have to get this. '

Gadlage has found the PQ Systems charting program so easy to use that she has become an advocate for it in the large Kimball organization, and demonstrates it for her colleagues.

'Non-standard labor ' refers to jobs that lie outside the documented description of tasks in a particular process. When rework is necessary or an additional step is required, or if someone requires extra compensation because of training or other inefficiency problems, that work/money constitutes non-standard labor and adds to the cost of the product even if it is not fully documented in the task details. By charting the data stored in the Oracle databases related to this process, Kimball Upholstered Products was able to help leaders assess the impact of this practice. 'We want to be able to see data in different ways, ' Gadlage says, and CHARTrunner has made this possible.

CHARTrunner is a stand-alone charting tool for general statistical process control (SPC) charting. It eliminates data entry and streamlines the process of statistical analysis. The program, developed by PQ Systems statisticians, reads data that resides in Access, Excel, SQL Server, Oracle, and virtually all other data sources and instantly creates SPC charts, making data immediately available for analysis.

With origins in the 1800s when it manufactured pianos, Kimball International has grown since 1950 from a local company with fewer than 30 employees to an international organization that employs about 9,500. Its operations extend to 16 states, plus Canada, England, Austria, Mexico, France, Thailand, and Poland. The company's products include office furniture, systems, and seating (Kimball, National, and Transwall brands); Bosendorfer pianos; Kimball hospitality furniture; Kimball health care furniture; and Kimball home furniture. Its tradition of quality and craftsmanship is represented in its quality systems implementation and in registration to ISO 9000, QS 9000, and ISO 17025 standards.

Copyright 2001 PQ Systems.

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