Lego: Building on Product Quality, Brick by Brick

When you were younger, did you ever try and build an entire house? Not to brag, but I certainly did at age five. When I was especially bored, I would try to construct a towering skyscraper. I would even go so far as to assemble a car for a building resident, whose smile seemed to imply complete satisfaction.

How did I accomplish such daunting tasks at a young age? With a little creativity…

…and a bunch of Lego

The Lego brand is known worldwide for its ingenious building sets and for fostering children’s imaginations, and it all starts with standardized blocks connected together by miniature knobs. Yet as simple as this may sound, a lot of work goes into ensuring that these small bricks are produced to the highest degree of quality.

According to the company’s profile, Lego bricks are manufactured through a molding process, where ABS plastic is heated and injected into standard molds and left to cool for about seven seconds. The molds are extremely accurate in that they only allow for a natural variation of 0.001 millimeters in each brick, to ensure connectivity. Nevertheless, the entire molding process itself is so precise that there are about 18 defective bricks in every million produced. And if you thought that was crazy, the company ensures that “all Lego elements are fully compatible, irrespective when they were made during the period from 1958 to the present or by which factory.” Talk about extreme quality control!

Forbes recently interviewed Lego’s Senior Vice President for Engineering and Quality, John Hansen. The interview provided insight into the company’s unequaled level of quality, which allowed them to increase brick production from 25 billion in 2008 to 45.7 billion in 2012.  “We have the same quality standards all over the globe,” he says, which explains their uniform and consistent products. Hansen also states that their production facilities put each element of a Lego set (from the bricks to the instruction manual) through rigorous tests to make sure that they follow company, consumer, and international standards. As if this weren’t enough, Lego also looks for new ways to improve their production process from both a business and environmental perspective. They are currently working on searching for new ecological raw materials and refining their product packaging to reduce waste.

I think that other toy companies need to take Lego’s quality standards into consideration in their operations. With product recalls or safety hazards being found in numerous toy products annually, it would not hurt for them to learn a thing or two from their design and production processes. It might even help to solve their product variation or defect problems given Lego’s track record; you don’t see many consistently produced superhero action figures as you do Lego bricks. Besides, why question a successful company whose motto is “The best is never too good”?

Do you think that other toy companies can follow Lego’s standards of uniform quality when it comes to manufacturing their products? Can they also be applied to other industries as well?


Lego Company Profile:

Michael Venables, “How Lego Makes Safe, Quality, Diverse and Irresistible Toys Everyone Wants: Part Two” (Forbes):

Retail to E-tail

There are a lot of pros and cons to doing online shopping as opposed to in-store shopping. Online shopping seems like it only affects consumers by giving them a different medium to make their purchases but we fail to realize that it affects the sellers as well. Through online purchases, businesses gather a lot of data about consumers. Sellers can track which sections of items are the most popular, which products are the most viewed and for how long, and which products are most browsed at but not bought. This gives online sellers a competitive advantage over in-store sellers as they know more about their customers. And everyone knows that the understanding your customer is one of the most important factors in having a successful business. This is empowering in-store sellers to seek e-commerce level data.

The article talks about one company that brings customer tracking data to in-store businesses. This is in hopes of slowly bridging the competitive gap between in-store purchases and online purchases. How can they possibly get consumer data without changing the in-store purchase process? By simply observing the customers! Prism Skylabs specializes in in-store surveillance equipment that tracks customer movement. Prism installs special cameras that captures everything in the store and then is sent to the store’s computers where it is processed by Prism’s special software. The images of the actual shoppers are cut out to respect their privacy.

What is so different about Prism’s techniques than regular surveillance cameras? Prism’s software allows them to “look at which products are hot, which are being moved around and touched, and all kinds of data that allow merchandise teams to understand what is going on across a wide range of stores”. This allows the sellers to get information that the type of information that online sellers use to enhance their systems to get more purchases.

Who is using Prism? Right now, Prism has partnered up with 30 retailers. Retailers that Prism is working with include T-Mobile and Famous Footwear. Does it actually work?  A candy store in Oklahoma City was using Prism in their stores and after close observation they changed their premium display to low-selling seasonal candy rather than their famous candies that buyers usually take the time to look through the store to buy. This allowed the store to quantify the customer’s thoughts and make an effective decision in their operations.

Moreover, Prism is not the only data providing company that is emerging. Other companies are picking up on the importance and building unique strategies and techniques to sell to businesses. For example, Shopkick is an app which personalizes deals for a customer in real time as they walk through the store.

Is it worth it to sellers to invest in these data gathering companies?

How do you feel as a consumer towards this type of innovation? Do you feel that you will be making more beneficial purchases or do you feel manipulated by the sellers to buy their preferred products?


WHOLE Fresh Foods?



Entrance of Whole Foods Market





There are companies who do it better than others, and those who do it better, eventually gain more customers, and a larger portion of that market. I am talking about priming consumers how to subconsciously shop by precise marketing tactics that show symbolism of freshness and purity.

For instance, Whole Foods Market strategically places fresh flowers at the entrance of their stores to create an illusion of fresh, different and what it means to have high quality not only in their products, but as well as in their environment.  A study indicated that flowers are associated with implications of fresh, therefore, gives the consumer walking in an unconscious suggestion that the store is bursting with freshness. They have dominated this type of consumer priming that positioned them to be leaders in the market, “priding themselves on selling the highest quality, freshest, and most environmentally sound produce.”

Another occurrence is the abundance of ice everywhere and sprinkled drops of water on produce being another symbolic unconscious suggestion of freshness and purity again. There is no actual need for the ice and constant water drops, as it tends to make the produce rot more quickly. However, the point is the perception and illusion of the products being fresh and of high quality and that association is continued subconsciously, with the consumer as they shop. Approaches alike are being implemented as retailers use these mechanisms of luring and encouraging customers to spend more than they need to and more than they intended to.

The point is that by focusing on how to hook and gain customers, is quality compromised at all? Definitely not, as one of the main differences between Whole Foods Market and other retail supermarkets is that they can actually back it up with all the products they offer and high level of customer service they provide.  They have quality standards and are extremely devoted to serving the consumer as the medium in making informed choices when it comes to discovering the best of the best. From seafood, meat and animal welfare to unacceptable ingredients in food they do not carry*. Their core business is to sell the highest quality foods they can possibly find at the most competitive prices. In addition, they evaluate quality in relation to nutrition, freshness, appearance, and taste, and their search for quality is a continual process involving the vigilant decision of buyers throughout the company.

So why do customers keep coming back even if they know they are being primed? They like the experience of going in there, as it is aesthetically pleasing to consumers’ senses and their subconscious. Besides, who doesn’t want better, quality products that aim at always being environmentally sound, and that are good for your mind, body and soul? Everyone’s a winner in this occasion.

Caulk boards gives illusion and implication of being fresh daily




*disclaimer  from WHOLE FOODS reserving the right to change this list at any time. Please note that creating a product with no unacceptable ingredients does not guarantee that Whole Foods Market will sell it. This list is intended for illustrative purposes only. If you are interested in selling your product to Whole Foods Market, please contact a WFM buyer.


Two minutes, does add up

This past week American Airlines learned that the more suitcases are hauled onto the cabin, the longer it takes to get people on board.  Passengers boarding with American Airlines with items small enough to store on the floor will now be allowed to board before passengers with large suitcases. This in turn will help reduce all the traffic of roller bags down the aisle of planes. This new change in process should help planes depart gates faster along with improve on-time arrival rate.


Before implementing this new change, American Airlines more than likely came up with a type of process improvement model like Deming Cycle, PDCA. Plan, is the first step on the cycle, where the airline had to describe the process, define customer expectations, identify causes of problems, develop potential solutions, and finally select the most promising solution. In this case, customer expectations probably included on time arrivals to destinations.


The second step to the Deming Cycle requires a pilot study to test the potential solution. In the article, it is mentioned that American Airlines conducted a four-week test demonstrating the new boarding procedure and proved to cut off an average of two minutes of flight loading time. Two minutes may not sound like a lot, but as Daniel Bellavigna, supervisor of continuous improvement, says “it adds up”.


The third step of PDCA, check, means examining the results of the study and determining if the new process performance has improved. In American Airlines case, their four-week pilot study performance did improve. It reduced boarding time by two minutes.


Act, is the last step of Deming’s Cycle. In this phase, the best solution is implemented with a process to monitor process performance. The airline company implemented the new way for boarding, passengers with small carry ons to board before those with suitcases, this past Thursday, May 16.


Along with the PDCA cycle, the company probably also came up with a process flow diagram in order to understand their process better and to help simplify and redesign the process. This process mapping most likely helped to come to their conclusion.


A cause and effect diagram could have also helped American Airlines. The effect being, late arrival flights, and one of the causes being, too much time spent on boarding passengers onto the plane.


In March, about 20 percent of U.S. airline flights were delayed, and about 7 percent of these delays were due to late-arriving aircraft. With American Airlines new boarding plan, it is hoped to bring down the percent of delayed flights.


With their new boarding plan, American Airlines is making passengers with lots of luggage pay, but not only in money but also in the amount of time spent in line waiting to get on board. They hope with this new plan, passengers start to carry less in their carry ons and that other airlines start to adopt the same procedures. What other ideas would you recommend for airlines to improve on time arrivals.?

How Forecasting May Forever Change Hollywood

Is it possible to forecast how much money a movie will make just by reading a script?  Statistics professor and movie guru, Vinny Bruzzese says you can.

Mr. Bruzzese and his team have supposedly come up with an equation to forecast how much money a movie will make in the box office, just by reading the script. For only $20,000 his company, Worldwide Motion Picture Group, will read any movie scrip and will compare it to other narratives with comparable story lines, Facebook likes, and data taken from focus groups consisting of over 1,500 moviegoers. With this information, he can dissect any scrip or screenplay, and help directors see how much money their movie will (or will not) make.

Based on statistics and moviegoer opinions, Bruzzese reads a script, and uses data to determine if characters are likable, or should be changed. He uses corresponding data with certain celebrities to determine how many people will attend a movie just because that person is in the film. His recommendations usually come in a 30 page report, and include both minor and large corrections.  Mr. Bruzzese also said that he will not hesitate to inform a writer that the movie is crap, and characters need to be developed into something completely different in order to for the audience to be engaged enough to see the movie in theaters.

So far, Mr. Bruzzese has reviewed over 100 scripts in Hollywood, including “Oz the Great and Powerful,” which earned $484.8 million in the box office. His services also include reviewing scripts for TV shows and Broadway productions. Although his price may be high, Hollywood directors seem to be interested in his operation, and many have found it to be incredibly useful. However, he clearly states to each screenwriter that he will not be held responsible if the movie flops, and his equation is not correct. As we learned, forecasting is rarely 100% correct, and is used as more of a guideline than an indicator of fact.

But what are the implications of using statistical forecasting on an art form like movie making?  Some people are not as excited about the idea. One movie critic wrote, “It’s the enemy of creativity, nothing more than an attempt to mimic that which has worked before. It can only result in an increasingly bland homogenization, a pell-mell rush for the middle of the road” (Ol Parker).

So do you think forecasting of new moves will inhibit creativity in scriptwriters? Do you think Hollywood directors should only focus on their movies making the most amount of money? Will Hollywood movies just become cookie cutters of the previous ones before them? Or do you believe an equation made for forecasting movie success help make new movies better?



Infer: Better Math Can Produce More Sales

Infer is a company that develops technology that allows company’s sales-tracking system to rank customer leads based on how likely they are going to purchase something. The company has raised 10 million over the last two years while working on this technology. Infer is rather simple as its software starts with basic information. For example, if a customer decides to enter their name, address and company when signing up for a product. The Infer system will then start doing research behind the person that signed up for the product.

The CEO, Vik Singh is young as he is only 28 years old, but he believes that his mathematical formulas will increase sales. Vik Singh and his 10-employee team are in the midst of improving sales by using better math.

Vik doesn’t seem to be short on confidence as he feels that this new  innovation is sure to help increase sales. The problem is the fact that he is  very young and there may not be that many people that believe in his new ideas. He may not be the best person to trust for sales, but he certainly has the right engineering track record. He worked with Google fine tuning search systems before moving to Microsoft. At Microsoft, he developed technology with Jim Gray, who of the greatest computer scientists of the last half century. He finished working with Microsoft and built a new Yahoo search system.

Vik Singh has worked with some of the biggest technology gurus in the world. Vik Singh says, ” The way the typical company manages data is piss-poor in comparison and there is more science at Facebook (FB) behind seeing which of your friends are getting drunk across the street from you.” This seems to be a common theme with all the new web-savvy engineers that are trying to make new rules for business applications. Vik Singh wants to treat sales deals like a puzzle. If Infer can makes their sales deal like a puzzle then it can be solved with an algorithm rather than a dinner between people who have ideas.

Infer has worked with Box and other customers to verify their research. It works with historic sales and compares outcomes with their own predictions. Singh continues to tell everyone that the experiments come out nearly perfect, but he has not released any proof of this for businesses to see. In my opinion, there are a lot of other things that factor in when dealing with sales. There needs to be more facts when trying to rely on just math to increase sales. From a management point of view, I don’t know if Vik is taking things a little too far with all these math equations, but he does have the technology background to speak for him. Then again who has time for someone that is only 28 years old and is trying to change the way selling works?


Follow LeanPath: Way to reduce food waste

Among 150 hotels, hospitals and universities, the University of Massachusetts Amherst is utilizing an innovative method to reduce food waste conjured by a company called LeanPath.

According to LeanPath, the issue of food waste is getting to be tremendously harmful for energy and water resources. Being the biggest source of waste in the United States, food waste accounts for $8 billion to $20 billion worth of waste annually. This is because about 4% to 10% of food bought is wasted rather than consumed.

What exactly is this waste? What LeanPath tracks is not exactly what we think of when we think of the term “food waste”. It is not the food our moms tell us to “finish because kids in Africa are starving”. The food waste that LeanPath targets is focused to tackle the root of the problem. It is the food that is wasted even before it reaches the plate. This can be anything from meat to vegetable trimmings. Imagine you are making mashed potatoes. How much of the potato are you really peeling? How much potato skin are you discarding? Leanpath can measure and put a dollar amount to all of these questions.

How does LeanPath help and what does it do exactly? Quite simply, LeanPath provides the means for establishments to track the food they are wasting. Employees can do this by weighing their waste on the scales provided by LeanPath.  The employees enter in the type of food, size of container, type of meal and the reason it is being discarded in to the LeanPath machines. The machine then calculates the waste into a dollar amount using their special software. All of this would cost the establishment about 5,000 dollars. Though the software doesn’t provide the employees with solutions to reduce food waste, it provides them with useful charts and graphs that help the employees make these decisions. The employees and their managers then meet up once a month and brainstorm best practices to reduce the waste they are calculating on the LeanPath scales.
How effective has this been? Specifically, the University of Massachusetts Amherst has saved $300,000 dollars after it has started using LeanPath’s methods. I think that this is a great start to saving a lot of waste in the food industry. I do think LeanPath would be more effective if they gave practical solutions to reuse food that is intended to waste rather than giving facts and charts. With LeanPath’s program now, it looks like only the institutions that are most dedicated to sustainability will benefit from LeanPath’s products. This is why more commercial institutions like restaurants and food courts are not using LeanPath. Anyone can weigh the food waste but there needs to be an active desire to come up with solutions to reduce food waste in order to make this program more effective.

Can LeanPath eventually reach more commercial industries? Do you think it needs to alter its program to do so? If so, how?


Drug Dealers Beware!


How can improved quality control and diminishing quality control both work to save lives?


In the world of quality assurance, it is a rare thing to talk about quality within the public sector.  The public assumes that quality exists but nothing is ever thought of in regards to the measures are needed to make sure things are done correctly.  While reading this you will find two sides of the FDA.  One side of the FDA ensures the safety of people through increased quality control measures.  The other side of the FDA is hoping to remove some quality control measures in hopes of saving lives.


The FDA has begun rigorous efforts to take counterfeit and harmful drugs off of the internet.


In a time of rising health care costs and pricey prescriptions, consumers have looked to various other sources to save money.  A great source to purchase prescription medication is online.  However, many of these online retailers are distributing “counterfeit and illegal” medicine.   The FDA has joined forces with international regulatory and law enforcement agencies in an effort to take some of these dangerous drugs off the market.    18,000 online pharmacies have been shut down in the matter of just one week starting September 25th.    This is essentially a form of quality checking within the public sector.  The FDA is hoping to make sure that the medicines available to the public have gone through the testing process.  All of these regulatory agencies are working towards a pharmaceutical industry with high standards of quality.


In contrast, the FDA is also working to remove some of the quality processes associated with the drug approval process.  This comes mainly from a Republican push hoping to remove regulations across the board.  These deregulations are not meant to send harmful drugs out on the market prematurely.  This measure is hoping to assist immediately ill individuals that cannot wait through the testing process.  The FDA has been doing this since the 1990’s.  Currently patients within this characterization include aids and cancer patients.  However, the FDA is hoping to include various other threatening diseases/conditions to this “accelerated approval” process.  “Of 35 medicines termed innovative by the FDA and approved during fiscal 2011, 16 have some sort of shortened review or expedited approval” (Burton 2012).  The key is that people with “life threatening” conditions are more willing to try riskier drugs.  These people do not have the luxury of time to wait through the quality assurance process.


The point of this shows how quality assurance is paramount in some regards and in other circumstances it serves as handcuffs for progress.  The latter tends to be rare but it does point out that too many regulations have harmful effects.  We can clearly relate this to the upcoming elections as republicans and democrats battle over the topic of increased regulations.  There are clear positives for both sides.  Too many regulations impede progress and at times create a feeling of too much governmental control.  Not enough regulations also have catastrophic results.  Going back to the initial topic, if the FDA did not thoroughly check items that came through their department, people’s lives would be in danger.   People would not be aware of the harmful side effects of the things they are ingesting.  The perfect middle ground is a difficult thing to find and seems to be an ongoing battle within our society.



Boeing 777x- quality control

Makeover of 777 Agitates Boeing by Jon Ostrower

Companies have to continuously revamp products in order to keep consumers investing and being loyal to the brand. In Boeing’s case, it becomes extremely difficult to redesign an aircraft that costs millions to make, without either spending more money to improve the quality of the product, or spend less at the risk of loosing quality. This article discusses, ” [how] infighting erupted this summer at Boeing over how to keep the price of the new jet under control”(Ostrower 1). The company’s main issue was creating a new design for the 777, which is a significant portion of Boeing’s monthly revenue. The article discusses how earlier this year, Boeing pitched a new design of the aircraft with changes to, “the wing, upgraded engines and other improvements toboost performance”(Ostrower 2). The design had all the new advances nessisary, but it was simply to costly in the eyes of Boeing, so it was brought back tot he drawing board regardless of the different contracts that relied on the introduction of the 777x. This is a huge issue in managerial operations because companies have to make product quality decisions that can make or break the company. In Boeings case, the original 700x design was ready and customers were willing to purchase it, but Boeing thought the design was not cost effective. As a result they worked on the design that not only would be a more efficient version of the 700, but cheaper to operate. The decisions Boeing made in regards to quality could have potentially effected a large stream of revenue created from model 700 sales, but they did not rush the design and have been making a cheaper and more gas efficient design.

Bandals Footwear: Innovators of Design and Strategy

Shortly after the economic downfall in 2008 began, Tom Sesti started Bandals, a new footwear company through which he introduced a line of women’s sandals with interchangeable  multi-colored tops – their slogan being “Changeable by design.” The sandals were an instant classic and the five employee company was suddenly facing manufacturing and raw materials cost increases of 15-30%. Sesti knew he needed to figure out a strategy to deal with this issue – and two strategies he came up with involved moving the company overseas or introducing a new product.

Tom Seski took a look at how to improve the quality of his product and the strategy of where to locate his business. He gave a lot of thought about how to penetrate new markets. He realized if he could take something like sandals, which are sold mainly in warm months, and make them something one can wear year round, then they wont only sell for one season. Two ways he did this were by adding jewelry that could be taken off and used with other shoes such as boots in the winter, and also expanding his company to new countries where the weather was warm year round.

It took a lot of hard work and research, but Testi was able to figure out how to effectively manufacture his product as well as expand it to multiple countries. He estimated the cost of making his jewelry in China, the cost of promoting strategies, and assessed how many items he could sell and determined it was possible to break even in a year. He also estimated the costs of expanding his company to 15 countries overseas. These strategies had a high chance of being successful, so he decided to go about implementing them.

Tom Sesti’s operation strategies proved to be successful. Through the use of focus groups, multiple designs, bio-mechanicals, market research, marketing campaigns, location strategies, and design of goods and services, Bandals was able to improve revenues by 250 percent and more than triple annual profits. Sesti figured out cost effective strategies that addressed two major obstacles he saw within the seasonal footwear industry and made the right decisions on how to put his plans to action.