Quality drivers

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The team members at Process Ark, a newly launched Milwaukee consulting firm, know quality because they are experts in it. Co-founders Sheila Shaffie and Shahbaz Shahbazi have been trained in quality tools and methodologies for business and product development for a combined total of 15 years.

As past employees of General Electric Co., they have embarked on a mission to apply their knowledge to companies outside of the manufacturing realm.

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"Our objective is to take the quality mindset to the transaction companies of the world. Banks, healthcare, data processing, etc.," said Shaffie. "Any company whose end product relies on the flow and processing of information will benefit from our services."

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Shaffie and Shahbazi utilized their training of quality improvement methods such as Six Sigma, lean manufacturing, action work-out and change accelerator to develop the Integrated Transactional Model (ITM) for small to medium-size transactional-based businesses.

"We have a problem-solving approach which looks at how information flows from one place to another. This increases process efficiency, reduces defects and in turn reduces operational costs, and improves asset utilization and customer retention. Really, what organizations get out of this is an overall increase in productivity," said Shaffie. "We help companies figure out how to do their business better."

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Located at 1888 N. Water St. just north of downtown, Process Ark offers services in transfer of product/technology, cost reduction, manufacturing process optimization, supplier quality and corporate quality training.

"We launched the consulting group in February partially because of our background in Six Sigma and the realization that there was a gap in the marketplace for a quality methodology in transactional-based firms," said Shaffie.

Six Sigma focuses on numbers and variation reduction, while lean manufacturing uses visuals to brainstorm change. Action Work-Out is a program where decision-makers within the company participate in a five-day workshop. Change Accelerator is used for barrier reduction and to assess how to implement change.

To take advantage of the maximum amount of services offered, a client will typically need six weeks of working with two consultants, Shaffie said.

Shaffie and Shahbazi are experts in the Six Sigma method, originally driven into the marketplace by Motorola in the 1980s and heavily utilized by GE since the early 1990s.

"We assess a business through feedback from employees who are actually responsible for the day-to-day processes and then we compound the results for a totality of concepts from experts," said Shahbazi. "Our solution in the end is sustainable because it comes from within. We act as facilitators, extracting the resident knowledge."

According to Shaffie, Six Sigma is a 12-step method used to measure the cause of variability, or a defect, and a solution to make a process more efficient.

According to the American Society for Quality (ASQ) Web site, www.asq.org, when a manufacturing process achieves Six Sigma quality, it produces only 3.4 variations or defects per million times an action is attempted. ASQ estimates most companies are working at a level of Four Sigma, which equals 6,000 variations or defects every million times a process is acted.

Shaffie and Shahbazi are applying the concept to the way employees transfer information rather than the way a manufacturer produces or transfers a product.

"The Six Sigma methodology does not work well in a non-manufacturing environment because it is too rigid, too statistical," said Shaffie. "We merged several quality tools, leveraged their inherent synergies and developed ITM to understand the needs and processes of each business."

Shahbazi said Process Ark standardizes procedures once the process is assessed, from how a bank teller processes a deposit slip to how a mortgage lender approves a loan. After Process Ark instills quality within a company, every process will be carried out in the same manner for an anticipated end result, whether it is measured in time, money or consistency.

"We are giving quality a more serious look in each company’s environment and figuring out what tools should be used to help them," said Shahbazi. "If you don’t have a consistent quality culture, you cannot sustain a uniform face to your customer."

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