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Science R&D a new demension in total quality, says national lab director

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June 15, 1993 Share This!

RICHLAND, Wash. — Pacific Northwest Laboratory Director William R. Wiley says the future of the nation's research and development community depends on its ability to add value and quality throughout the technology cycle and to contribute, through partnerships with business and industry, directly to the nation's competitiveness.

Dr. Wiley was the keynote speaker at the Juran Institute's fourth annual symposium here on implementing quality management in R&D organizations. Wiley is senior vice president for Battelle Memorial Institute, which operates PNL in Richland, Wash., for the U.S. Department of Energy.

"We in the R&D community must extend our activities and influence further along the technology development cycle," Wiley said, "becoming partners with business and industry to form an unbroken chain of continuous improvement.

"The AMTEX Partnership between DOE's national labs and the American textile industry is a perfect example of our commitment to total quality and continuous improvement. Our researchers will be involved in defining the objectives of joint projects. We'll have a clear picture of the desired outcome. And we'll be able to overlap our quality expectations with those of the textile industry."

The AMTEX goal is to increase the competitiveness of the U.S. textile industry, which has lost a half-million jobs to imports over the past 12 years. Waste minimization, computerized data network, laser cutting and energy conservation technologies are just a few of the early projects.

Wiley said quality is a tenet of scientific R&D because of the peer review process, whereby a researcher's work is rigorously judged and replicated until it is proven right or wrong. But Wiley insists this measure of R&D quality isn't enough in today's global economy.

Wiley believes a total quality environment is critical for the R&D community for three reasons. First, R&D must shift with the rest of the nation from a military to an economic emphasis. Second, it must be able to leverage past R&D investments for economic competitiveness. Finally, a cultural transition requires the R&D community to expand its definition of quality, forging laboratory-industry partnerships to move technology from development into the marketplace more rapidly.

"Through these partnerships we become part of the concurrent engineering process," Wiley said. "Such partnerships can trigger three- generation leaps in terms of products and manufacturing technology." For example, Wiley said, the DOE-funded development of vitrification -- an innovative process that turns wastes into glass -- is a safe, long-term solution to problems of hazardous waste disposal nationwide. Superplastic forming being developed for the aerospace industry can be leveraged to the automotive industry.

Seven principles of excellence are the heart of PNL's approach to continuous improvement, according to Wiley: shared vision, interactive leadership, customer focus, supportive environment, personal excellence, innovation and measurement of progress. While the teamwork engendered by these principles is something of a departure from the popular perception of the independent scientist working alone and producing great discoveries, it is the way of the future, Wiley says.

These principles are helping the R&D community "close the gap between development and commercialization," Wiley said, "by fostering laboratory- industry partnerships to operate in the 'quiet zone,' between the time a technology is developed and the time it's picked up by industry." That is the goal of quality management and continuous improvement in the R&D community.

Tags: Energy, Environment

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