1984

On February 3, 1984, Stone & Webster issued the American Gas Association Management and Operational Review of Appliance Certification Program January 1984.  Following are excerpts from the report.

"A.G.A. Laboratories is widely recognized for its past and ongoing contributions to the quality and safety record of gas appliances used in the United States.  While other organizations are equipped to test gas appliances, we found no broad interest in replacing A.G.A. Laboratories as the independent, third party providing certification services for the gas appliance industry.  There is a very strong interest, however, in motivating the Laboratories to be the very best third-party certification agency that reasonable expenditures will support.

"From the appliance manufacturers' point of view, the Laboratories' largest continuing challenge is to improve client relations.  In the words of some manufacturers, 'We want the Laboratories to treat us like customers, not adversaries.'  Stone & Webster interprets this statement to mean that the manufacturers want A.G.A. Laboratories to (a) improve documentation of its procedures, (b) provide complete explanations for billed charges and test results, (c) solicit discussion and comment on proposed changes in policy, and (d) respond with positive action programs, rather than defensive explanations, when clients express concern about operation of the Appliance Certification Program."

"Using methods described later in this report, we have estimated that the average time between receipt of an appliance by the Laboratories and completion of all certification and description activities is probably about 4 calendar months or 640 working hours.  From the Laboratories' billing records, it appears that the average appliance is charged with about 80 hours of direct time for testing and related paperwork.  These numbers imply that the certification time, as seen by the client, is primarily a function of scheduling, administrative and correspondence delays which probably account for more than 85 percent of the working hours while the appliance is in one of the Laboratories."

"Stone & Webster ... estimates that more than 50 percent of the appliances tested by the Laboratories in 1983 was [sic] received under the records update program [5-year retest].  The Laboratories' management estimates that perhaps 40 percent of the appliances received for retesting experiences one or more test failures or a significant constructional criticism.  The 40-percent failure rate is understood to exclude criticisms reported on appliances which were submitted to the Laboratories with notice of deliberate design changes.

"The estimated high failure rate quite likely includes criticisms due to some deliberate design changes which were not reported at the time of appliance submittal.  If this is not the case, the value of the Laboratories' field inspection program is called into question since criticisms are reported on only about 5 percent of the certified appliances inspected in the field."

"Our study indicates that the Laboratories' Pacific Coast Branch operates as an isolated division with inadequate management attention from Cleveland.  This situation, and the second-class condition of the test facilities in Los Angeles, leads us to question management's long-term plans for the Branch."

"Working conditions in the Pacific Coast Branch are not conducive to maintaining a high level of productivity - particularly in the summer.  During the visit of our team in September 1983, some personnel were working in buildings with sustained, inside, ambient temperatures in excess of 90 degrees.  Under such temperature conditions, productivity in handling paperwork declines sharply.  Employees spend time devising unusual arrangements of blowers and air-conditioning appliances in pursuit of comfort."

"Employees in Los Angeles seem apprehensive about their future.  They are reluctant to suggest constructive improvements in equipment or facilities.  They are apparently concerned that any proposal for major capital improvements might trigger an adverse decision on continuation of the Los Angeles operation."

"... The Los Angeles Laboratory's Test Department is managed by the Assistant General Manager [E.K. Gorczyca].  Five people report directly to the Assistant General Manager, while a total of 17 employees are under this position ... 

"The Description Department is formally managed by Mr. Doug Hammer, Description Supervisor, but he only fills this role for about 1 hour each day.  Informally, Mr. Jerry Moore is acting as the Description Supervisor, while Mr. Hammer is devoting the majority of his time to learning the skills necessary to become an Inspector-Engineer.  This is a somewhat unique situation since Mr. Hammer, a member of the management team, is filling a union position; while Mr. Moore, a union member, is acting as part of the management team.

"Mr. Hammer is taking this particular career path because he believes that the experience gained in the Inspection Department will enhance his ability to obtain a top management position.  Mr. Moore also is pleased with this arrangement because he is interested in advancement to management."

After the Stone & Webster report was received, A.G.A. President George "Bud" Lawrence hired Richard J. Schulte to lead A.G.A. Laboratories and implement the recommendations of his report.  On April 1, 1984, I was promoted to Supervisor, Inspection responsible for factory inspections in California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, El Paso, Texas, Mexico, British Columbia, Canada and Japan.  I was also responsible for the work of three inspectors (Justin Karmelich, Eugene Robinson and Dennis Munemitsu) and one secretary (Carol Anderson) who was Lorna's best friend. [JAM 3/23/2010]