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Five Free Quality Sources

Category: Quality Concepts
Published Date Written by Keith Harasyn

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the April 2012 Newsletter. It is reprinted as part of our archive article series.

Quality seal

I'm cheap. Just ask my wife and kids; they'll agree. I like to look for bargains and sales, and I like to purchase in bulk from wholesale stores in order to get good value for my money. Getting a good value also applies to the world of quality and improvement systems since information and guidance can be expensive. If knowledge can improve production or reduce cost, then it's worth paying for either in time or money. Here is a list of resources that may help you get good value at no cost, other than your time.

5 Social Media / Forums

Opinions of Facebook seem to be polarized; people either love it or hate it. Fortunately, the world wide web has produced many other social network start-ups such as LinkedIn for professionals. Wayne Breitbarth wrote an informative article about LinkedIn called, LinkedIn or Lose Out in the July 2011 edition of Quality Progress. In it, he explains his personal conversion from a skeptic to a promoter of social media and specifically LinkedIn.. As of July, 2011 the LinkedIn network had 35 million business professionals; and average houshold income of $107,000; those with at least a college degree at 77%; and business decision makers at 49%. There are many benefits of joining LinkedIn, and although the network offers premium services for a monthly fee, the majority of people get enough beneficial features with just a free account.

There are also smaller quality specific social networks and my favourite is called “the cove”. Although it is easy to find free information online it is rare to find information that is also useful. However, the cove forum is one such site for relevant quality information. It has an excellent search feature on all topics related to quality and it's free to sign up and use. Check out Marc Elsmar Cove Forum at

4 Free On-line courses at MIT

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) offers all of their curriculum on-line for free. They are pioneering a grand plan to share information on a global scale. Referred to as the MIT OpenCourseWare program, this on-line delivery of course contents fulfils their mandate “devoted to the advancement of knowledge and education of students in areas that contribute to or prosper in an environment of science and technology.”

Browsing through the selection of engineering courses, one can find Project Management (ESD.018J), Integration eSystems & Global Information Systems (ESD.053J) and Introduction to Lean Six Sigma Methods (ESD.62J) to name a few courses. There are many other programs that you can study in the same way MIT students study, but without the degree from MIT.

MIT is even offering a full enrolment in 6.002x Circuits & Electronics free of charge, for students worldwide from March 5, 2012 through June 8, 2012. Successful students in course 6.002x will receive an electronic certificate of accomplishment from MIT, also free of charge.

Refer to link for more information or to enrol

OpenCourseWare can be found at

3 Free Software

The ideology behind the OpenCourseWare program is not new. In fact most of the internet is build on free and open source software. In this context, the term 'free' refers to the licence and legal limitations to use the software and not necessarily the cost. Open source companies who publish their software under the General Public Licence (GPL) must make available the 'source code' underlying the software if it is requested. The idea is that a company releases the source code for their software then another company makes improvements and re-release the software in a continuous improvement cycle. Companies such as Red Hat release their software for free, then charge their customers for support subscriptions. Internet giant Google runs their search algorithms using the open source Linux operation system on vast sever farms, then charges advertisers a fee for targeted ads. The benefit to society is free search and server products.

You can also use free software for your personal and network computing needs. Here a short list of free software applications and the closed source software most similar to it:

Software Type


Similar to (closed source)

website link

Office Documentation


Microsoft® Office

Vector graphics


Corel® Draw and Adobe® Illustrator®

Raster graphics

The Gimp

Adobe® Photoshop®

3D Video animation


Autodesk® Maya®

website Content Management System (CMS)

1) Wordpress

Adobe® Dreamweaver® and Microsoft® WebMatrix,

2) Drupal

3) Joomla

Intranet server installation

Turnkey linux

This is difficult to compare because turnkey linux has over 45 pre-packaged server solutions – the closest comparison would be to a closed server ecosystem such as Microsoft® Sharepoint® integration with Microsoft® IIS server

Free Web hosting

HelioHost (+ many others)

paid web hosting (many examples)

In addition, most of theses free software websites also offer free training and tutorials explaining the step-by-step way to become an expert. Also, Google offers many online only applications for free such as google calendar, gmail, google maps, google earth, design apps and many other application software.

2 Mentoring and Benchmarking

Fanshawe College offers a free mentoring program that connects Fanshawe graduates in industry with undergraduate students. The networking connection is a win-win for both parties as each person is introduced to a new group that they wouldn't otherwise meet. This difference of perspective allows for growth and challenges that can be applied to both career development and company opportunities. Most colleges and universities have a comparable mentoring program and many companies use a similar system in-house to train management and executive candidates.

Another source of free information is through benchmarking. Although external benchmarking data can be difficult to obtain, many companies are happy to share their business methods. For example, many books and articles can be found detailing the Toyota Manufacturing Method used by Toyota and the six sigma methodology used by Motorola.

Data for internal best practices is usually much easier to obtain and can be used to compare company divisions, sections or operations. In most cases this information is already being collected, so no new costs are necessary to compare the data within a company to discover the best practices.

1 Free Information from ASQ

While technically not free since there is the cost of membership, the ASQ offers many helpful sources of information. There is no cost if your ASQ membership is already paid.

A) – offers a starting point for all topics related to quality such as knowledge center search, quality tools, past articles from Quality Progress magazine, Certification database, Career Corner, Benchmarking Reports and discussion boards.

B) ASQ monthly meeting – The London Executive members plan a monthly meeting, free for everyone on a wide variety of topics. Some are quality related such as Reliability Improvement through DOE, while others are general interest, such as Memory Tools. Mark the second Thursday of the month and come out to an ASQ-London section meeting to experience a live, interactive seminar for free.

C) Quality Progress magazine – the monthly quality publication from ASQ. This is a great source of informative articles related to quality. As mentioned above, ASQ members can search for past Quality Progress articles on the ASQ website.

Although there is no such thing as a free lunch, many quality sources are, in fact, free of charge. I hope this article is helpful in that pursuit.


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