The offices of the Center for Quality and Productivity (CQPI) are housed in the UW-Madison Engineering Centers Building, but the center’s real work happens in hospitals, intensive care units, nursing stations and other healthcare settings around the country.
Founded in 1985 by Industrial and Systems Engineering Professor Emeritus George E.P. Box and the late Professor William G. Hunter, CQPI was revolutionary from the start for its emphasis on finding quality not only in finished products, but also in the processes leading to products and services. Initially focused on manufacturing quality, CQPI faculty demonstrated a commitment early on to community outreach-oriented work. “CQPI was a huge change in how people thought about quality and methods for analyzing and monitoring quality,” says Procter & Gamble Bascom Industrial and Systems Engineering Professor in Total Quality Pascale Carayon, who has directed the center since 2000. “The center has become known throughout the United States as a place where people have developed a lot of new ideas and models.”
Each CQPI director since Box has steered the center toward different, important process and quality challenges. When Carayon took over, she guided CQPI toward healthcare-based issues, which is mainly what the center now addresses. Carayon also has overseen the transition of center personnel from mainly engineering and statistics researchers to include experts in healthcare and psychology, as well as partners from disciplines across UW-Madison.
Currently, more than 30 researchers and graduate students are affiliated with the center on a variety of projects funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, National Institutes of Health, and U.S. Department of Defense, among other national agencies. Beyond healthcare, CQPI researchers are applying human factors engineering to computer and information security and other work processes.
Carayon says the center’s basic idea of looking at process challenges means the center will never run out of problems to study in collaboration with partners from many industries. “Quality and process improvement is something that is needed everywhere,” she says.