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Dan Jacob


Safety Plus Quality: Why Join Forces Now?

It’s a once-in-a-career opportunity to lead quality and safety transformation

Published: Wednesday, October 3, 2018 - 12:00

LNS Research published its research, “Driving Operational Performance With Digital Innovation: Connecting Risk, Quality, and Safety for Superior Results” to address fundamental challenges quality and safety leaders face today. 

If quality and safety are separate functions in your organization (which is true for 88% of manufacturers), then take a minute to look across the aisle. You’ll find some striking similarities. Namely:
• Safety and quality are support functions that face similar challenges: improving culture, data management, metrics, and process harmonization are ongoing efforts, and unfortunately have been for decades.
• Safety and quality execution are both critical to plant managers, operations, and performance. In some industries, safety is more important than quality, while in others the role is reversed; regardless of industry, both are quite important.
• Outcomes across both functions are being emphasized—today—in digital transformation initiatives, such as smart manufacturing, Industry 4.0, Quality 4.0, or connected worker. The board of directors is often demanding these initiatives, and they’re led by the CEO, CDO (chief digital officer), CIO, or COO. The results are critical to the board of directors, shareholders, and success of the company. Moreover, quality and safety are among the first target improvement areas.

So, why should you engage your cohorts, and why now? It’s a once-in-a-career opportunity to drive improvement across all challenge areas. Don’t expect a more compelling event than the board of directors demanding change, and the C-suite targeting your discipline area to be an early beacon of success. Unfortunately, some digital transformation initiatives can be overly tactical. The way to prevent this from happening to your safety and quality initiative is to use this opportunity to deliver short-term results, plus get buy-in to solve some of the long-standing people, process, and technology issues in new digitally transformed approaches.

Certainly, not all CEOs and board members are ordering change. Today’s climate, struggles, and competitive landscape form a ripe opportunity to dig in and find out about the digital transformation initiatives underway at your company. Many quality and safety leaders have discovered initiatives already underway, and that quality and safety use cases have been prioritized without their knowledge.

Industrial perspective

LNS Research has focused on industrial transformation since 2010, and has examined the topic from many perspectives, including quality, Quality 4.0, industrial automation, manufacturing operations management (MOM), asset performance management (APM), environment, health and safety (EHS), energy management, the industrial internet of things (IIoT), and broadly, digital transformation. What’s most relevant for this current research is that we work with operations leaders such as vice presidents of operations and chief operating officers (COO), as well as quality leaders and EHS leaders. Our unique perspective allows us to uncover and validate cross-functional perspectives that are useful to individual manufacturers and the market in general as they pivot to better performance.

What’s the focus of digital transformation initiatives?

Examine the IIoT use cases shown in the chart, as reported in the ebook: Quality 4.0: Impact and Strategy Handbook, which coined the term Quality 4.0 and defined the space. Note the use cases that involve quality, shown in green. It’s clear that quality is heavily represented in the top use cases. However, improving safety is also a significant area of concern that will continue to accelerate.

Valuable data to keep in mind as you consider ways to contribute to your organization’s initiative. LNS is also working broadly with the market to aid manufacturers’ digital transformations. In many cases, quality improvement and improved quality monitoring are among the initial digital transformation use cases. Connected worker use cases, such as those outlined in the current ebook, tend to emphasize both quality and safety improvements.

What’s operations leaders’ focus?

Interestingly, operational leaders have a significant focus on quality, compliance, continuous improvement, and operational excellence programs regardless of industry. The emphasis on quality and safety execution is there, as that responsibility is clearly shared across the operations value stream as well as the quality and safety support functions. However, while companies often view quality and safety execution as cross-functional responsibilities and often carry cross-functional KPIs, quality and safety management activities are often more closely aligned with quality and safety functions.


The market is prioritizing quality and safety use cases in digital transformation efforts. This climate provides quality and safety with top-level visibility and an excellent opportunity to reestablish the priority and value of these functions. That means tactically through improved monitoring of execution, and strategically, through enhanced lessons learned and management.

Quality and safety leaders should prioritize the following actions:
1. Connect with digital transformation initiatives internally to assess the status of these efforts and the impact on quality and safety.
2. Identify commonalities across quality and safety, and build a joint digital transformation position that strengthens both functions.
3. Develop a perspective on converged management systems and execution systems, such as the one described in LNS’ recent research, to support a road map that delivers value and progress against executive priorities.

LNS’ data and experience indicate that quality and safety are top of mind in today's digital transformation initiatives. Functional leaders should take steps to play their necessary role in this once-in-a-career opportunity to lead quality and safety transformation.


About The Author

Dan Jacob’s picture

Dan Jacob

Dan Jacob is a research analyst at LNS Research primarily focused on the enterprise quality management systems (EQMS) practice. Jacob has more than 20 years of experience in quality, reliability, risk, and safety across several industries, primarily automotive, aerospace and defense, high tech and electronics, and medical devices. Jacob also operated his own firm providing engineering consulting to the medical devices and metals industries. Jacob graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Pittsburgh with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.