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Tim Lozier

Lean

Productivity Hacking in Quality Management

Simple ways to get more visibility and control in your processes

Published: Thursday, January 26, 2017 - 13:02

When it comes to quality management, it’s not just about the requirements. As companies register to ISO 9001:2015, we see an additional shift. Not only are management system requirements changing to build an improved framework for the standard, but we also see an emphasis on an overall mindset that prioritizes quality.

With that in mind, the question remains: How can we work together as a team to promote a companywide commitment to quality in a centralized and common way?

Let’s take it one step further. Your processes don’t just exist within your four walls, so it’s important to extend these quality principles to your external parties so everyone benefits from them.

How do we centralize quality to promote visibility?

If the entire organization is working together toward quality goals rather than one person owning it, we need a centralized, common, and collaborative environment that gives us visibility into our quality management system (QMS) while making us active participants in quality.

Here is where we see the need for technology that helps us centralize information, collaborate more efficiently, and drive quality from all areas of business. That increases the visibility needed to see the data and make real improvements toward our operations based on the bigger picture.

From the moment we detect an event—whether it be customer-related, product-related, process-related or an audit—we need to track it all and keep it in one place as part of the ISO 9001:2015 dynamic: enrollment, involvement, and visibility.

However, this is more difficult than it seems. There are conditions and barriers that prevent organizations from shifting to a full culture of quality. However, there are some simple productivity hacks you can use to break through those barriers. But before we learn those hacks, let’s take a look at the current state of quality management in organizations to understand the barriers and current trends.

Getting to the bottom of top-level quality

It’s one thing to sit and talk about this in theory, but we really wanted to find details about quality roles, what’s driving quality management goals, and what role technology has in this shift. With the help of the Quality Digest readership, we sent an anonymous survey to a sample of quality professionals from diverse industries and with varying revenue streams. Here are some of the key findings:

Quality is a defined role
For most people, quality is a dedicated role. About 71 percent of those surveyed said quality is a dedicated role for them, with smaller percentages saying quality is a secondary or part-time role for them.

Organizations are investing in quality teams
There is still some level of cross-function among teams, but nearly 70 percent of organizations are either running a quality department with two or more people or have full-blown quality operations across multiple sites. This support of the quality effort shows the maturity of the quality department and the level of investment a company puts into the role.

Quality is of growing importance
About 70 percent of respondents admitted to giving quality more attention lately, while 65 percent also agree that quality remains important. An interesting theme was that during the past decade or so, quality management has taken a strategic role in overall business strategy, and is no longer just confined within a department. Although quality is still not getting the same budget as other areas of business, the growth is a positive indicator.

Quality is consumer-driven
We mean this in the sense that the majority if respondents cite meeting customer and product needs as their primary reason for having quality management. Although registration to standards and gaining insight into process improvement are important, this primary driver highlights the true directives for operational efficiency.

There are common challenges, critical processes, and business values
Many of the respondents agreed about the biggest quality and compliance challenges and obstacles that face them. Among the biggest challenges were lost productivity due to quality issues and the overall cost of quality. As for concrete obstacles, we found that budget and complexity were the most common.

Corrective and preventive action and employee training seem to be the most critical processes to maintaining quality, but respondents also wanted a system that saved them time and increased productivity for a low cost.

So overall, quality management is a priority hindered by cost and complexity. Organizations are looking for a simple, affordable solution that allows them to carry out critical processes and promote visibility and tracking.

Hacking a productivity solution

“Hacking” is a term that means getting around challenges quickly. So for productivity hacking, we’re looking for ways to simplify our processes to better drive productivity in our work. This way, we can work more simply to achieve complex challenges like those uncovered by the survey.

Here are three productivity hacks that can help you overcome these quality challenges.

Take a simple, centralized approach
The first productivity hack for solving these quality issues is adopting a central, common QMS. We’re often challenged with keeping up with issues that arise, often resulting in the inability to keep things central and common. We can keep things central and simple by keeping these three things in mind:
Ask: Are we making this too hard? Even if you are following the best practice of keeping quality and compliance management documented and defined, when a quality issue arises, it’s even more important to keep the surrounding communication central and collaborative. Often, getting from point A to point B can involve multiple methods like emails, spreadsheets, and comments, but that is confusing. You need a way of keeping track simply.
Have a clear conversation. You want to have a clear and concise conversation around quality, meaning that the communications and actions taken in your processes need to be common and simple enough for people to leverage. This way, all the communication about executing compliance processes are not disparate, but are clear and tracked.
Keep it central. Centralizing your quality system lets you have everything in one logical place. Despite multiple possible methods for communication, they should all be tracked in one place so you can collaborate more effectively as a team. Having one place for everything lets anyone go to that place to see what was said, how the issue was taken care of, and gain better insights into how the company came to that conclusion. But it has to be simple enough for people to want to communicate and collaborate.

Get notified when quality issues arise
Keeping quality top of mind is crucial. We are all busy and are inundated with information every day. We have emails, spreadsheets, conversations, meetings, incidents, and many other factors put on our desks every day. How can we eliminate the static and get a clearer picture of quality? By keeping quality top of mind.

Giving yourself the tools to have meaningful reminders keeps quality top of mind. We’ve all fallen victim to outdated methods like the gigantic email threads. Those emails become a game of “Telephone,” getting misinterpreted, lost, or even never read through. This is not an effective method of communication; email as a rule should be the messenger, not the master.

Having a process for notifications when something is expected of you is important for keeping quality top of mind. The notification acts only as the reminder, not part of the action itself. It’s a matter of using tools like push notifications or email reminders to bring users back to the central system for carrying out the action.

Gain visibility into your QMS data for improvement
Harnessing the power of your organization’s data lets you build a culture of continuous improvement. We’ve created a central place to carry out quality tasks, we have engaged our team by bringing them in with notifications, and taken the chaos of email out of the picture. Now, we need to be able to make sense of these data, report on them, plus filter, search, and use the data to prove our operations.

In order to keep our promises to our customers, we need to ensure that we are constantly improving quality. To do so, our data must not exist in a chaotic mix of spreadsheets, file servers, and email threads. Without a meaningful way to organize this information, centralize it, and filter it, we run the risk of missing critical opportunities for improvement.

So how can we eliminate the chaos and organize the information to come to meaningful decisions? By virtue of centralizing our quality system, we can now have a single logical place for all quality data. Then, we use these data to provide meaningful information. Now we have a clear, common path to continuous improvement. It promotes quality culture because everyone can be a part of a centralized vision.

Closing thoughts

Quality management is about people and processes. Adding technology gives you a platform for automating the way people interact with the processes and each other. Getting everyone to enroll in this type of quality system can help overcome the challenges of quality management while carrying out key processes. Complicated systems can slow progress, so look for ways to find simple methods to centralize, communicate, and report, and you’ll find that you’ve moved one step closer to a true culture of quality management.

Join Tim Lozier, director of product strategy at Traqpath, and host Dirk Dusharme, editor in chief of Quality Digest, for the webinar, “Productivity Hacking in Quality Management,” on Tues., Jan. 31, 2017, at 11 a.m. Pacific and 2 p.m. Eastern. Register here.

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About The Author

Tim Lozier’s picture

Tim Lozier

Tim Lozier is the director of product strategy for EtQ, in Farmingdale, New York. He has extensive experience in the software industry, and has been involved in the creation of leading-edge technologies in user-interface design and development. He began his career in digital marketing before taking a turn into software design and marketing at Quark Inc. Since then, he’s never looked back—helping to foster the development (and blog about) leading quality management software solutions.