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Greg Goodwin

Quality Insider

As EQMS Implementations Increase, So Does the Importance of Due Diligence

Four steps to take during the planning phase

Published: Tuesday, June 23, 2015 - 12:39

Regardless of where you look across manufacturing industries, you’re likely to see that the knob on operational speed has been steadily turned up during the past decade. As trends such as increased automation, mobility, cloud solutions, the Internet of Things (IoT), and enterprise manufacturing solutions take hold, manufacturers are able to collaborate more effectively, forecast and respond to demand more accurately, gain better visibility into internal and external processes, and measure their performance more precisely.

What this means for the quality professional is that that the bar for product quality is rising, and today it’s higher than ever. The speed of manufacturing, combined with increasingly global and disparate suppliers, tightening regulations and compliance initiatives, and a sword hanging over the organization’s head in the form of brand damage via social media have placed enormous pressure on quality organizations. More and more, the processes and systems of yesteryear are no longer making the grade.

Research bears this out. Leading organizations are moving beyond manual processes and disparate systems, implementing enterprise quality management software (EQMS) solutions to integrate and standardize various quality functions at an increasing rate.

According to LNS Research’s quality management study, based on more than 1,200 global quality executives, 32 percent of respondents have had an EQMS budget that has increased by more than 20 percent during the past year, and another 38 percent of respondents’ budgets have increased by 5 percent to 10 percent. It’s clear that EQMS is making its way from the “nice to have” category into the “necessary for success” realm.

The importance of selection

In order to realize the full value of EQMS, it’s crucial that you perform due diligence in selecting the solution that will best fit your organization. Companies that fail to really hone in on the perfect fit find themselves stalled in comparison to their initial plans. This may be in the form of fewer rolled-out sites than hoped, or in standardizing fewer quality functions—for example, starting and stopping at CAPA—than the initial plan called for. So how do you ensure you don’t fall into this trap? You can start with the four broad points outlined below:

Narrowly define the EQMS scope

To accurately define the scope for your EQMS project, there are a few important things you must do. The starting point for any organization should be aligning with corporate business objectives, which may comprise things like:
• Improving specific metrics (e.g., first-pass yield)
• Accelerating the speed of new product introductions
• Reducing customer complaints and returns
• Improved tracking and supplier quality inbound

Understand delivery models and where these are changing

Data show that most organizations are still gravitating toward on-premise EQMS solutions, particularly in heavily regulated industries like life sciences and aerospace and defense. However, this tide is beginning to turn as advancements in software as a service (SaaS) and cloud technology address core concerns among users, such as data security and ubiquitous connectivity. These options have benefits like lower initial costs and automatic updates, benefits that are particularly attractive for small and medium businesses that might be IT resource-constrained. Does this mean that cloud is the right choice for you? Not necessarily, but it’s important to understand current trends and take a long view of future desired capabilities. Depending on your situation, cloud technology may be a viable option.

Assemble a cross-functional team and build an RFP

In the request-for-proposal (RFP) process, it’s crucial to organize a cross-functional team of key stakeholders to accurately determine your current capabilities so you can begin the decision-making process toward an EQMS selection. This should include team members from groups such as IT, quality executives, plant managers, plant quality personnel, regulatory, R&D, engineering, manufacturing, packaging, logistics, sales, customer services, finance, legal, and field support. Once this group is assembled, it must collaborate to form a detailed list of functional and nonfunctional requirements, compile a vendor longlist, and build and issue an RFP that’s structured for response analysis and comparison.

Evaluation, scoring, and selection

Your eventual shortlist vendor demonstrations typically will follow a set format. Your organization should use a standardized scorecard given to each team member, with results compiled at the end of the evaluation period. The scorecard should include specific technical capabilities and functionalities as demonstrated by the vendor.

As the scorecard system whittles options down to a true shortlist, your organization should request and follow up on references. A key due diligence component, the goal should be to speak with customers that exhibit similar characteristics to your own that have implemented their EQMS solution within the last 18 to 24 months or so.

As EQMS implementations become more common across industries, quality organizations that take the time and effort to take these chronological steps find themselves in a better position to achieve early and sustained ROI, as well as the flexibility to integrate additional EQMS functionalities going forward.

For additional critical steps and considerations for your organization get on the path to rapid ROI with EQMS, click for the free LNS Research eBook, “EQMS Solution Selection Best Practices for Global Enterprises.”

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About The Author

Greg Goodwin’s picture

Greg Goodwin

Greg Goodwin is a research associate with LNS Research based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. LNS Research provides executives a platform for accessing unbiased research and benchmark data to improve business performance. Goodwin writes research papers, case studies, and contributes regularly to the LNS Research blog, where he covers topics including manufacturing operations management, industrial automation, sustainability, enterprise quality management software, and asset performance management.