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Mike Roberts

Quality Insider

Ten Strategies Quality Leaders Must Know

Learning to understand and overcome challenges

Published: Monday, June 16, 2014 - 10:40

As a research company, LNS Research is in the perfect position to see what is really going on behind the scenes in the manufacturing industry. On one side of the coin, we’re interviewing and surveying quality and manufacturing executives to understand their foremost challenges; on the other side, we’re researching which current and emerging technologies and strategies are helping them overcome those challenges.

When it comes to quality management, today’s executives are focused on three major business challenges: reducing costs, meeting compliance, and mitigating risk. The multitude of factors (technology, trends, etc.) contributing to those challenges only continues to breach higher levels of complexity. These factors have also generated considerable changes to the way people, processes, and technologies are leveraged across the enterprise.

Of course, our research has shown that companies adapting to market changes and taking advantage of next-generation technology are the ones able to remain on top. In this article, we’ll inspect the technologies and strategies that market leaders have deployed and are likely to continue using in coming years—the things you have to know about to achieve and sustain competitiveness.

1. Quality as a responsibility solely of the “Quality Department” is a mindset of the past

It is becoming less acceptable for quality to be considered the responsibility of a single department. Market leaders are instilling the “quality mindset” into every employee, i.e., “How will this decision affect quality?”

2. More companies are developing internal cross-functional quality councils to gain diverse perspectives

We are hearing more about internal quality councils that pull in personnel from across the value chain to gain different perspectives and identify new solutions to problems. Remember, quality affects procurement, design, manufacturing, distribution, and service differently.

3. Quality management technology has dramatically improved during the past 10 years

Improvements to enterprise software have transformed the way businesses operate, and the quality management software category is no exception. Enterprise quality management software (EQMS) is delivering unprecedented forms of quality functionality in the manufacturing environment and beyond.

4. Cloud-based quality software has transformed supplier quality management

Visibility into supplier activities has traditionally been limited to on-site supplier quality engineers or electronic correspondence via email, FTP, etc. Cloud-based portals—as part of EQMS solutions—are delivering new levels of communication and collaboration, helping to improve supplier quality before shipments are even made.

5. Social media is a valid (and increasingly usable) form of customer feedback

Online reviews, tweets, discussions in forums, and so on offer a gold mine of product quality feedback, and companies are starting to take notice. By combining sentiment analysis with new algorithms and business intelligence tools, exciting new discoveries can drive better products and services.

6. Quality analytics are helping companies find previously hidden performance correlations

With EQMS automating quality processes, professionals have an entirely new set of quality performance data on end-to-end production processes within and between plants, as well as across the value chain. The types of correlations coming from this robust data set can be eye-opening.

7. Mobile capabilities are becoming a standard in quality management solutions

Not long ago, manufacturers, software vendors, and analysts were all talking about the move to mobile. Today, most leading manufacturers have some form of mobile application used for viewing reports, auditing remote sites, or capturing nonconformances.

8. The potential for big data to have a widespread effect is on the horizon

At some levels, manufacturers are already using big data analytics to identify areas for quality improvement with large historical data sets from social media and end-to-end processes. Expect more solutions for this, and also a shift toward the use of more real-time data in the near future.

9. Market leaders are thinking about how the Internet of Things (IoT) can be leveraged

The widespread use of IoT technology is not far away. It’s time to start learning about the solutions being developed for quality management, because in the coming years we expect to see a rise in IoT applicability in areas such as in-line testing with sensors and process-to-process connectivity.

10. All emerging technology and strategic trends point toward closed-loop quality management

Today, market leaders are moving well beyond siloed quality management, acknowledging the connection between quality across the value chain and business performance. This is propelling arguably the most important trend of all—the move toward a closed-loop quality environment.

Closed-loop quality is the concept of connecting traditionally disparate quality process data and content from different functional areas, with the goal of strategically and sustainably improving upstream quality. Although manufacturers have been thinking about it for years, the above nine points have transformed the reality and utility of closed-loop quality processes.

For reference, take a look at data from our recent quality management survey, seen in figure 1. It shows overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) performance for the top 25 percent of performers vs. the bottom 75 percent of performers. As shown, 62 percent of the top performers—all of which had an OEE of 90 or higher—had established closed-loop quality processes. Based on our research, this is a number we expect to rise quickly in the coming years.


Figure 1: Overall equipment effectiveness and closed-loop quality. Click here for larger image.

How you can develop a closed-loop quality environment

When it comes down to it, companies putting off or overlooking the benefits of closed-loop quality—and the technologies and strategies above—are asking professionals to do more with less. At a time where the global competitive environment is rapidly heating up, relying on outdated resources is only widening the gap between agile businesses and everyone else.

If you’re interested in learning about how you can make use of the above points and develop your own closed-loop quality environment, join us on June 17 for a webcast on the topic. Mehul Shah of LNS Research will be presenting findings from a recent LNS Research study, and also strategies for enhancing closed-loop quality management and quality analytics.

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About The Author

Mike Roberts’s picture

Mike Roberts

Mike Roberts 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. Roberts writes research papers, case studies, and contributes regularly to the LNS Research blog, where he covers topics including enterprise quality management software, manufacturing operations management, asset performance management, sustainability, and industrial automation 2.0.