Quality and the Marketplace
Does your company remake products or redo services which were not made or performed correctly the first time? Are these instances costly and occurring more frequently than you prefer? Your company may be at a point where industry and client requirements are suggesting there is a need for a new or improved approach to Quality.
How your personnel and processes work together to produce fit-for-purpose products and/or services is called a Quality Management System or QMS. Simply defined, a QMS means; 1) write what you do, 2) do what you write and 3) demonstrate compliance to 1) & 2). A QMS reduces mistakes, improves efficiency and makes your company more competitive in the marketplace.
In our work with small companies, when improvement to or adaptation of a QMS is considered, the two biggest challenges we see are:
1) A lack of up-front evaluation and understanding of company internal processes and requirements. These processes and their requirements are controlled by Business Management Systems (BMSs) and must interface with the QMS to meet company goals and objectives. Failing to properly identify and understand BMSs and integrate them into QMS planning has the potential to create operational problems and inefficiencies.
2) QMS solutions should be tailored to the work process, not the other way around. Trying to mold personnel and business processes to a fixed QMS solution can result in resistance to change and disruption of an otherwise effective business model. The building of an effective QMS requires BMS evaluation and a functional description of what is required to meet company goals. Have a plan.
To frame BMS evaluation, this article considers functional areas in a typical fabrication company such as:
- Client Specification Review
- Contract Review & Management
- Document Control
- Project Management
- Quality Assurance
- Quality Control
- Fabrication Planning & Scheduling
- Inventory Management
- Assembly & Test
- Deliverable Documentation
- Vendor Management
- Shipping & Receiving
Each of these functional processes is controlled by a BMS and is either impacted by or provides work input to the company’s QMS. These process workflows must be developed, documented and optimized to ensure efficiency and to understand their interface with the QMS. With these evaluations, a comprehensive QMS functional description is developed which explains QMS details, interactions of the BMSs and becomes the basis to move forward in QMS development.
In short, a Quality Management System (QMS) is a set of methodologies a company creates and follows to ensure their products and/or services meet customer requirements, applicable standards and company goals. With a good QMS there are fewer defects and improved process efficiencies which result in increased Quality and profits as well as greater marketplace competitiveness.
QA vs. QC
An effective QMS has two primary activities; Quality Assurance (QA) and Quality Control (QC).
- QA, a management function, is proactive and sets or establishes documented practices, methods and/or procedures to ensure the product and/or services provided are correct and fit for purpose.
- QC is a reactive process and focuses on identifying and improving defects and reducing their frequency. QC verifies QA requirements and in doing so improves Quality and efficiency in company operations and deliverables.
Typical small company QMS development follows these general steps:
- Define, analyze and optimize processes to meet goals (BMS evaluation)
- Develop policies and procedures that ensure the process meets the goals
- Develop instructions and forms to effect and manage the procedures
- Define potential defects in the process and how they are identified and corrected
- Develop QMS training and implement the system
- Use the QMS – collect data, analyze defects, improve the processes
- Poor quality products or services impact market competitiveness and indicate a needed focus on Quality
- Initially, you must understand and analyze processes (BMS) that optimize company goals and objectives
- To minimize implementation push back, tailor the QMS solution to match the process, not vice versa
- Develop a documented QMS which fully defines QA and QC activities
- Use, monitor and improve the QMS processes
This article is intended to be informational and introductory in nature. For more information about the topics discussed in this article, or you need support or guidance in the areas of QMS, BMSs, functional specifications, QA or QC, contact the author at [email protected].