Keeping costs in check while also producing outstanding goods and services is the basis of successful business – and the main goal of quality control professionals. Quality control management is the defined process for how businesses maintain the quality of their products and services. Quality control is a crucial component of all business practices regardless of industry and carries with it a unique set of challenges. Here are the factors that quality control professionals focus on and the approaches they may leverage for success.
What are the Components of a Quality Management System?
Adopting a quality management system is critical for organizations to set quality standards and meet expectations. A quality management system is the set of business procedures aligned with an organization’s strategic direction that is focused on meeting customer requirements, ensuring their satisfaction, and improving the operations. There are four main components of quality management systems: quality planning, quality improvement, quality control, and quality assurance. These quality management components all accomplish different but crucial quality processes.
- Quality Planning- establishes strategy for achieving quality standards
- Quality Improvement- deliberate changes and iteration on existing processes in order to improve outcomes
- Quality Control- ongoing action maintaining process standards to ensure output integrity
- Quality Assurance- systematic reviews of output to confirm specifications and standards are being met
What is the Purpose of a Quality Process?
A quality process is the crucial first step in establishing quality management standards. The quality process is a set of procedures set to ensure that deliverables are produced to fulfill a defined purpose and standard. The quality process should summarize your objectives, specifications, and required resources at a high-level.
Broadly, a quality process will describe an input made into an output from specified resources. A process should provide descriptions of operations, jobs to be done, the origin of required information and materials, tasks to be completed, requirements for output, and receivers of output. Quality processes are implemented in order to improve work and ensure that stakeholder expectations are always met.
Processes in Product Quality Management
The importance of quality processes is most readily evident in product quality management practice. Product quality management is the ability of a product to meet the specifications and expectations of a customer. It also encompasses the producer’s ability to meet those expectations at the lowest possible cost. Quality processes are directly responsible for the organizational success of product producers.
The aim of product quality management is to set standards in order to minimize risks from employee error and production equipment breakdowns. These standards are defined in quality processes and ensure consistent performance. A focus on improving product quality can also result in cost reduction through declined waste and increased employee engagement. By engaging teams in quality process improvement actions, organizations realize output benefits and improve buy-in from teams involved in production.
Examples of Quality Management Approaches
There are countless quality management approaches which vary vastly from highly prescriptive frameworks to lose sets of principles to abide by. Each approach has pros and cons depending on your industry and the processes it is applied to.
Continuous Improvement (Process Improvement)
The continuous improvement approach to quality improvement is exactly that; a focus on continuous and incremental improvements on established processes. Improvements may be exposed through customer feedback or internal analysis. Opportunities for continuous improvement include reducing unneeded processes and streamlining existing actions. Continuous improvement is not a defined, step-by-step process but rather an attitude to adopt in your organization – with data analysis a great starting point.
Kaizen is a philosophy for continuously looking for opportunities to improve that is often applied as an approach to quality management. Kaizen is a Japanese word meaning “change for better” and employs a cycle of activities: Plan, Do, Check, Act. In order to implement Kaizen, all members of an organization are trained on Kaizen principles and are tasked with implementing them in their daily practice. The Kaizen approach is inexpensive to implement, and improvements are gradual over time. Tools exist to accelerate Kaizen practices through process automation and improved data visibility as well.
Six Sigma is a problem-solving framework employing a data-focused approach to quality management. The Six Sigma framework is often referred to as DMAIC. DMAIC stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control. This approach is frequently paired with other quality management approaches and, despite its origin in mass production environments, is being adopted widely across many organizations. Six Sigma’s focus is not merely on detecting and solving problems but proactively identifying and avoiding them. Thorough planning, implementation, and specification of roles are hallmarks of the Six Sigma quality management approach.
Lean Management is an approach to quality management focusing on waste elimination and reduction. Determining waste begins with defining what customers value and parsing down any extraneous processes that don’t provide value to that end. Because of this focus, any activity that consumes resources, time, or effort is a target. Waste broadly applies to materials, transportation, delays, defects, and any other process that can negatively affect output. Lean management’s focus on improvement isn’t exclusive to processes but people as well. A differentiating feature of lean management is shared responsibility, group leadership, and cultivation of individual continuous improvement.
The ISO 9000 is a set of standards established by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) related to quality management. Specifically, ISO 9001 is a certifiable, standard criteria for quality management systems. There are 7 principles on which ISO 9001 is based, and they are: engagement of people, customer focus, leadership, process approach, improvement, evidence-based decision making, and relationship management. Organizations which build quality management practices adhering to the ISO 9001 approach have the option to be audited and receive certification. These practices can be applied to organizations of any size and industry due to its emphasis on integration across organizational functions.
How Does Technology Improve Quality Control Management?
Quality control management practices revolve around principles and practices, however, enabling and executing on these processes require significant effort. To address process improvement, a multitude of quality management software programs exist to help achieve quality management improvement goals. Technology enhances quality control management in two major ways: visibility and automation.
Analyzing data is at the heart of any process improvement. Most organizations have a tremendous amount of data related to their process housed in multiple systems. Developing a holistic view of all quality data in one place is a strength of quality management technology. Enhanced visibility and surfacing information from legacy systems make identifying processes ripe for improvement simpler and more efficient.
Process inefficiencies and waste are inevitable when organizations rely on manual processes. Platforms facilitating process automation are being adopted by quality managers in order to boost the quality processes. Low-code platforms, like Quickbase, are especially effective at allowing organizations to build out custom solutions to automate their quality processes. Automation reduces the requisite effort and opportunity for errors in quality processes. This leads to streamlined operations and overall organizational benefit.