Posts Tagged ‘Quality’

GM is putting quality to the test!

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

A recent Detroit News article describes the efforts of a General Motors facility to maintain a high standard of quality as plant production increases towards capacity. GM credits much of its progress in quality to the implementation of lean systems and other quality programs. Click for link to article.

For more information on these quality initiatives, contact G3 Solutions and ask how your organization can benefit from these tools.

Customer satisfaction – the art of making the customer feel like they matter!

Monday, April 26th, 2010

Past the half way point in our top ten countdown of quality system nightmares -

Reason #5 – Customer satisfaction data is not analyzed, or even collected!

Whenever the subject of customer satisfaction comes up in quality system implementation, there is never a neutral or apathetic response from top management. Some are gung-ho on getting data and finding out where they stand, and others will wince in pain knowing that the big blowout last week with that top account will end up as a documented exercise in finger pointing. Everyone will have their personal take on gathering data, including just who should be solicited for feedback and who will analyze it.

”Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong.”
- Donald Porter V.P., British Airways

Often, those management team members that have direct responsibility for on-time delivery and zero defects may think customer satisfaction data is not necessary, especially when there has been a recent positive trend in both of those metrics. If the customer is getting defect free product and on-time delivery, what could possible be wrong? Why would anyone complain?

If you read ISO 9001 clause 8.2.1 – Customer Satisfaction, it states “…the organization shall monitor information relating to customer perception as to whether the organization has met customer requirements.” This can mean a lot more than good product on time. Your customer may have many issues regarding such matters as communication, response time to questions or concerns, or other service related items.

One of the most comical remarks we’ve heard from the ranks of top management is that “We don’t want to ask anyone now – we just sent out a lot of bad orders that are coming back!”

Waiting for customers to be in a really good mood should not be a part of information gathering criteria. How the company ranks in customer satisfaction is not the important thing. What a company is doing in response to customer satisfaction is the primary concern.

In fact, great customer relation-building opportunities await if customer satisfaction data is collected during times of product crises. Demonstrating that customer opinion matters, whether good or bad, and then actually acting on that information through such methods as corrective action, increased contact or even new process implementation will convey the message that no matter how negative a customer experience was, the customer is supreme!

For some creative ideas in measuring customer satisfaction, contact G3 Solutions today!

Next in our top ten countdown of quality system saboteurs – poor document control!

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

Not getting maximum benefit from your quality system? Poor document control always adds to inefficiency!

Reason #6 – Document control is not enforced!

Making sure everyone is working off of the same page (often quite literally) is the primary goal of the ISO 9001 clause 4.2.3 – Control of Documents. We hear from many quality managers and management representatives that this rather simple requirement, which seems on the surface to be easy to handle, can be a real bear to nail down. It is hard to imagine that this would be a difficult task, with most companies relying on electronic documentation. So what gets in the way of making complete and effective document control a given?

It generally starts with most companies not knowing just what to control. Sometimes it is assumed that the only documents needing control are those that make up the quality system. This narrow (and incorrect) interpretation of the requirement can lead to document chaos. Most companies have multitudes of documents that affect not only information getting to the customer, but also between departments, areas, and processes. Documentation that is not providing the most current info can wreak havoc with production schedules, customer communication and overall product/service quality.

Some areas/departments that are more isolated from traditional design and production processes (such as Accounting, IT, and off-site Sales personnel) may develop a whole subset of documents that might fly under the document control radar. There may be the thinking that certain documents are not important to control since the individual department is the only group using them for intra-departmental correspondence.

If there is confusion with knowing just what to control, let this be your guide: if any document or form provides direction, status, guidance or is kept as some sort of record, it should be controlled! Why risk the chance that someone might make a costly mistake with obsolete info? This is obvious when it comes to such items as specifications, drawings, assembly instructions and the like. But remember, document control can even include the most basic of communication tools such as fax cover sheets, inter-company memos, or business cards. Even the seemingly smallest overlooked items on documents like incorrect phone extensions, old email addresses, revised building or suite numbers, etc., can cause confusion with a fellow employee or boss, not to mention the customer!

For more info on how you can get a handle on document control, ask the experts at G3 Solutions today!

Are company objectives for quality really working as a tool for improvement?

Monday, April 12th, 2010

Part of our top ten series of reasons some companies are not getting the most from their quality system -

Reason #7 – Quality objectives are never changed

One of the key requirements in quality standards such as ISO 9001, ISO/TS 16949, AS9100 and others is that an organization must establish and measure objectives for quality. Even though this is just one of numerous requirements found in various ISO standards, this one key mandate may provide the most overall benefit to an organization.

Setting objectives for quality throughout the company and monitoring those objectives should provide a useful overview of how well processes are performing. At times, we see companies that establish simple goals and objectives that are too easily met and remain virtually unchanged, sometimes over a period of years. When this pattern of perceived “success” in meeting objectives is investigated, it is often exposed that there is a company culture that assumes it is better to portray a positive than display any type of negative trend to either customers or third party auditors.

This can be a major roadblock in making the quality system a true tool for continual improvement. It often fosters a feeling of apathy in many employees who view the quality system as simple window dressing for keeping the current customer base happy and impressing potential customers. Once this attitude becomes part of the overall organizational culture, it is tough to reverse – but not impossible.

A primary function of top management should be to examine if current objectives and goals are providing a true evaluation of overall performance. The key output of this review should be to establish new goals that may be more realistic in terms of driving process improvement. Just because an organization may not be meeting goals and objectives and an analysis of data may show a negative trend, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the company is a quality freight train wreck.

By linking continual improvement initiatives and programs to numbers that aren’t traveling in the desired direction shows that the organization is truly dedicated to continual improvement. Once the top management of an organization like that described above makes a strategic paradigm shift in reviewing and understanding quality objectives, good things will happen. It will not only make the company look stronger to customers and auditors, but to those employees who are hoping for real process improvement.

Does this scenario sound familiar? If so, G3 Solutions can help!

Saturday, April 10th, 2010

Top ten reasons why some quality systems are ineffective -

Reason #8 – The quality system is handled by one person

At G3 Solutions, we often receive calls from companies that are in need of expertise to help with quality system issues shortly before a third-party audit. This is often due to a lack of resources and downsizing from the recent economic nightmare of the past year.

Unfortunately, those employees that fell under the umbrella of “quality” were some of the first to be downsized. Since these employees were in charge of such key systems as internal audits, corrective actions and analysis of quality data, the maintenance of these systems would continually get put off until the last possible minute, if they were done at all. This is not the way a well implemented quality system should work.

Generally, the reason for this type of system meltdown is that most, if not all key functions of the system were handled by one employee whose primary purpose in the company was to be “the ISO person”. They were responsible for making sure all of that ISO 9001 “stuff” got done, and now they are not around – and no one has a clue as to what needs to be maintained.

A well implemented system will almost run by itself, with just minimal oversight by the selected management representative. Key systems should be shared and divided by top management; not handled solely by the quality manager or ISO coordinator. Not only will this shared strategy help maintain key processes, but will also encourage and promote employees to work with and improve the quality system.

For further information on how we can help, contact G3 Solutions today!

Top ten reasons for an ineffective QMS!

Monday, April 5th, 2010

Reason #9 – Negligence in training employees to properly use the system!

Competence, training and awareness for employees is more than just a simple ISO 9001 requirement – it is a major factor in the difference of having a system that will work as either a) a tool for continual improvement, or b) a worthless set of documents that are not followed.

Many third party auditors will often look at the training records of the oldest and newest employees as well as directly asking them questions as to how they access and utilize their system. It can be a very good barometer of how well the entire quality management system (QMS) is working.

The reason behind this type of audit sampling is that many company “veterans” will often provide candid feedback on portions of the system that are not operating as documented. In some instances, these employees will even reveal ways that the current system is bypassed for efficiency, especially when improvements to processes are not made. With new employees, training effectiveness is easy to assess based on whether the QMS information and training given to them is memorable, and then asking if they can actually demonstrate use of the system.

Training on the quality system for new hires and ongoing training for veteran employees should be a priority for any company looking to get the most out of their QMS.

For some creative ideas on how to get your employees trained as QMS experts, contact the ISO experts at G3 Solutions today!

Top ten reasons why some companies aren’t getting the most out of their ISO 9001 quality system

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

In the coming weeks, we are going to give you all of our top ten reasons why some ISO 9001 based quality management systems fail to provide some organizations with real process improvement. We may post another topic here and there, so you’ll just have to check back frequently to see our full list. Enough already!! Let’s begin-

#10 – Too many procedures – the company quality system is from a template!

When performing internal audits for companies, we sometimes see quality system documentation that is rather extensive, especially in older systems that were developed before the major ISO 9001 revision in 2000. Systems based on the old twenty element model contained a procedure for almost every requirement, not to mention a handful of work instructions for every procedure. When the revision came along, some companies interpreted it as a simple renumbering scheme and added a process map that looked like a wiring diagram for the Space Shuttle. Having a system today based on a standard from yesterday usually leads to a lot of frustration, minimal user friendliness, and can also become a “Rubik’s Cube” nightmare for document control.

Another reason for over documentation is that some companies have “borrowed” documentation from other organizations and tried to simply insert their name. This can be easy when the size and industry of the companies are identical, but when you try to implement a system from a 300-employee casting facility and your company is a 20 employee plating shop, you’re in for one big mess of a quality system. In a lot of cases, companies that were in a hurry to implement quality systems to please their customers would buy templates from consultants and were tempted to try the “insert name here” approach. Both approaches can diminish or even negate any value from implementing an ISO 9001 system.

The ISO 9001:2008 standard allows for an amazing amount of flexibility in documentation which provides a real opportunity to create a system that is simple, efficient and relative to the operations of an organization. If your system sounds like what has been described earlier in this posting, you may find it a worthwhile endeavor to overhaul your quality manual and procedures. If you’re starting out and are looking for an easy way to get something in place, contact the experts at G3 Solutions today!

Document control – it can be easier than some may think!

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Recently, I was perusing through a quality discussion forum and the question was asked “Is it ever a good idea to organize and name your company’s files, documents, procedures, work instructions, and other items according to the numbering system of ISO/TS requirements?”

I am always horrified when a company starts constructing a quality system based on a standard rather than their own internal processes. Standards such as ISO 9001 or ISO/TS 16949 should be used as a guide for the construction of the quality system and not the reason for its existence. These types of “let’s satisfy ISO first” quality systems have a tendency to become thought of as documentation for “that annoying ISO stuff!”. This can eventually lead to documents being ignored, or worse, rewritten and uncontrolled in order to be thought of as more relevant to their use.

There is no prescriptive method for numbering or naming your quality system documentation. Usually, simple revision date codes or numbers can be used to provide a level of control needed to meet requirements.

Make your documentation easy to use by somehow identifying it with the process they are associated with to provide a more relevant and effective understanding of their use.

For more tips on document control, contact G3 Solutions today!

Writing a corrective action when “It wasn’t our fault!”

Friday, March 26th, 2010

When dealing with quality system standards such as ISO 9001, it is important to remember the emphasis put on continual improvement.

A recent event at a client location involved a customer complaint that turned out to be a supplier issue. When encouraged to write an internal corrective action, someone within the organization made the remark “Why should we write a corrective action if it wasn’t our fault? It was a supplier issue!”

At first thought, it sounds like a valid point. The whole situation was caused by the supplier. The organization did everything correctly according to their procedures. They also have a robust supplier management program that, as most felt, would provide a solid system to notify the supplier and request a root cause determination as to how the incident can be avoided in the future.

So why a corrective action? First, every incident involving a customer complaint truly is a golden opportunity to make sure it won’t repeat – no matter who is at fault. If it can happen once, it can happen again. And although people within the organization know that this time it isn’t the company’s fault, there is a high probability that the customer doesn’t care. All the customer knows is that they used a company to supply a product or service and something went wrong. The customer is also probably wondering “If this supplier is used again, what other headaches and heartburn will we encounter?” This can and probably will affect the customer perception of the organization (reference ISO 9001 clause 8.2.1 – Customer Satisfaction).

Secondly, we can’t forget Note 3 in ISO 9001 clause 4.1 – General Requirements that states “Ensuring control over outsourced processes does not absolve the organization of the responsibility of conformity to all customer, statutory and regulatory requirements.” Sure, the supplier got it wrong, but we are still responsible for the product or service we promised to the customer.

Finally, the fact that the organization followed all of their procedures is good, but how do they know that the procedures are right? Have changes in the organization occurred since the procedures were written and reviewed? And if the answer is yes, do our procedures allow for the flexibility of dealing with those changes? There probably is much to examine, explore and revise if changes in operations have been made.

Again, continual improvement should always be the emphasis when the customer isn’t happy. In the end, taking this approach can be the difference between happy or irate customers – not to mention repeat or lost revenue.

New concepts in Team Building!

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

There have been many good quality ideas and programs that have come from Japanese manufacturing – i.e. 5s, KAIZEN, Total Quality Management (TQM), the Toyota Production System, etc. One area where they are not given enough credit is in team building – don’t believe us? Just watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwvVh0_ZelI

For less exhaustive team building ideas, contact G3 Solutions today!