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Guest Post: The Importance of a Quality Management System

Today’s post comes from Alice Rose.  Alice is a freelance copywriter working for QMS International plc, a business certification company specializing in ISO 9001 http://www.qmsuk.com/iso-9001.php.

As the recession hit many businesses began to think of the best ways to cope and short-term solutions such as cutting staffing levels and reducing marketing costs were some of the most popular. But, as time has progressed and consumers are still being very cautious with their spending, I want to touch on some other ways that you can try and beat the big squeeze.

What is a quality management system?

A Quality Management system is the processes, procedures, organizational structure and resources that come together to ensure that a business provides a consistent and reliable service. It emphasizes different principles within a business such as leadership, continual improvement, staff involvement and different approaches to decision making.

It’s all about the consumer

The first thing to remember is that if you provide a great product or a brilliant service to the consumer then they are going to keep coming back. One way to check that your company is running a high quality business is to put a quality management system into place. Quality management systems often incorporate a ‘customer service’ element to them, ensuring that there are procedures in place so customers can record a complaint which means that issues can be addressed and reduced in the future.

Manufacturing industry

If you are manufacturing a product there are certain steps that you can take to ensure that the final product will arrive with the consumer in a high quality state. This can start at the beginning of the production chain, in the factory for example. Simple tasks such as ensuring your workplace is clean will lead to the creation of a better final product. As the product progresses along the chain if simple manufacturing tasks are conducted in a more streamlined fashion the consumer is more likely to receive a high quality product – which will also lead to less waste on your part, reducing costs.

Service industry

The services industry is not immune to the economic downturn and there are simple changes that your company can take to ensure that the customers are still happy. One of the simplest ways to find out if you are providing a good service is by encouraging customer feedback – if you know where you are falling down it’s easier to pick yourself back up.

Setting an example

It is important that quality management systems are considered as a priority by business management who have the facility and knowledge to implement these systems and who, leading by example, will encourage greater productivity and performance across the board as well as locating new areas of the business for growth.

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Supermarket Pull System

A couple of years ago, I was working with a group to create a complex supermarket pull system.  The supermarket was centered around a component that was manufactured inside the assembly facility and feed several assembly lines.  A timed delivery system was going to be used to deliver components to the each assembly line every two hours.  The deliveries were based on the orders the lines placed during the previous two hours.  Only four hours worth of components would be stored at the assembly line and the rest would be stored in the centralized supermarket.

Below is a quick presentation I gave to the leadership to help them understand how the system would work.  Slides 5 -15 show the specifics for this supermarket delivery system.

This is a specific example of how to use this supermarket system.  However, the concept is the same no matter what supermarket you use.  There should be:

  • Centralized storage location for the components
  • A small amount of inventory at the point of use
  • A signal to replenish the point of use inventory
  • A signal to replenish the supermarket inventory
  • Replenishment triggers should be based on lead time to receive inventory from supplier

A well designed supermarket system can be a very powerful tool to help reduce inventory and simplify operations.

Building Operational Excellence

This is part of my reflections from the OpsInsight Forum in Boston.

Robert Miller presented about the principles and dimensions The Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence uses to assess companies for the award.  Robert explained the important factors for any company that wants to achieve operational excellence.

Companies need to:

  1. Define Excellence
  2. Define Continuous Improvement
  3. Understand Transformation
  4. Tell the Truth

The first two are about setting expectations so people know what is expected of them.  The third is about understanding what your people will be going through.  The last is the most important.  An organization needs to be honest with itself and where it stands.  They can’t sugar coat their situation and they can’t hide it from their employees.

Companies need to bake operational excellence into their culture.  In order to do this, it starts with principles that help define systems that help to build tools to support.  I have recreated the graphic that Robert showed that helps explain why companies fail in building operational excellence into the culture.

Have you seen this to be true?  With lean transformations, I have seen this quite a bit.  Companies start by implementing tools and then later figure out the tools aren’t working because they don’t have the systems in place to support the tools.  Then even later the company realizes they don’t have the same underlying principles that a company implementing lean successfully does.  By this time it may be too late.  The lean implementation may have been thrown out the window.

If the lean implementation does last long enough to realize the principles are needed to lay the foundation then the company has wasted a lot of valuable time.  It is good they got there.  The company could have had larger or better sustaining gains if they built the same direction as they thought about it.

When a company can think and build from left to right, the greater chance of success of embedding operational excellence into their culture.