Collaboration is Key to Managing Quality
David Sims posted on June 07, 2013 |
Collaboration is Key to Managing Quality

Quality management is something every company could be doing better. And no matter how big or small the company, it can probably improve quality management by improving its collaboration technology and skills.

A recent white paper from Aberdeen Group highlights the importance of collaboration as a means of improving quality management. Aberdeen’s research found that new product introduction and operations are the main drivers for companies to invest in collaboration and communication tools, with 43 percent of respondents citing the “need to shorten product time to market” as a main driver, but only 13 percent citing “need to increase product quality.” Yet collaboration can help significantly improve quality management.

Moshe Cohen and Jon Chard of IBM Software say that reducing planning overhead is one way collaboration technology can help improve quality management. “Managing the testing plan is a collaborative activity involving all stakeholders,” Cohen and Chard say, adding that “a central repository where stakeholders can share and access updates and a single version of the truth (SVOT) can significantly cut the time spent on collaborative tasks.”

In fact, Cohen and Chard identify a “Collaborative Quality Management Life Cycle” that emphasizes the collaborative nature of the various stages of manufacturing’s product development life cycle, including requirements definition, analysis and design, construction, testing, and release. Since those involve such disparate parts of the organization, any tools or processes that are put in place to facilitate collaboration among the different areas will improve the overall quality of the product.

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Bear in mind, of course, that collaboration can be execute poorly: What’s needed are firm structures and accountability to ensure quality doesn’t suffer. As Lajos Moczar writes in CIO magazine, “You don’t need a methodology that takes authority away from a single individual… You cannot replace accountable and responsible project management with some immature utopian myth of self-organization.”

Of course today in the distributed, global economy, collaboration often means communicating around the world. Managing quality then relies heavily on the effectiveness of your external communication skills and technology.

“The quality of a product is a determinant of the quality of the work done across the supply chain by myriad entities,” notes a recent white paper from Infosys. The imperative today, as Infosys sees it, “is to eliminate all non-value adding quality activities through innovative process or technological means… in ensuring that end quality is achieved through collaboration in quality assurance and quality management activities across the manufacturing supply chain.”

Globalization, outsourcing, modularization of components, and customer feedback are four factors requiring greater collaboration to ensure proper quality management, Infosys finds, noting that “a typical quality problem has multiple initiation as well as touch points.” In a situation where “critical functions like design and logistics [are] being managed by external entities,” the report says, “designing for quality and for product management needs to be managed in a collaborative paradigm.”

The Infosys report also underlines the importance of a collaborative central quality database, accessed online, to support many different legacy applications in managing quality. With appropriate business rules and decision criteria to address the issue at hand, and with standards, templates, and guidelines to help gather data “in a structured and efficient manner,” Infosys says, “a workflow layer can route the CQM [collaborative quality management] process through the appropriate internal and external entities.”

In other words, support a SVOT accessible by all stakeholders in the enterprise, no matter where they are in the chain or whether they’re internal or external: “The key to the success of the model,” Infosys says, “is the degree to which it is able to tackle internal as well as external challenges in the new manufacturing supply chain environment.”

The importance of having the right collaboration tools cannot be overestimated. “Both manufacturers and retailers that participated in our research cited a lack of dedicated resources as one of the top three reasons for the failure of collaboration efforts,” writes Luis Benavides, an associate principal at McKinsey & Co. in Supply Chain Quarterly. The research he refers to is a series of Customer and Channel Management (CCM) surveys conducted in cooperation with Nielsen and the Grocery Manufacturers Association. He adds, “Companies frequently underestimate the resources required to make collaborations work, assuming that they can leave it up to staff in various functions to do what’s required in addition to their other responsibilities.”

The idea that effective collaborative quality management can be had on the cheap is common. A recent study from LNS Research reported that almost 50 percent of executives at large companies said their top quality management objective for the year was “reducing the cost of quality.”

This article was originally published on ThomasNet News Industry Market Trends  and is reprinted in its entirety with permission from Thomas Industrial Network.  For more stories like this please visit Industry Market Trends.

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