EQMS Destroys the Silos of Traditional Quality Management
Staff posted on July 25, 2014 |
How can you team get an enterprise wide view of quality management? We've got a few tips. 

thomasnet, QC, quality, R&D, managementLone gone are the days when a manufacturer could run quality management from discrete departments. Organizations today are adopting closed-loop, enterprise-wide quality management for a thoroughly complete picture of quality. In a recent web presentation, Mehul Shah, senior associate at LNS Research, spotlighted this new paradigm in quality management as the critical trend now driving quality in manufacturing.

Closed-loop quality management, by Shah’s definition, is a holistic approach that connects the entire organization and centers on four fundamental functions: R&D/engineering, suppliers, manufacturing, and service. Shah noted that with this type of management, it’s “not just thinking about quality in the manufacturing area,” but rather than the whole “value chain.” 

Given the complexities of today’s manufacturing operations and supply chains, most companies will need a technology-based enterprise quality management system (EQMS), Shah asserted, to make sure the data can flow between major organizational functions. Only such a system, he said, can enable a company to respond quickly to quality problems that emerge. As described in an article last week, EQMS gives manufacturing organizations real-time abilities that lead to better management decision-making.

Here is how an integrated EQMS should impact the main functional areas, according to LNS:

R&D/Engineering: A comprehensive view of quality allows an organization to “catch defects very early in the life cycle,” Shah said. During the design/engineering phase, quality management can pay attention to inspection and testing plans, failure modes and effects analysis, and as-built, as-maintained, and as-manufactured data. Faulty design can result in the most costly, high-profile kinds of product failures (such as those afflicting GM), so Shah stressed that management starts in the product design phase.

Suppliers: The increasing complexities of supplier networks are requiring better visibility into upstream quality and more collaborative approaches with suppliers. Traditional final-test data is no longer sufficient. Manufacturers need access to supplier data in such areas as inspections, quality audits, environmental health and safety, real-time process data, and corrective and preventive action information. Shah stressed that “not only do you have to manage the quality of your suppliers, but also the quality of your suppliers’ suppliers, because at the end of the day, it’s your brand that’s going to be impacted.”

Manufacturing: In the most traditional sense, quality is thought of being limited within the realm of the manufacturing operations phase. Massive amounts of data are generated during manufacturing -- inspection and testing data, traceability data, statistical process control data, and nonconformance and corrective and preventive actions (NC/CAPA). All of this is essential information, and Shah cautioned that it should not be kept isolated in a silo.

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Service: At the service phase, quality can be managed at its closest point to the customer. Collecting data at this stage allows the company to feed information back into upstream functions. This draws on such sources as feedback and failure information, warranty claims, service data, formal complaints, and even informal channels such as social media, online product reviews, and sentiment analysis. Said Shah: Closed-loop quality management is “about how you are pushing the data that you are collecting in the field to your engineering group or to your manufacturing group or to your suppliers based on where the defects or issues are, so they can address issues proactively and hopefully promote excellence in their organizations.”

LNS’ analyses found that companies are falling short when it comes to closed-loop quality management. In a survey, 78 percent of companies reported a disconnect in implementing such systems. Companies might have “really strong quality management capabilities within each of the value chain aspects,” Shah commented, but not necessarily the ability to share and visualize the flow of data across that chain and make decisions based on it.

For example, a company might not have a way to predict how engineering change orders are going to impact manufacturing, or trace back what field defects or customer complaints indicate about problems in the manufacturing phase.

Technology can aggravate this shortcoming if IT systems are not connected, with each area operating its own independent system and generating its own data, like spreadsheets, content, or document management systems, shared databases, or other discrete solutions.

Such siloing has been the status quo at many quality organizations, says Michael Rapaport, CEO of IQS, a vendor of quality management solutions based in North Olmsted, Ohio. “A lot of quality managers have built homegrown systems and have not taken advantage of the technologies that are out there,” he told ThomasNet News. “But now executives are starting to pay more attention to the idea of an integrated quality management system and are planning and budgeting for that.”

Rapaport also thinks that a younger, more technology-oriented workforce is enabling companies to move toward more advanced organizational approaches, as well.

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

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