My experience of more than 13 years of management in the industry has shown me that there are some commandments that must be obeyed within an organization, so that we can get the much desired (and more than ever, necessary) quality. I will list them, as follows:
# 1 – Committed Leadership
I do not know about any quality-oriented work that resists leadership that does not truly have a commitment to quality. Take the case of Volkswagen: In 2015, the US government accused Volkswagen of defrauding emission test results on diesel engines. A software incorporated into the central module of the vehicle was discovered, which, noting the car under test, changed the engine’s operating conditions to emit less emissions. According to Volkswagen, this software was shipped with 11 million vehicles. The result was the resignation of the then global president, Martin Winterkorn, a few days later. But this is nothing compared to the loss of brand prestige, and the fines received (in 2017 VW closed an agreement in the US for payment of 4.3 billion dollars, and in 2018 was fined in Germany 1 billion of Euros). Undoubtedly, investing in the development of a less emissions engine would have been much cheaper, and much more worthy. Therefore, for good results, leaders must be committed to quality.
#2 – Continuous Training
It is of great importance to train the team of employees to seek excellence and superior quality. When we talk about training, we refer to on-the-job training, training on manufacturing processes, but also to theoretical-practical training on quality tools and methodologies, as this increases quality awareness and induces commitment.
#3 – Establishment of a Quality Management System
All quality actions within the Organization must be managed and maintained through a management system, designed in an objective manner, as simple as possible, and as elaborated as necessary. One of the most used quality management systems (QMS) is the one proposed by ISO 9001, the problem is that, unfortunately, many Organizations seek this certification only by glimpsing a commercial advantage (because they can say they have certification), or to comply the requirement of a customer, and thus the deployment is disastrous and, practically, useless. Whatever the chosen QMS, its implementation must be intelligent, seeking, effectively, to obtain gains in quality.
#4 – Use of Quality Tools and Statistical Methodologies
There are several quality tools that we can (and should) use in the Organization, and that will help us to avoid, treat, or solve problems related to quality, among them we can mention: Pareto charts, cause and effect diagrams, cause & effect diagrams, Statistical process control (SPC), check sheets, MASP, FMEA, etc. In addition, the use of statistical analysis, such as correlation, can also serve as a powerful aid in quality issues. The use of these tools and methodologies should be organic and natural, that is, a day-to-day use, where it is used as needed, and with all those involved properly trained in its use and understanding (all have to understand the function of these tools, including the operators and assemblers of the shop floor, because no one can say “what is it?” or “what is he doing?”) for good results to come.
#5 – Continuous Improvement of Products and Processes
The product (and its process) must be improved, not only to reduce costs, but also, in order to guarantee the quality desired by the consumer to which this product targets. Therefore, improving both the product and the processes related to it must be an incessant work within the Organization, as this is moving in the same direction as quality.
#6 – Group of committed employees
Imagine the following situation: two assemblers on a production line, both have the same salary, but one shows care and attention in assembling the product and a greater interest in learning, the other does not. The first is committed, the second is not. I’ve witnessed this several times, and you’ve probably already noticed that kind of situation. This type of situation is harmful for two simple reasons: firstly because the not commited employee is a risk to quality, and secondly because it can contaminate or discourage others who are compromised. Well, managers should seek to properly select their teams, selecting and replacing whoever is needed, as needed, with the goal of creating a team of employees committed to quality.
#7 – Requirement of Quality Standards for Suppliers
The quality standards required by the customer must be extended to the entire supply chain, otherwise a whole effort by the Organization for quality may fall on account of a single unprepared supplier. Suppliers should be part of the Organization’s QMS so that the desired level of quality can be obtained from the supply chain. Remember that the chain is as strong as your weakest link!
Obviously, these are not the only points to be considered in the pursuit of quality, but are those that I, in my long journey as an industrial manager, consider to be the most important!