Sources of Quality Improvement to Better the Work Place

Updated on February 12, 2018
Joshua Crowder profile image

Joshua has work experience in manufacturing, distribution, and aerospace. He received his BBA in accounting from Kent State University.

"Eighty-five percent of the reasons for failure are deficiencies in the systems and process rather than the employee. The role of management is to change the process rather than badgering individuals to do better".   ~ W. Edwards Deming ~
"Eighty-five percent of the reasons for failure are deficiencies in the systems and process rather than the employee. The role of management is to change the process rather than badgering individuals to do better". ~ W. Edwards Deming ~

Continued Quality Improvement

Businesses, without doubt, are institutions that change, especially since the time of the dot-com boom. Nowadays, cutting-edge technologies and the processes that drive them are obsolete within a few years. To remain competitive, businesses need to combat this trend by improving the quality of products and processes. Finding ideas about how to improve can be as easy as taking an employee's idea into consideration, documenting a customer complaint, or even by looking at another company's approach compared to yours. In creating a quality initiative for your company, the best thing to look at is what has worked in past. If you implemented a process that enhanced quality before and it worked, why not implement it somewhere else in the company or modify it to work. The key phase I'm getting to is "least path of resistance." Another thing you can do while starting a quality revamp is to brainstorm about how to mitigate constraints to your existing quality procedures. I can't develop a quality improvement plan for you but using benchmarking, employee feedback, and customer feedback, you should be able to find ideas to get you on your way!

Benchmarking

Benchmarking is comparing the costs, productivity, and time of processes or methods to standards and best practices. Benchmarking helps a company understand where the company stands on a particular standard. If the standard is considered under par, then continuous improvement may need to be considered for the company to better themselves on that standard. To enable benchmarking, one must first decide what indicator(s) will be used. Indicators could be the time it takes customer service to greet callers, the number of defects per unit or any process that is can have some type of metric that can be measured. Once the process and metrics of measure are known you can find a supplier, customer, or any company that will let you compare processes and metrics. Benchmarking can be with similar companies within an industry, but it does not necessarily have to be. The process diagram below is an example of how a company may set up a benchmarking process.

Benchmark Process Example

This example is what a benchmark process could look like. Processes may vary.
This example is what a benchmark process could look like. Processes may vary.

Process and Benefits of Benchmarking

As seen in the sample benchmarking process diagram above, the process starts when an idea about what to benchmark is made. Next, data needs to be collected, monitored and documented. Once data has been validated an internal baseline for the metrics and standards used for comparison can be declared. Now you can compare your standards to that of other other companies and then report your findings for review. The benchmarking process continues and can continue for many different tasks that the business is involved in. An example of a benchmark that I can be created within an industry could have to do with the quality of a measurement of plastic. Say you are completing an impact test for a special kind of plastic in a lab, but you don't have manufacturer specifications and don't have past data the material. At this point, it would be small to find someone else in the plastics industry that you can compare your standards with. As I stated before benchmarking doesn't have to deal with a similar business as long you can complete the chart above to compare similar measurable processes.

Benchmarking can make a business more competitive in a multitude of ways. Other business cultures, training programs, and recognition systems can be adopted and tested to help a company find the best business practices. It does serve as a collective task, so companies will have to be willing to share data in return for useful feedback.

Customer Feedback

Most quality teachings are based on better serving the customer. Teachings from the famous quality gurus who developed systems like six sigma and total quality management are focused specifically on the customer for good reason. The customer is the best source for determining what the best uses and utility for all products and services. There are plenty of ways a business can engage continued communication with the customer to try to find out what they are thinking about a product. Amazon's survey system is one of the biggest the U.S. retail circuit has ever seen. Amazon's survey system is one of the biggest the U.S. retail circuit has ever seen. Amazon knows when packages arrive, and they are quick ask for reviews, so they can settle any possible issues that arise before customers have time to lose their patience. Another way many businesses are collecting survey data from customers is through social networking. This is really popular with restaurants as I'm sure you have noted from Facebook. Speech analytics, CRM system notes, Response Cards and simply just by talking to them. Any negative feedback that is returned can help fix mistakes or create new processes. Customers also help in formulating designs and improvements to future generations of most products.

Turning to employees for advice on how to improve business is becoming more and more popular while more businesses implement continuous improvement programs. Also, empowering employees to get more involved helps them to become more driven for success
Turning to employees for advice on how to improve business is becoming more and more popular while more businesses implement continuous improvement programs. Also, empowering employees to get more involved helps them to become more driven for success

Employee Feedback

Employees are especially a good source for quality and process improvement feedback. One example that I have from my experiences in aerospace manufacturing is a quality improving board. Any employee in the whole company could fill out a card to either improve a process, fix equipment, or any quality or safety concerns that matter. There were a series of cardholders setup on the wall. Horizontally, the folders were separated by value streams. Employees would put suggestions in the first column of their value stream. Once approved by the department supervisor, the suggestion would move the next column and so on through a series of approvals. Eventually, if the suggestion passed all reviews, the building manager would approve and set a deadline for the improvement activity. Employees weren't just driven by grand prize of a $100 gas card, but they had a chance to make a positive change. More companies need to look into putting mechanisms in place where employees are engaged in bettering the company.

Continuous Improvement Chart

This above tool is a continuous improvement board.  Employees can be empowered to submit ideas that solve a problems, improve a processes, or even fix work hazards. Cards are filled out and set in the first column and progressed with dept. approvals.
This above tool is a continuous improvement board. Employees can be empowered to submit ideas that solve a problems, improve a processes, or even fix work hazards. Cards are filled out and set in the first column and progressed with dept. approvals.

Some companies start a quality circle to analyze and solve quality related issues within the company. A majority of the employees involved in quality circles are at lower skill levels with a manager or supervisor heading the group. The reason the group is made up of lower level employees simply because they know the more problems throughout the company first hand which would be the case in a large manufacturing facility. You can't have a group of professionals deciding themselves on what improvement measure need to be made when they don't physically participate in the work environment.

Be More Quality Conscious

More than likely your company does draw quality ideas from one of the three categories above. A point that I'm really trying to drive home is the fact that even if a company appears to be doing well it still needs to be analyzed for newer types of quality methods. Companies that neglect to start improving at this point in time are really going to start falling behind. By 2030, one-third of the workforce will be unemployed due to automation. If your company is left behind as one of the companies that is heavily relying on your same old methods you're not going to make it. Besides, we've been behind Japan in quality for over 50 years already.

© 2018 Joshua Crowder

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