Information & Training. | Quality Assurance. Quality Management.
Continuous Improvement in Product and Process Quality.In order to survive and thrive an organization needs to effectively achieve ongoing continuous improvement in product and process quality and across all areas within its scope of operation. In a competitive environment, customer expectations will continually increase, competitor businesses will seek to achieve efficiencies via new methods of operation, via the exploitation of technology, via building strategic relationships with key suppliers, etc..
The level of on-going improvement at a minimum needs to be greater that the average improvement achievements within competitors, just to retain market share levels. To grow market share, to increase profitability, to build customer loyalty levels, needs ongoing improvement to be implemented at a faster rate than the industry averages.
Approach to continuous improvement.Improvement needs to be actively and effectively implemented across all areas within the scope of operation of a business. This introduces a requirement that improvement methodologies need to be aligned with the capabilities, practicalities, preferences of particular functions and the particular cultures that exist across the organization. For example, within a research and development department, novel “out of box” thinking will be encouraged. New innovations, new and daring approaches to meeting customer requirements will be seriously considered. Consider now a finance department. While new ideas will be welcome, there will be a certain reticence to dramatically changing the methods of financial reporting and financial analysis. A stable consistent set of reports will be a requirement from the department, however, this should not prevent the identification and implementation of efficiency improvements.
Every organization is being impacted by the introduction of new technology and struggles with understanding the potential influences such technological change will have on their market, combined with how best to identify, introduce and optimize technological change as part of their continuous improvement efforts.
Every organization needs to identify the span of continuous improvements desired, understand the objectives and environments applicable and ensure appropriate continuous improvement methods are available to the staff operating within their respective areas which will allow them to identify and implement suitable change and improvement.
Continuous improvement and organizational direction and strategy.There will be infinite opportunities for product and process improvement. However, it is critical that only those improvements which align with and contribute to the desired direction of the organization are pursued. For example, if the organizational strategy is to provide a superior product, with a personal touch at a higher price relative to competitors, then the improvement efforts must support this approach. It would not seem appropriate to introduce improvement such as automating the customer relationship as this may negate the personal customer experience, e.g. a bank may decide to retain relatively high cost local branch offices so that customers can call in and talk directly to staff. It may cost the bank less to move all customers “on-line”, but the personal advantage would be compromised and would not be aligned with the organizational strategy of maintaining and building on strong personal customer relationships.
Model for continuous improvement in product and process quality?One form of improvement is the Deming approach of “Plan-Do-Check-Act”. While easy to present and relatively easy to understand, its simplicity can leave some confusion between participants over how to go about implementing an improvement effort.
An alternate approach is the six sigma DMAIC, define, measure, analyze, improve, control. This approach gives a further level of detail to the user and is a little clearer in where each of the improvement activities reside.
An organizational wide approach can be based on TQM (Total Quality Management) which places a significant level of emphasis on the organizational culture and orientating the culture in order to encourage staff participation on the improvement efforts. Other improvement approaches could be Lean Processing, Statistical Process Control, Benchmarking against competitors, etc., etc..
A generic model for continuous improvement needs to consider a broad range of potentially suitable improvement models and seek to align with the organization. Many businesses will have preferred improvement methods and will operate ongoing training programs to facilitate and encourage staff utilization of such improvement approaches.
Every approach to improvement will need a clear end objective, equally, other requirements common to all improvement efforts will be a clear understanding of the current situation, a clearly defined scope applicable to the improvement efforts, an understanding of resource availability, defined change protocols and defined approval requirements.
Each of these generic requirements can then be further expanded, for example, the “current situation” may encompass a benchmarking process to understand competitive advantages and where the organization needs to improve. A SWOT analysis could show potential opportunities and threats. Implementation of an SPC process would create a baseline, from which the effects of change would be visible. Therefore, understanding the “current situation” as an initial stage in a continuous improvement effort could encompass Benchmarking, SWOT analysis, and SPC charting. With these methods in place, a team tasked with driving a continuous improvement project could now move onto the next stage which may be to identify and understand the root cause of a problem.
Possible stages in an improvement model:
Defining the task, objective, goal, problem,….
Creating the improvement team who will actively work on the task.
Understanding the current situation.
Understanding the cause of a problem, the complexity of the task, the inter-relationships potentially impacting on achieving the objective.
Identifying, measuring the risks. Risk controls may be necessary in the short term.
Consideration of possible solutions. Reviewing and agreeing the optimum solution.
Initial feedback from stakeholders who will be affected by the proposed solution.
Development of a detailed implementation plan. Resource requirements and timelines estimated.
Obtaining full approval and “go-ahead”.
Implementation of the plan. Reporting on progress. Monitoring of results.
Confirmation of objective achievement, problem solution, project completion.
Next task, or alternatively where the original task was not adequately addressed, return to an earlier stage in the improvement process.
Information & Training. | Quality Assurance. Quality Management.
- The Principles of Quality Management
- The Quality Manual
- Quality Standards and Specifications
- The Quality Management System
- Revised requirements of ISO 9001: 2015
- Design Quality – Products & Processes
- Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP)
- CAPA – Corrective And Preventative Action
- Calibration Certification
- Change Management and Control
- Quality Management Training
- Product and Process Validation
- Supplier Quality Assurance
- Audits & Auditing
- Ensuring the Quality Management System is Risk based
- Etc. …. Etc. …. Etc. …
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