Bottom line: Too often quality is treated as a specific department or silo in an organization – when what it is really needed is for quality to be a pervasive, passionate mindset that defines the very DNA of a business.
Quality – it is the watchword of complex, highly regulated industries like shipbuilding, aerospace, defense and nuclear. So much of our budgets, time, skill set and shop floor efforts are devoted to ensuring that our processes are perfect – and yet sometimes, we completely fail to see that quality can be a trap. When quality is treated as must another department, it fails. Make it a core part of who you are as a business, so much so that everyone realizes they play a vital role in delivering it, and it will succeed.
That may seem counterintuitive – after all, quality is essential in our business. However, one thing we don’t consider often is that processes actually share a lot in common with feedback, in that improving them for the sake of improving them can become a self-perpetuating loop. What’s needed is a more focused approach to continual improvement and validation that your quality management initiatives. Beyond Six Sigma, quality management programs must deliver analytics, metrics, key performance indicators (KPIs) and dashboards that unify a business to exceed customer expectations on quality.
Nuclear plants and aircraft carriers and space shuttles, among other products, have to operate at precise, exacting levels. It is the reason there is an endless labyrinth of regulations, red tape and government audits – to say nothing of internal quality assurance processes and inspections. Yet, when we allow our vision to become myopic – to focus only on the inerrant achievement of meeting specifications (which is a perfectly fine definition of quality) – we inevitably surrender our ability to remember that in the end, the real work is making something that matters. There is no excuse for losing track of the rapidly changing nature of customer needs just for the sake of meeting internal, often myopic benchmarks. The real benchmark – and the only one that matters -=is the expectation of the customer for consistent high quality.
Now, that seems totally obvious. Why else are we in business? We know that quality – this term that has been repeated, emphasized, systematized and institutionalized so pervasively in modern manufacturing that it has all but become a cliché – has life-or-death importance.
Quality Must Begin With The Customer, Outside Our Production Center’s Walls
But when we forget that quality is a means to an end – not an end in and of itself – we can become distracted from the real work of manufacturing and performing maintenance on products that really matter to billions of everyday people – including ourselves and our families.
The products that come from industries like ours have revolutionized the world for the better – we build, maintain, repair and overhaul machines that power hospitals and grocery stores, secure borders, deliver aid to disaster-stricken peoples and help seek out and stop terrorists, criminals and others that threaten the lives of innocent people and the stability of societies.
All of the hard work and effort we put into overhauling our processes ensures that the lives of the men and women who operate our machines are safeguarded, and that our products are safe and effective for communities all over the world who benefit from them.
It is an incredibly important aspect of the work we do – but the quality of our processes needs to be a given, not the point of what we do.
At iBASEt, we designed Solumina to help make quality assurance an actual assurance. Our seamless quality management system / software solution increases collaboration and communication between all levels of operation, and automates many tasks such as document traceability, work instructions, supplier chain quality assurance and inspection requirements. The purpose of this is to enable every member of MRE, MRO and Quality Assurance shops everywhere to, from time to time, raise their eyes from the endless succession of inspection checklists and see the big picture.
This is where innovation lives – spending some time imagining how the world could be a better place. This is where employee morale and satisfaction comes from – knowing that your own creativity could help not just to improve some abstract process that lives in a book of work instructions, but could assist in building a tighter bolt assembly group, a more efficient fuel sump, a sturdier engine mount for a product that has real impact on billions of people all over the world.
This is how a good company becomes great – when each of its employees, from the newest mechanic on the shop floor to the president of operations – has the ability, resources and environment to actualize their full potential.
Complacency Kills So Guard Against It
Of course, no matter how much technology progresses, quality will never become automatic – it will always be something to continually improve, and to vigilantly maintain, day in and day out. Complacency will always be the enemy of progress. But with Solumina, your outfit won’t waste time and effort on processes that can be automated – and will gain the space and the perspective to avoid the quality trap and keep your eyes on what really matters.
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