A performance-based Quality Management System (i.e. ISO) provides evidence that a company is operating with the proper controls, policies, procedures and practices. ISO 9001 gives attention to the operational controls - such as booking customer orders, purchasing raw materials, manufacturing & fulfilling orders, and handling customer returns and complaints - that help ensure customer requirements are met. These same operational controls are the foundation for much of a company's financial data (i.e. inventory, revenue, customer credits and/or allowances). Even the ISO 9001's requirements related to job duties, responsibilities and communication throughout the company contribute to the "controlled environment" that is so important for the credibility of financial information.
A lean quality system is a system that is intolerant of waste in all its forms by creating a culture that expects daily improvement. Operational and manufacturing controls are central to compliance for both the financials and quality/environmental/safety standards. Expand your quality assessment "upstream" and "downstream" to include related financial controls. Your quality manager should work with accounting to implement the "walk-through" methodology in your integrated audits.
Integrating training programs ranging from on-the-job skill training to supervisory/management development training is a cost-effective approach to compliance. However, to have company-wide improvements, the trainers should bring practical experience and an industry-specific plastics apprenticeship program to complement the financials.
Don't only rely on your information technology (IT) to give results. IT needs to partner closely with operations/manufacturing to conduct performance results that can also serve as a train-the-trainer opportunity. Make sure the appropriate amount of time is provided not only for the software training, but the new process training as well. Don't burden personnel with having to teach themselves. Self-instructions on new processes rarely produce adequate results.
By optimizing your quality management system, companies can achieve a tangible return-on-investment (ROI) to include:
- efficient use of resources
- rapid cycles
- higher quality at lower cost
- greater flexibility
- sustainable processes
Finally, understand what controls can be put in place to sustain these gains. Optimization and lean continuous improvement programs are not one-time projects, but rather part of a continuous cycle for improving your business and quality management system.
Most importantly, remember that even a small change in efficiency could save money.
About the author: Lewis Yasenchak works as a consultant with small-to-mid sized processors, moldmakers and other precision manufacturers to help them "implement quality at the source" rather than catch mistakes once made, and also to minimize waste by meeting and exceeding ISO Quality Management Systems. Contact him at T: 706-694-2977 or [email protected].