Although there is never a wrong time to improve the maturity of quality management, an opportune time is when planning for the coming year. Executives and quality management professionals who are affected by the quality of products and services should answer two questions: “how mature is my quality management program?” and “what do I need to do to raise the maturity level?”
The LNS international research institute describes five possible possible maturity levels:
- Ad hoc: low operational and financial performance. It is not able to meet the current and future demands of the market.
- Controlled: moderate operational and financial performance. Capable of meeting current market demands, but unable to meet future demands.
- Proactive: reasonable operating and financial performance. Able to meet the current market demands, with potential to meet future demands.
- Agile: strong operational and financial performance. Able to meet the current market demands. Follower of market trends.
- Market leader: reference in operational and financial performance. Able to define the market and promote change.
The following dimensions are evaluated to define the maturity level:
- Strategy and execution
- Leadership and culture
- Organizational capabilities
- Excellence in business processes
- Technological capabilities
- Performance Management and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Surprisingly, a survey by the same institute found that most companies consider themselves to be “ad hoc” or “controlled.” The same research also reveals that only 21% of companies have a quality management system (EQMS) in place. Meanwhile, 53% of companies cite quality management issues as the biggest challenge in accelerating the release of products from their R&D sector in the market.
Here are some signs that a company is at the “Ad hoc” or “Controlled” level of quality maturity:
- Does the quality team act according to the quality policy?
- Do professionals in other areas feel that quality slows down the process and adds little value?
- Is a significant part of the quality professionals busy “putting out fires” or performing corrective actions on a repetitive basis?
- Do they take few preventive actions?
- To understand quality performance, do we need to talk to the “right person”?
- Are spreadsheets, emails and local tools used for analysis and follow-up?
The same study lists the top five challenges for quality management:
- Disconnected information sources and systems
- Indicators are not measured efficiently
- Quality is considered as a department and not a responsibility
- There is no formal process for risk management
- There is no formal process for continuous improvement
Because each company has its own internal goals and distinct approaches to people, processes and technologies, these challenges may also have different weights in each case. However, many of these challenges can be interconnected. This can facilitate the increase in the level of quality maturity.
For example, quality professionals in low-maturity companies typically store much of their critical information on their own computers, in a mix of spreadsheets, e-mails and local applications.
This contributes to four of the above-mentioned challenges: it prevents a formal approach to processes, it prevents engagement between areas and functions, it blocks access to indicators and acts as an independent and disconnected source of information. Solving this problem will affect all four of these challenges, although it alone may not be able to solve all problems completely.
Fragmented systems also contribute to a sense of frustration with the quality process. The quality team needs to gather information, even without the necessary automation, and needs to ensure compliance with specifications. This makes it solely responsible for a process that should be everyone’s concern. A cost center rather than a vital part of the organization’s success.
So what can we do?
Now, imagine a management process that connects the handling of non-conformities in production processes with product specifications and suppliers, generating indicators and producing analyses. Everyone can view and understand the whole process clearly, and in real time.
It would certainly be easier to foresee future problems and to act in a more preventive manner, as well as to see quality as part of the process as a whole.
This is the main conclusion of the study: companies that have a quality management system have overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) rates that are 8% higher, and are 35% more likely to achieve a 6 sigma or have lower defect rates per million than companies without an EQMS. Companies with EQMSs have 26% lower internal costs from poor quality products than companies without EQMSs.
Do you want to improve your position on the maturity scale and achieve operational excellence? Include quality management in your investment planning for the coming year.