KCMN Quality Panel – Making Quality Programs Work for You

KCMN’s June meeting featured 3 manufacturing company leaders who shared the results of their quality program implementation. Curtis Lopez, of Missouri Enterprise, who has more than 20 years’ experience in quality management and systems led the discussion. Steve Shockey, President/Owner, Evans/EVCO is certified with the ISO 9001:2008/AS9100 quality management system requirements. Mike Miller, Certified Manufacturing Engineer (CMfgE), Plant Manager, said that Webco Manufacturing, Inc. had held the ISO 9001:2000 registration since 2005. Dave Thornsberry , Quality Manager/QMS-ISO 9001, led Computech Manufacturing’s successful registration for ISO 9001:2008 without exclusions including several successful follow-up surveillance audits.  While all 3 company representatives spoke of the value of their quality registrations, they also noted that a specific return on investment calculation was nearly impossible to make.

The value of implementing a QMS system is that it does provide a framework from which to address quality issues, or non-conformance within the plant. The system also provides management with more information when internal audits bring non-conformance to light.  In addition, some companies can see boosts in sales, as some customers and potential customers see QMS certification as an indication that companies have high quality standards and so have systems in place to assure those standards are met. However, certification is not a guarantee of new business, and some companies may initially lean towards a particular standard for suppliers, and then back away from it.

Some best practices shared by the panelists:

  1. Quality systems must be internalized by all employees, from top management to floor personnel.  No system works unless top management is committed to making changes and sustaining the system.  All 3 companies noted that this did have to involve making some personnel changes due to some employees being unwilling to change the way they do things or by not following the processes.  Computech noted that trying to conform without taking the next step to registration would not work, the organization must be all in for an effort to be successful.
  2. Don’t wait until the last minute.  Webco does internal audits monthly, and recommends that internal audits be performed no less than quarterly.  Steve noted that if you wait until right before an annual audit to review your processes, it will be too late to correct issues.  Internal nonconformance can be a good thing – it gives you the opportunity to understand where the problems are and work towards a solution.
  3. Look at your internal processes first, rather than try to re-write all of your processes around the standard.  Evans/Evco’s first attempt at a QMS certification was hamstrung due to too much reliance on trying to interpret the standard rather than trying to fit existing processes to the standard.
  4. Utilize your QMS system in employee development.  Utilizing information from internal audits can reveal opportunities to provide additional training and development for employees. In doing a root cause analysis, you can bring in employees to help develop solutions.

Finally, the cost of implementing and maintaining a quality system is not just a dollars and cents calculation.  There is an opportunity cost to tying up employee’s time with issues that are caused by a lack of good quality system.  There is a cost to business that is not awarded or lost due to the lack of a quality system.  Just as not all of the benefits can be qualified to the penny, the costs are not always easily measured, but the speakers agreed that the long term benefits are a more efficiently and effectively run operation.