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A QualitEvolution is intended to capture positions and experiences as a participant in the evolution of the Quality profession into the 21st century. From its origins as the brainchild of Corporate Industrial Statisticians, our profession has transformed and evolved to incorporate and adapt to the demands and expectations of our modern existence.

The scope of the subject matter within A QualitEvolution extends to the furthest ranges of quality, business transformation, management science, and quality issues especially pertinent to the members of ASQ in Canada.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Redefining The Quality Function: From Inspection to Governance

In addressing the latest commentary on View From The Q , I will paraphrase President John F. Kennedy.

"Ask not what you can do beyond the Quality Function
    Ask what the Quality Function can be leveraged and engaged to perform"

I will respond by addressing three of Paul B's passages, and providing my own perspective.

1. "transform into profit centers"

If one refers to their Operations Management 101 textbooks, it is apparent that manufacturing was always intended as a profitable enterprise, and the intent of all manufacturing phases was to add value and transform inputs and materials, with skill and expertise, into something of higher value.

Consider this scenario of sequential value upgrades
- Start with $300,000 of Raw Materials (RM)
- Apply technology and expertise to modify the items into $500,000 of Work In Progress (WIP) goods
- Complete the internal processes and stages to realize $700,000 of Finished Goods (FG)
- Add the marketing and logistics to fulfill customer demand with $900,000 of Packaged and Shipped Products (PSP).

In our present world of rapidly competitive pricing and finite market demand, the best option for many organizations is to realize gains from internal efficiencies including:
- Optimization of yield from capital and labor time and materials
- Reduction of waste and unplanned delays
- Minimization of inventories (namely RM, WIP, FG, PSP).
- Predictability and certainty of outcomes
- Marketability from increased operational capacity, versatility and flexibility

These priorities align very closely with the Quality Function, which can apply the expected outcomes of Quality Management systems constructively towards the aspirations of "Smart Manufacturing".

2. "highly automated and IT driven production"

This is not a visionary practice - it has actually been in effect for decades.  In my personal experience, I managed the quality system of a manufacturer over fifteen years ago which deployed an automated CNC (Computer Numerical Control) production system which automated several key manufacturing stages.  The system was structured to permit the automatic conversion of AutoCAD designs into the machine-readable code that permitted instant replication of the design to the applied materials.

Automation, software technologies, and innovative devices permit highly versatile operations with reduced setup times and increased consistencies, which aligns with the implicit promise of the "Smart Manufacturing" concept.  The disadvantage is that automation loses the subjective, expert touch of a skilled and experienced artisan, who can make personal modifications or customizations where needed.

When converting from manual processing to automated systems, the emphasis has to evolve from post-production inspection controls to early stages of design and deployment.  Because an incorrect design can be replicated indefinitely without correction, it is critical and essential to devote additional efforts to conducting and enforcing design reviews, document controls, change/release practices, and configuration management.

The sampling methods characteristic of Quality Engineering are not as readily applicable to software or integrated technology solutions.  Where traditional sampling specifies a target of deficient products per sample, automation would make the errors more uniform, so that outcomes are consistently incorrect and more difficult to distinguish.  Reviews of code and design provide a better value, and more effectively reveal errors when correction costs are relatively low.

In a fast-paced, automated manufacturing environment, it is tempting in the name of efficiency to disregard the interests and perspective of the customer or regulatory bodies.  To counteract this trend, the Quality Function must adopt and emerge as the advocate of Customer and Regulatory concerns, and ensure that "robotic" outcomes remain usable, compliant, and ultimately marketable.

The Quality Function already includes elements of Software Quality to address IT and Mobile devices.  Six Sigma and Quality Management courses have progressively integrated technology in order to remain relevant, and must continue this approach.  The competent Quality Manager should be prepared to demonstrate their versatility by being aware and proficient in the main elements of Software Quality.

3. "how to increase the value of quality in an organization"

At WCQI 2012 in Anaheim, I had the opportunity to present a controversial session entitled, "THE END OF QUALITY".  Using a linguistic trick where in English the word END can be interpreted both as a termination and a purpose, I structured my presentation to challenge the audience to release their prior impressions and reposition the purpose or "END" of the Quality Function as an Executive agent, emphasizing Executive priorities of Finance and Governance.  This extends from the passionate pursuits of the International Academy for Quality Governance Think Tank, and the ASQ Quality Management Division - Finance and Governance Committee which is actively working with the International Management Accountants organization to define a Body of Knowledge to ensure that Quality professionals can demonstrate proficiency in Financial competencies.

By embracing the concerns of Finance and Governance, the Quality Function raises its stature and profile, and strengthens its influence over the other areas within its domain (products, services, regulatory control, customer satisfaction, etc.).  Since all Quality Function tasks will be aligned with financial priorities (internal efficiencies, reduced cost to operate, premium product marketability) and governance objectives (emanating from the organization's mission, vision, goals, objectives, and expectations for monitoring and reporting), there will be fewer obstructions and less resistance.


In order to realize the aspirations of Smart Manufacturing and permit our enterprises to achieve the desired gains from internal efficiencies, the Quality Function has to evolve from its traditional perceived roles emphasizing inspection and controls.  In addition to being a driving participant in superior design and internal collaboration, the Quality Function must adopt a more vigorous role as an advocate of Customer and Regulatory concerns.  By supporting the Executive concerns of Finance and Governance, the Quality Function is an essential component of Smart Manufacturing and Enterprise Success.

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