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Applying Fundamental Quality Control Concepts

Your organization can implement several fundamental quality control processes to ensure that you produce or deliver a high-quality product or service. The following sections present the information you need to determine how you can integrate quality control processes into your organization.

Introducing quality control to your business

The introduction of a quality control process into an organization can be a major shock to its system. The following components are crucial if you want to lessen the shock and gain acceptance within your organization:

  • Advertise acceptance of the program from important stakeholders within your organization.
  • Give communication power to a sponsor who can articulate the need for change and who has the political power to gain compliance when required.
  • Communicate the reasons for the change and the benefits it will bring to everyone in the organization.
  • Train employees in the new ways of the organization. You want workers doing the right things consistently because success helps to gain support.

Like most other changes, quality control is best introduced in small bits. One way to do this is to create a pilot project that allows you to make a small change to a small part of your process to see the change's effect. If the results are good, you can implement the change on a wider basis; if the change is bad, you've limited the damage done.

Listening to your customers

An important concept in quality control is listening to the customer; we call this listening to the voice of the customer (the VOC). Although this task seems pretty simple (can't you just ask?!), you may find that your customers don't know exactly what they need, or they can't articulate their needs. The customer typically has three desires:

  • They want it good.
  • They want it fast.
  • They want it cheap.

Of course, in the real world, consumers seldom get all three, so you need to identify what's most important in your customers' buying decisions, and you need to make sure you satisfy those needs.

You have several ways to hear the VOC:

  • You can ask by handing out questionnaires, conducting interviews, reviewing complaints, holding focus groups, reviewing purchasing patterns, and interviewing field personnel.
  • You can borrow good ideas from your competitors. Don't be afraid to use good ideas, no matter where you find them.
  • You can use a good customer relationship management (CRM) system, which is a handy tool for gathering and analyzing data about customers.

Measuring your quality

The old management saying "You can't manage what you can't measure" rings especially true in quality control. A good measurement system helps you to know where you've been and where you're going. Customers typically require that you measure certain attributes of your product or service against their specifications. Your job is to determine what to measure, how to measure it, and when to measure it.

Employee training is critical to ensure that everyone involved in your process measures the same specifications in the same way. You also need to collect data in a usable format so that you can analyze it to determine the effectiveness of your quality process. The effectiveness of your quality process is directly related to the quality of your data collection and analysis process. If you don't have good data, you can't make good decisions.

Evaluating your quality

The most common way to analyze the data you collect is to use statistics. Statistics serve many purposes within quality control:

  • Statistics allow you to determine which processes or parts of processes are causing your company the most problems (by using the 80/20 rule — 80 percent of your problems are caused by 20 percent of what you do).
  • You can use statistics for sampling so that you don't have to test 100 percent of the items you make.
  • Statistics can help you spot relationships between the values you measure — even if the relationships aren't obvious. They also allow you to identify small variations in your process that can lead to big problems if you don't correct them.

Although statistics can seem daunting, you can use many simple tools to greatly improve your quality — tools that don't require an advanced degree in statistics!

Although much of statistics allows you to look back only at what has happened in the past, Statistical Process Control (SPC) allows you to identify problems before they can negatively impact the quality of your product or service. The basic idea behind SPC is that if you can spot a change in a process before it gets to the point of making bad products, you can fix the process before bad products hit the shelves.

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