Quality is often associated with how “good” an object or service is, or how well it performs or delivers. While that’s an accurate definition, and most people are looking for high-quality goods or services, quality also means consistency. If I go to a local hardware store to buy nails, I expect the nails in one box to be the same as those in another box. The manufacturer of those nails achieves this consistency through a quality system.
To the outside observer, a quality system can appear confusing and time-consuming. But for those who are quality-minded, a quality system helps control the flow of work and ensures a consistent result at the end of any given step in a process. Furthermore, a good quality system boosts productivity by reducing overhead, errors and waste.
In a production environment, a quality system provides these benefits by:
o Specifying incoming materials. You receive only what and how much was ordered.
o Identifying in-process quality checks to ensure production is going as planned.
o Providing final product specification and inspections or tests to demonstrate that the final product complies.
o Identifying nonconforming material. This prevents deliveries of unacceptable product and reduces customer complaints.
o Generating template forms for employee use. This ensures consistent documentation.
o Setting general guidelines and rules for every position to help set expectations and ensure accountability.
o Establishing a system for continuous improvement. Solicit feedback from all employees to continually refine your system and products.
These are just a few benefits of a basic quality system. Depending on your organization’s goals, the quality system may need to expand to cover requirements such as ISO 9001/9000, various state building codes, and/or third-party certification or inspection agency requirements.
The first step in seeking any of these larger, more complete scopes is writing a quality system manual. This involves writing down what the staff does ― day in and day out ― to ensure quality. The next step is to review those processes and procedures and ask, “How do these things help ensure quality? How can we do them even better?”
A good production team ensures a steady flow of product; a good quality system team ensures that the steady flow of product is worth going out the door.