Improve every process
Improve constantly and forever every process for planning, production, and service. Search continually for problems in order to improve every activity in the company, to improve quality and productivity, and thus to constantly decrease costs. Institute innovation and constant improvement of product, service, and process. It is management’s job to work continually on the system (design, incoming materials, maintenance, improvement of machines, supervision, training, retraining).
Dr. W. Edward Deming
Improve constantly and forever, Wow, that is a tall order. Larger companies are able to staff for improvement, but what can the little guy do?
The first step is to prioritize, go for the biggest bang for the investment first. That does mean collecting data. Start with a Cost of Quality report. How much do you scrap? How much do you spend on rework?
When I go into plants to implement ISO9001 I expect to get them certified in system that is indicative of the company culture but I also look for where there is waste and I can reduce costs. I take a visit to the scrap bin and here is the trick, I look for similar parts with similar defects. This tells me there is a system failure. It can come from two places, the design of the part or the method of manufacture. I work backwards from the parts and look to save my client the annualized cost of my contract.
Service providers are a little different. There is no scrap box to look in. What I generally find with them is each employee has a different way of doing each job and there are no written directions or procedures. Each person is sure their way is best. Frequently they have found out about a customer problem and have incorporated a preventive measure in their own method. By listening and applying this information and then training the entire staff, making sure to acknowledge the source and reason for the preventive measure we create a streamline system that addresses all customer issues. We have searched out the problems and created improvement.
Both the manufacturer and the service provider do have customers. Both have complaints that can be used to create real and systematic improvement. Both have the opportunity to call their customers and really listen to what the customer wants and needs. A requirement of ISO 9000 is continuous improvement. The companies that deliver on that element grow.
My bank is ISO 9000 certified. I talked to one manager and he said the certification didn’t mean much to the average customer. What did make a difference was the consistency of accurate and reliable performance, from both new and long time employees. The customers found the bank listened to them and implementing safe new systems that made banking easier at no charge. ISO 9000 had created a system of continuous improvement that kept and drew in new customers. The bank has been able to stay in business, loan money and provide jobs. To quote the good Doctor, “So simple”.