I had a lecture in my Production and Operations class with Dr. Ron Lembke this past week on Quality. When the topic was introduced, (shamefully) I groaned. I reacted this way because my current job is within the Quality department for a dietary supplements company and they’re planning on making some massive improvements throughout the organization with a majority of the responsibility placed on my department. Since I’m already spending my entire workdays being taught and educating others on the necessary adjustments to accommodate these changes, the lecture made me cringe at spending any more time on the topic. However, the way Dr. Lembke presented it reminded me how I, and all manufacturers, should be approaching quality for all of our processes to make quality become second nature instead of an add-on feature.
In his lecture, Dr. Lembke went into the history of how Continuous Improvement (C.I.) became so ingrained into modern manufacturing through pioneers such as Dr. William Deming, Joseph Juran, Philip B. Crosby, and Malcolm Baldrige back in the earlier part of the 20th century. What amazed me was that I had to be reminded about the initial purpose of C.I.: to make product consistently. (That’s what you expect when you purchase anything with your hard-earned money, right?) My amazement is due to that fact that I want my career to be in C.I., hence “Challenging the Process and Product Development Status Quo” is my tagline for my blog, (yet, I cringe from doing it so much…maybe I need a vacation?) Through it’s objectives on creating consistent product, C.I., (also commonly related to programs like 5S, 6σ, and LEAN) subsequently leads to practices of developing more efficient processes and standardization rather than just product consistency.
“It’s an ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ competition rather than an ‘all for one, and one for all’ collaboration.”
However, from the manufacturing environments I’ve been a part of there still seems to be a chasm between production and quality. It’s an “us” vs. “them” competition rather than an “all for one, and one for all” collaboration. And I am NOT stating that Quality wasn’t a priority or performed impressively at my previous jobs, at all. I just understand, both from Production and Technical Services perspectives, through both in-house and contract manufacturing practices that there are a TON of variables that go into making a consistent and well-liked product. And even with multiple sets of eyes monitoring and adjusting to ensure Good Manufacturing Practices, (or G.M.P.s for all you fancy-speaking folks) are being followed, Murphy’s law will endure and that something outside of your G.M.Ps will happen.
So instead of dividing the duties, responsibilities and (when a mistake is inevitably made) blame between departments for quality assurance, can the manufacturing mindset benefit from deleting a designated quality group and instead have everyone responsibility for quality? Same with the C.I. concept; instead of appointing engineers and maintenance to be solely responsible for making the production process more efficient what would the production personnel do differently knowing they were “in charge” of making the process run efficiently and better than before while ensuring the quality of the product? That’s where the idea of a “flat” hierarchy intrigued me along with C.I. With Dr. Lembke’s lecture still in mind, I’ve received further insight from reading in a World Gone Social by Ted Coine and Mark S. Babbitt. Their chapter on “flat” hierarchy, where a company doesn’t have managers and everyone is empowered with responsibility of the company as a whole, supports instilling a quality and collaborative mindset at the very beginning of company culture creation as opposed to adapting to it later on. And I do have to say: that sounds ideally better than the systems I’ve seen so far.
Again, not that my past companies weren’t champions of quality or C.I. and trying to have everyone take “ownership” of the product and their commitment to customer satisfaction. My thought is that moving forward with the manufacturing industry, that instead of making a top-down requirement and having “enforcers” for quality that we, myself included, have come to expect and push the responsibility on a certain few that we need to demand all employees from the “CEO” to the janitor to be a part of quality and C.I. by practicing it within production every day spent in work. Reliability on everyone will change the mindset of the employee to look internally for who is responsible for their actions and not look externally to blame others for one’s mistake.
Tell me how eliminating quality and C.I. departments within your company would make or break your company.
Photo credit: http://beerbeer.org/?p=14000