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Category Archives: QHSE

The Importance of Training

As with every aspect of training employees, training them on the management system and common ways of working is critical to maintain consistency. A management system will never be effective or functional if nobody can find the different procedures and forms. Automation can help here, for example by setting up access restrictions to prevent employees from getting an information overload. However, this will only provide guidance rather than replacing the complete training.

Way of Working

New employees will unfortunately not figure out magically how certain things are done within the organization. They either need to read about it or somebody needs to tell them. A combination of both is the best way.. First a colleague explains the process while the documents are there to check later. This might seems like a time consuming exercise but it is more than worth it. Not giving enough training can cost the company much more due to error and inefficiencies. An improperly trained employee can cost a lot of money either directly due to mistakes or secondary due to keying in the wrong data into systems.

Filling in Data

In order to build a gold mine of data it is important to explain to the employees what kind of data they need to fill in these systems. It is very easy to fill in data for the sake of filling in. When the employees fill in the right data, the analytics of the data can be done immediately without any alteration and cleaning. But keying in the wrong data will cost a lot of repairing and might even lead to misinformed business decisions. By setting up restrictions on what certain people can do, a lot of mistakes can be prevented. This will reduce the room for error significantly.

Awareness of Safety Risks

Especially on dangerous sites such as during construction, in the heavy industry or offshore, it is important to train employees on awareness of risks. Not being sharp throughout day can lead to serious accidents when people are working in dangerous environment. Furthermore, it is important to train the people on how to observe and report unsafe situations. Employees have to understand that sharing this knowledge can help prevent certain situations during other shifts or other locations. When it comes to reporting again great automation solutions allow you to instantly file unsafe situations with your mobile phone. This lowers the barrier to file the report and increases the knowledge of these situations within the organization. When an unsafe situation does occur, make sure that the lessons learned are shared with the employees.

Conclusion

Please prepare a proper training system on how to make sure a new employee is aware of all the different common practices within your company. The time you put into this structured training will pay itself back in the long haul. Having the people working in a structured way will increase the consistency of the output they deliver which will increase safety of the workers and the quality of the product and services.

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Insight in Cost of Quality: the hidden gem

Total Cost of Quality is a very important topic but not well known by a lot of C-level managers. When asked about the total Cost of Quality, a lot of C-level managers simply don’t know or give an industry standard. This reaction is understandable but very striking at the same time. In many industries the estimated costs of quality is in the range of 20%, which is some serious money when you are talking about tens of millions or even hundreds of millions.

Open your eyes

Automation can help companies to get a better feeling for their cost of quality. This starts by providing employees with the tools to record a quality issue. A number of companies claim to have very little issues, only because their issue form is around 6 pages. No one in their right mind is going to fill that up so a lot of issues are not even registered. Providing a mobile app with just 2 or 3 fields and an option to add images lowers the burden significantly to report an issue. This will lead to a bigger influx of issues, which is great.

Pick up the issue

Now that the burden of reporting an issue is out of the window, the real power of automation kicks in. The different stages the issue needs to follow can be predefined with pinpoint accuracy which means that the right person can add information precisely at the right time. A good automation solution allows the option to create a structured actions plan, and distributes the action to the designated owner. This connects the corrective actions to the issue on hand.

The automation allows for the hidden costs to get exposed, for example costs like waiting hours by the team or repair hours required to fix the issue. Multiplying these hours with the internal hourly rate, the company will be able to put a price tag to the lost hours. Furthermore, the solution can give an indication of the costs the administration has cost based on the hours worked on the issue.

Finalize

When all the information required for the incident has been provided, the report can be closed. This way of tracking Total Cost of Quality allows management to get a real-time insight in the actual costs. They can always have a clear overview of what all these issues cost the company. Just check the example.

analyse issues

Dashboard

In the end it is very important to get a grip on your total cost of quality and clearly see where the company is bleeding money in order to fix this. You can only take this step when everybody in the company is able to file an issue easily. Have fun increasing your efficiency.

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Root cause analysis: Cause and Effect

A proper root cause analysis can be the difference between making money and losing money. The analysis is designed to get into the detailed fundamental causes of the issue, without any bias. The cause and effect analysis will lead to significant insight in why things went wrong.

It is very easy to come up with a result that describes the person that made the mistake. However, it is important to always go deeper than the particular person. When a person messes up there is almost always a more fundamental problem to the issue. This could include things like:

  • Lack of training
  • Company culture
  • Hiring the wrong people

These things can lead to people messing up for all kind of reasons. However, the company can change these things to reduce the number of issues for example by changing the recruitment plan or sending people to training. In the next part we will describe the Cause and Effect methodology.

Cause and Effect

With a cause and effect diagram you start off with an effect or outcome you want to analyze. This effect may be positive or negative but has to be described as clear as possible. Then the main causes are identified. The main causes that might have lead to the effect could be the following 5M’s for a manufacturing plant:

  • Machine
  • Method
  • Material
  • Man / mind power / personnel
  • Measurement / medium

When the main causes of the issue are identified the next step is to identify as many causes that might have lead to the effect. Classify the causes according to the main causes and place these below them. This will lead to a result like this.

To go one level deeper you can ask why a certain cause happened. This will give more detailed insight into this cause. Create another layer of causes that are linked to this for example speed or temperature.

When the diagram is ready you can analyze the information. The main causes with a significant number of causes under them need some further investigation. Also, when a certain cause shows up multiple times this might be the root cause. Then look for clusters, when there are a couple of causes close to each other, then that is something that needs your attention. The same is true when there are very little causes, you might need to further investigate these and why there are so few. To really start improving, identify the causes you can take actions on and put these actions in the action list with clear owners of each action.

Next post we will dive deeper into the 5 Why’s.

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Risk assessment done, now what?

Risk analysis has become a vital exercise for a lot of international standards. A large majority of certified companies are required to have a  risk assessment methodology and should be aware of the risks within their company and operations. Some companies have been creating this analysis with a lot of passion using all the knowledge they have. However, a lot of companies just perform the analysis for the certification and simply check it yearly or twice a year during an audit or management review. So how is it possible to make sure risks are really embedded in the company culture?

Risk Treatment Plan

A good way to start is by creating a Risk Treatment Plan. The purpose of a Risk Treatment Plan is to define exactly who is going to do what. You can also call this document an ‘Implementation Plan’ or ‘Action Plan’. It is crucial to get your management approval on the plan because it will take considerable time and effort (and money) to implement all of the actions. Furthermore, management approval also gives you the mandate to ensure things happen. Make sure you have clearly defined tasks for people to perform.

Issues

Next to the Plan, a great way to make the risk assessment more dynamic is by embedding it into the issue management or CAPA. When an issue has occurred, check the risk analysis and see if there is something mentioned about this specific issue. The issue could be a minor problem or a major problem, either way it is best to check the risk assessment. When the issue has some serious impact on the company, modify the risk assessment and add the risk. This way the company is able to use the risk analysis as a dynamic document that holds valuable lessons learned of the company.

Big Changes

When big changes happen within the company, you can use the risk assessment as guidance. Yes, companies should take risks to strive for a better future. But companies should make sure they take calculated risks. By embedding these big changes within the company’s risk assessment, the top management has a feeling of what could go wrong if no precautions are taken. This way, the top management can plan and prepare for the big change and manage it much better. The role of the quality manager is to ask the right questions for management.

Working environment

A big part of the risk assessment includes risks in the workplace. Of course the most obvious ones are included such as the risks with lifting machines and the other heavy-duty machinery, but the less obvious are the ones that can cause danger. The big risk comes when a routine of the work activity kicks in. When people are doing the same job every day and completely understand how to do it, less care is taken and something can be out of place. That is when the danger starts. Make sure that the employees that perform inherited dangerous tasks always perform a quick Risk assessment before they start to prevent any problems from happening. Having people sick at home is a great risk in and of itself. Next to the physical risks, psychological risks shouldn’t be neglected. The psychological risks of the stress heavy jobs should be monitored on a regular basis also.

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How to handle objectives in your management system.

Objectives are pretty vital to the Management System. With objectives you can measure how the company is doing against a benchmark set by the company itself. Of course the company can do much better or worse. But, setting clear objectives is crucial in creating this benchmark. In line with the objectives are of course the KPI’s which you should setup and track.

How to come up with objectives

Most of you have probably been on this trajectory. Goals come back every year and you try to rephrase them every time to make them look new. Especially for companies with low environmental impact, limited risks to employees, or excellent customer satisfaction, creating new objectives can be hard. Where do you find new inspiration?

Look at other companies/competitors for objectives. A lot of companies place some management system related documents open on the web as part of their CSR program. You can find quite some potential KPI’s in these documents.

Look closely at your organization and try to pinpoint the crucial mistakes that are made. Set goals to goals these parts of the organization.

Last but not least, don’t make it too hard on yourself. Often you think too hard and too deep and you just can’t think of anything at all. The longer you have to think about an objective, the more you will get stuck. Just answer a simple question: what do you want to achieve at the end of the year(s)?

SMART

Make sure your objectives are described SMART in order to manage them.

  • Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
  • Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
  • Assignable – specify who will do it.
  • Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
  • Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.

A clear description of the objectives is important in order to manage each objective. Also the assignability part is very important. When multiple people are responsible for an action, it can end up where nobody takes responsibility to complete the task and start to point towards each other.

Managing objectives

Try to not make the objectives an annual exercise. More often than not the data is just gathered at the end of the year and benchmarked against the goals. Please don’t apply this type of strategy. In order to really take advantage of goals you should manage them properly. This can be done by checking progress on a regular basis, every month for example. In order to set a good interval you should check the impact and the volatility of the data. For example, profits and revenues are measured on a monthly basis so calculating indicators based on this data on a daily basis isn’t very helpful.

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stakeholder analysis: ISO9001-2015

With the new ISO9001:2015 the stakeholder analysis has got a much more prominent position in the Quality management system. Of course, every company knows their most important stakeholders. However, not every stakeholder is always well understood or taken into consideration when major decisions are taken. A good stakeholder analysis gives the company an up to date list of all stakeholders and how to manage them.

Identify stakeholder

Identifying the most important stakeholders isn’t all that hard. Most companies have stakeholders like:

  • Customers
  • Suppliers
  • Employees
  • Government
  • Neighbors
  • Competitors
  • etc.

The list can get quite long depending on how specific you get.

Classification of stakeholders

The analysis becomes slightly harder when companies start to classify or order these stakeholders. It is important to give every stakeholder a type of ranking depending on how big the influence on the company is. Yes, customers are among the most important stakeholders but for example, what about the government? Companies that have a big impact on the environment have a different relationship with the government compared to a trading company. It is important to find out which stakeholders are most important. You can ask a question like “How easy is it for this stakeholder to close the doors of the company?”

Action plan

When the stakeholders are identified and classified, an action plan needs to be created on how to manage the different kind of stakeholders. The plan should include ways how the company will inform the stakeholders and regarding which activities every stakeholder is informed of. This can be structured in a communication plan, or very easily and straight forward in the analysis document. When some concrete actions need to be taken, make sure you always assign one single person as the owner of the task. This prevents people from pointing to each other when nothing is happening.

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ISO 9001 – Why get certified?

Why would any company comply with a standard apart from being forced by customers? One important reason is that quality is at the core of every organization. When an organization doesn’t deliver a high quality service or product, it won’t be in business very long. The ISO 9001 standard provides companies with guidance to keep quality consistent.

Customer Demand

Demand from the customer(s) should never be the main reason for implementing a quality management system, and neither should marketing. When this is the case, every effort for the system feels like a waste of time. A push from customers can be the trigger to implement a quality management system, but the main reason should come from within the company. The structure which comes with implementing ISO 9001 helps to align the organization.

Learning Company

Next to business continuity, ISO 9001 gives guidance for becoming a learning company. The continuous improvement methodology embedded in the standard focuses on identifying and reducing inefficiencies in internal and external processes. This way ISO 9001 provides companies with the right tools to figure out exactly which parts of the organization can be improved.

Rigid

A lot of people have the notion that the procedure makes the company rigid and less flexible. Although the written procedure should be followed by the employees, the procedure itself can be written in such a way that it leaves room to manoeuvre for employees. Besides, some slight rigidness isn’t all that bad especially when it comes to financial matters or quality of products and services. When you start to setup a new ISO 9001 management system it is important to be rigid in the procedure where there is no room for failure. The less critical processes can be noted with more flexibility.

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Customer satisfaction, how to approach it!

Customer satisfaction is one thing every company strives for. However, figuring out whether a customer is really satisfied isn’t always that easy. There are a lot of different variables that can influence the customer satisfaction research outcomes such as timing, means of questioning and approach. Most importantly, the timing and means of questioning can have a big influence on the results of the research.

Timing

Every company messes up sometimes, and people understand this. It is the way you solve the issue on hand that sets you apart from others. Knowing this, it would be very inconvenient to ask what the customer thinks of you the moment the problem occurs. However, if you solve the issue properly and then you ask for the customers’ feedback, you will be more likely to receive a very positive one. Trying to measure the customer satisfaction on neutral ground is the best moment to get an unbiased result.

Means of questioning

The e-mail survey is a very effective and easy to use method to ask for customer feedback. However, a lot of people are getting these e-mails by the millions. A good practice is to also allow the sales/customer support to walk through the questions together with the customer. Use tools that allow you to email your customers along with the sales team filling up the data together with the customer.

Results

The big advantage of the digital approach is the live insight in the data. The information is always one mouse click away. This insight can help you identifying difficulties in your customer support, sales process, marketing or quality of the goods or services. This all depends on the questions you ask of course.

 

If you want to know how Qooling allows you to perform customer satisfaction just contact us!

 

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How to prepare for an external audit!

Yes I know, ideally your company should be ready for an external audit every day of the year. However, most of the time, you will need at least a couple of weeks to gather all the information required. Here are a few important points that must always be checked before an external audit.

Perform a legislation compliance check

Make sure you have checked if your organisation complies with national and international laws and legislations. Most ISO standards are very clear on this. The company has to prove that it works according to statutory and regulatory requirements. Performing this check will help prevent a lot of uncomfortable discussions with the auditor.

Train Employees

It still happens often that employees get anxious when the auditor arrives at their desk for the external audit. You can prevent this by training the most anxious people in the team. The top performers on a regular day sometimes simply forget how they work the moment the auditor is next to them. If your management system is working as it should, the processes/procedures will describe how the people are working. There is no need for people to be anxious about the audit, just tell them to do their job as they always do.

Tools

Make sure all the tools are certified if required and properly calibrated. If during the external audit, the auditor spots an employee working with an uncertified tool this will most likely lead to an NCR, especially when he/she digs a little deeper and find more of these uncertified tools.

Documentation control

If you are not using any automated system then this is a must. Just sit down and go over every single document to make sure the latest version is available to the team and that the version is correct. You have to check these to prevent employees from using the wrong documents the moment the auditor sits next to them. Of course the easiest way is just to automate this, which will save you a lot of time.

These are by far all the points you have to take into consideration for an audit. If you have any more please share them in the comments.

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