Category Archives: Management

How to use data to select the best improvement projects

Possibly one of the hardest things to do is make a selection of all the possible improvement projects that are possible for the company. Talks with quality and safety managers showed that this topic is pretty high on their list. A lot of you struggle with managing internal projects/initiatives and how to prioritize them. Prioritizing projects and knowing where to assign resources is more of an art than a science and the road to the result might not be linear. It is important to balance short-term gains with long-term impact.

Start with Data

The number one input to make a good call is having the data. It should be possible to find out where things go wrong and how much the financial implications are. It would be even better if there is data available on different root causes that caused the issues. All the data can be analyzed and ordered to be helpful in making the right decision on which improvement projects utilizes the resources the best.

Selecting Projects

When selecting projects, it is always good to look at perceived value but also to look critically at the time required implementing the improvement project. Some great criteria to look for are:

  • Time
    required.
  • Impact
    on the business.
  • Impact
    for customers.

These can be applied in any particular order and should be in line with company goals. When there are already projects going on, a new high-impact project might not be the best choice.

Short-Term Gains

The time needed to implement and verify the results is
an important aspect when selecting the projects to work on. Of course, projects
with a high financial benefit and a short time period are the gems but also
most of the times are already finished.

Short-term improvement plans with a positive impact for
the customers are even better. These will help boost customer satisfaction or
customer loyalty, both of which are very important for the continuity of the
company.

Internal process improvements are more important to streamline the internal process, which could result in a positive effect for the customers. They are essentially implemented to improve the operations. These projects can be hard to find resources for because not all the losses of time in the process are always crystal clear. Here, data is very important because the data will help in proving the importance of the changes. Also, these projects require some willingness to change by employees, which will lead to resistance.

Long Term ROI

When we look for more long-term improvements with a longer ROI it can be hard to find the required resources. These plans require a completely different approach. Due to the long-term impact on the company, it is good to align them with the company’s vision and make them strategic for the organization. This can be done regardless of the size of the company. These projects require significant buy-in from the company hence top management involvement is key in this.

Long-Term Impact on Product

Then there are the projects that have a long-term impact
on the product or service the company produces. These projects will have major
benefits over the long haul for customers and business. Most of the time the
R&D department does these projects but they can also be initiated by
quality when it comes to production improvement. However, a close collaboration
between engineers and quality is very important. The drawback is the long
development time which requires serious resources. A clear ROI is important in
this case.

Conclusion

In the end, it all comes down to internal resources and
how to deploy them. As long as decisions are based on data that has been
collected by the company, they are backed with some sort of evidence. Of course
you shouldn’t stare blind on the data because there could be opportunities that
haven’t been part of the data collection until now.

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How to Set Great Quality Objectives

Quality objectives are measurable goals and the base of long-term quality improvement planning. After setting a target, simply hoping that changes occur to achieve the goal is not an effective way to improve a QMS. You need to work towards that goal.

Make it SMART

Once you’ve determined which products or processes you want to monitor, measure, and improve, you need to make sure that your quality objectives are achieved effectively. To have the best chance of achieving these goals, I would recommend you to use the SMART method. This method states that all quality objectives need to be Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic, and Time-based. Here’s how you do this: 

Specific: Describethe quality objective as specific as possible so that everyone in the organization understands it. Rather than striving “to reduce production defects,” a better description should be “to reduce production defects by 10% in the engine assembly line”. To test whether it’s specific enough, you can try to see if your goal could be interpreted differently. If so, your goal is not yet well formulated. 

Measurable: Without measuring your goals, how can you determine if an objective is achieved? To show visible improvement, it’s important to express this in percentages or numbers. For instance:  

  • Reduce production defects by 10%
  • Obtain 90% customer on-time-delivery

Agreed: Objectives can’t be achieved if they’re created inside a vacuum. Top management buy-in is crucial in setting quality objectives, and make sure they’re communicated throughout your organization so relevant parties are made aware. All employees of the organization need to agree that the goals are achievable. 

Realistic: Setting unrealistic goals is never a good idea. You aren’t going to motivate your employees by telling them you want to go from 20% production defects to zero. Especially when you don’t have the resources to support this level of improvement. To keep everybody satisfied, set realistic goals—this will motivate them to put in a little bit of extra effort next time. 

Time-based: Finally, to be truly effective, objectives must have a specific deadline for results. Without a timeline, goals might be easily forgotten when overshadowed by day-to-day activities. For example, “reduce production defects in the engine assembly line by 10% in the next year”. 

Quality objectives can be established for any process and can be specific to a department, team, or project, as long as they are relevant to your QMS. Always make sure that quality objectives are properly communicated throughout your entire organization so relevant parties are made aware. 

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Workshop: Time Pressure and the Effect on Quality & Safety

On Wednesday 22 May, we organized a workshop on time pressure and the effect on quality and safety. Time pressure can have a major impact on quality and safety, which can lead to serious accidents. In most cases where odd jobs have to be completed quickly, there is stress, as a result of which employees no longer think clearly and end up in unsafe situations. 

How can we teach people to deal with time pressure and not to start with an unsafe situation? This happens in all industries, whether you work in construction or in a production company. The business must run, but not at all costs. In this post I will give you a good overview of the topics discussed. 

What Is Time Pressure?

Time pressure can arise during work when a large or too complex job has to be done within a certain time frame. For example, a person might feel under pressure if the demands of their job (such as hours or responsibilities) are greater than they can comfortably manage. Time pressure is a part (or cause) of work-related stress. This often results in accidents, absenteeism, or quality problems.

How Time Pressure Is Related to Accidents

Time pressure is often the cause of accidents in the workplace. A number of common examples of how time pressure can lead to accidents are: 

  • The production must be finished in time in order to achieve the quality objectives and to keep top management satisfied. 
  • Wrong materials that are not intended for this purpose are used to complete a job on time. 
  • Signals about unsafe working are not picked up with the associated risks. 

The Importance of a Safety Culture

To deal with time pressure, it’s crucial to have an overall safety culture in place. Employees must have a shared vision when it comes to safety. Make sure to create an environment in which safety topics are negotiable. It’s key that all employees have faith in each other at all levels of the organization, in particular, top management. Teach me how to build a safety culture in 6 easy steps.  Also, make sure people feel comfortable enough to speak out when they feel stressed. This openness is an absolute must if the company wants to reduce stress. 

Furthermore, it is important that management provides funds for these topics. The safety department needs time and money to come up with improvement plans when things go wrong, or rather, before things go wrong. It is always cheaper to prevent than to cure.

Collaborate

Good collaboration between contractors and clients is crucial to prevent time pressure. The following points apply to both contractors and clients: 

  1. Take enough time to take up an assignment; don’t create your own pitfall!

2.     Make clear agreements about safety (what are your rights and obligations?).

3.     It’s better to ask too many difficult questions than get one after an incident!

4.     Investigate each incident together in detail.

Celebrate 

Last but not least, celebrating success is vital. Reward employees for reporting incidents to encourage reporting rather than hiding issues. Therefore, start by celebrating achievements, such as a successful intervention or a toolbox meeting, to help promote long-term success. Also try to avoid sanctions, but be satisfied as long as your employees want to learn from their mistakes. 

The workshop was full of practical examples, so that those present could easily relate to the situation. In addition, the presentation contained useful tips to prevent time pressure and the consequences that you may have if you do not. Thanks again to Gerard Beijkirck for sharing his experience and giving the presentation!

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Change Management in Quality Management

The continuous improvement plans created have to be implemented properly to really add value. Coming up with the plan or idea is the easy part. Making sure the plan is fully implemented and supported by the organization is the hard part. To make a plan successful, change management is the key.

Personal Change

Most people resist change and prefer to keep working the way they are used to, regardless of the inefficiencies and struggles during their day-to-day activities. This means that the outcome of the plan comes down to psychology more than actual quality management. This makes it all the harder.

When an employee doesn’t see how the change improves their life, they simply tune out. In an organization this is very complex because of all the interactions. The small loss of time for one can be a huge time saver for the next. This setting makes it hard for people to accept the change because they don’t see the added value for them.

Organizational Change

When we look at the organizational level, change management starts to get very complex. As mentioned above, some people lose and others gain during this change. Certain employees need to do some additional work to make life easier for their colleagues down the hall. The problem is that the people that feel they lose something will resist relentlessly. This can harm the effectiveness of the project significantly. When someone doesn’t see the benefit instantly, it is crucial to show them the current situation and how the workload is divided among the different employees. Besides the workload, you can also show why things go wrong and put a dollar value on the issues that have been logged due to the problems

Also, mapping out the processes and showing the bottlenecks in the process is a great method to open the eyes of the employees. Even then, there will be a number of people that will resist the change. Top Management buy-in can become the key driver to convince the last set of people. When they support the project it will be a lot easier to make sure people move in the right direction.

Prevent Dead Projects

A lot of improvement plans get canceled due to the complexity that comes with change management. Employees don’t support or aren’t willing to change. Projected results are not reached due to poor change management and execution. This cannot be prevented all the time but certain things can be done to increase the likelihood of success.

Engagement

Engage key people in the project. Make them part of the project right when the project is still in the planning phase. When they are part of the project team they feel ownership and take responsibility during the implementation phase. This helps a lot to drive the change through the organization.

Communication

Clearly communicate the implications for the different roles in the company. Don’t sugarcoat it, when people have to do some additional work be upfront about it and show them why. This can be done by showing the actual data you have gathered on what goes wrong in the process. They will see why change is important when the losses are visual.

Use data

Use data to back-up your claims. Show the people how you came to a certain conclusion and why this change will have a positive effect on it. When you actually get the results you anticipated, make sure to celebrate it. This will give some credit for the next project and there will be a lot more in the future. 

A proper platform can be used as a guide during the change management project. An easy-to-use platform allows people to adopt the new situation more easily and the data coming out of it allows for instant proof why the new way of working is a step forward. Make sure the right solutions are in place to support your improvement projects.

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