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The 7 Essential Quality Tools for Process Improvement

The 7 basic tools of quality (or 7 QC Tools) were conceptualized for the first time by Kaoru Ishikawa, a professor of engineering at the University of Tokyo. They are a set of relativity simple data analysis tools used to support quality improvement efforts.

The 7 basic quality tools are essentially techniques used to identify and fix issues related to product or process quality. When an organization starts the journey of quality improvement, they normally have many low hanging fruits. These could be eliminated with these basic 7 QC tools. The 7 QC tools are fairly simple to understand and implement because they don’t require complex analytical/ statistics to use.

So What Are the 7 Basic Tools of Quality?

  1. Control chart
  2. Flow Chart
  3. Check Sheet
  4. Pareto Chart
  5. Fishbone Diagram
  6. Histogram
  7. Scatter Diagram

Flow Chart

Flow charts are the best process improvement tools that you can use to analyze a series of events. They show you how processes work visually. This tool is mainly used to map out processes to determine where the bottlenecks or breakdowns are in work processes.

Cause and Effect Diagram

The cause-and-effect diagrams can be used to understand the root causes of business problems. This analysis is designed to get into the detailed fundamental causes of the issue, without any bias. The analysis will lead to significant insight into why thingswent wrong.

Check Sheet

A check sheet is a structured, prepared form (document) for collecting and analyzing data to evaluate quality. For example, you can use a check sheet to track the number of times a specific incident occurs.

Histogram

A histogram is a chart that shows how often a value, or range of value, occurswithin a given time period. Histograms provide a visual summary of a large amount of variable data. If the histogram is normal then the graph will have a bell-shaped curve.

Pareto Chart

Pareto charts are charts that contain bars and a line graph. A Pareto chart takes advantage of the 80/20 rule to visually show the categories with the largest impact on a problem. It states that 80 percent of an effect comes from 20 percent of the causes.

Control Chart

A control chart is a graph that displays trends, shifts, or patterns in the output ofa process over time. These charts allow you to identify the stability and predictability of the process and identify whether the process is under control.

Scatter Diagram

A scatter diagram or scatter plot is basically a statistical tool to represent the value of two different variables. The purpose of using this is to find the relationship between the problem (overall effect) and causes that are affecting.

Once a tool is learned, it can be adapted to various problem-solving opportunities. As with everything else, the use of these tools will require some practice and experience. Simply start with the tool that is easiest for you, and over time you will get the hang of it and become a great problem solver!

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6 Key Features Every Quality Management Platform Must Have

Considering a quality management platform for your organization? You’re not alone. Selecting the one that fits your company isn’t easy. Which features are needed to support your processes? How complex does it need to be? Is it user-friendly and intuitive enough for the employees? These are just some questions that you will need to answer during the selection process. In this blog, we discuss six key functionalities that your QM platform must have to support the basics of your QMS.

Automation

The single most important feature of an online platform is the automation. It has to save you and the company a lot of time. Automated notifications can help with staying compliant and reminding people of the areas to focus on. Make sure you come up with these triggers yourself to ensure they work for you and not against you.

Risk Analysis

Managing risks is critical for a proper QMS and at the bare minimum a hard requirement for compliance to the standard. A good quality management platform helps you to list your risks and connect the required actions. The connection between the risks and the actions will give great benefits. Make sure the platform is flexible enough to support multiple Risk Analysis methodologies such as FMEA or Fine & Kinney.

Action Planning

CAPA or action management is the lifeline of your management system. The action list shows how the company improves over time and which steps are taken to prevent issues from occurring in the future. The list can get quite extensive so make sure the interface has enough filters that allow you to find the most important actions that the company is working on.

Non-Conformance Reports / Issues

Another must-have is non-conformance reports (NCR). A lot of analytical data is stored in the non-conformities that happen in the company. A mobile app is a big differentiator for the team. The employees can now easily file an NCR by snapping a picture. When checking for the right solution, always check the analyze features. Running your own custom analysis in the platform will make life so much easier. The flexibility is key, don’t go for pre-defined options—they will become too limited very soon.

Audits and Inspections

Audits are where you can check how the management system functions. A clear interface will save a lot of time. The platform should allow you to have all the information in one screen, like your processes, NC reporting, and the ability to assign points of improvement and other tasks. The inspections are where you can easily make a check on your mobile phone. The inspection should be done on the mobile to save significant reporting time.

Document Management

Effective documentation is important for a well-functioning quality management platform, and every system should have it. Even though it is not required anymore, storing historical information is good for future reference.  With the right document management, you never risk having outdated procedures or work instructions. The system should take care of version control, and make them easily accessible to all

Show me 

Quality management is more than compliance or cost avoidance, it is about making real value out of your quality management system and make it part of your organizational culture. With a quality management platform that supports the above features you come along way with creating real value.

If you want to know how Qooling can help you. Please contact us!

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The Truth about QMS platforms vs. alternatives

It remains a bottleneck for many companies—do we opt for a quality management system or do we prefer one of the many alternatives? All solutions have their strengths, but they aren’t always the right solution to stay compliant and get the most out of your quality management. To give you a better insight into the bad and good sides of these solutions, we will shortly discuss the most common alternatives. 

Paper-Based Systems (Supported by Excel/Word)

Many companies still have a paper-based QMS system in combination with Word, Excel, and other Microsoft Office files to keep track of their documentation. The problem in a paper-based system is that companies constantly battle to make sure they are up-to-date with the latest procedures, copies, and more. Such systems require a lot of maintenance and are time-consuming to administer, which does not favor the benefits of a certificate. This approach also has a lot of time-consuming activities such as keying over the information from paper to Excel sheets. This not only costs a lot of time but also introduces lots of errors.

ERP Solutions

The use of ERP “solutions” for QMS has the potential to minimize the number of IT systems and offers “special” modules for certain aspects within QHSE compliance management. However, the fact is these systems are not built to be used as a compliance platform and certainly do not favor the functionality, flexibility, and support of a specialist system. These solutions can work for you, but they come at a cost of missing features and functionalities.

In-House Development

Of course, it is possible to develop a complete management system in-house. Choosing this route is usually the most expensive one. Not only does it cost scarce resources of developers, but it also requires a lot of input from operations. The developers have no idea what to develop. This needs to be analyzed and clarified by the people in the operations. When they help out, they cannot do their own job so the cost gets doubled. An other downside is the requirements of updates. Every time something needs to change the developers need to be available. This will lead to some serious costs to the company.

Specialized QMS System

A specialized QMS system such as Qooling provides the right tools to improve your business so that you can make decisions based on data from within your organization. These platforms are continuously improved based on feedback from customers and other specialists in the field. The updates are part of the package and don’t require additional costs. The fact that these platforms are built for compliance only, means that all the features are present and all aspects from different standards are embedded. The other big plus is that they run out of the box, which leads to an implementation time of weeks, not quarters or even years.

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How to identify ROI for an QMS

It isn’t an unreasonable question for anyone to ask, especially if you are going to ask them to spend money on quality. If you want your business to invest in a quality management platform, you should have some idea of what the costs currently are and how long it takes before you earn back your investment. 

‘’60 percent of organizations don’t know or don’t measure their financial impact of quality’’

Measuring ROI on QMS

There are countless benefits of implementing a quality management platform. Some can easily be measured, while others are more intangible and take place over time. However, the most important fact is that quality management platform can significantly improve the efficiency and consistency within your organization, resulting in improved overall quality. 

To help you understand the ROI on quality management platform, I’ll give you some key success metrics that you can use to track your improvement. 

Paperless Workplace

Manual or cumbersome processes take up resources and slow down productivity. No matter if this is in man-hours or administrative work, this is time spent on the system, rather than the business. A lot of time can be saved in the preparation of paper forms and documents. This could be incidents, work orders, work instructions, toolbox meetings, and so on. 

Greater Client Satisfaction

Quality management platform improves response and customer satisfaction while ensuring that customer reported quality issues are always properly documented and effectively resolve. The possibility of losing a customer based on the problems is very hard to measure but we all know when we screw up too often we will get burned. Having a clear overview of these issues, big or small, will help you get a better feeling of the likelihood of this happening.

Up-To-Date

Keeping employees up-to-date with the latest processes, procedures, and other documents is not only very labor intensive; it is also prone to mistakes. Forgetting to train somebody can lead to serious costs when old formats are used or processes followed. This could lead to missing out on a deal or even losing a customer.

Increased Productivity

The real hard ROI can be measured on time saved. Here also lies quite a number of challenges. Most companies have no idea how many hours are lost with an unstructured management system. Companies don’t track the hours people spend on searching for documents to use or training on new procedures. These are seen as the normal costs of running a business. However, saving on these activities directly impacts the bottom line of the company and therefore can have a significant impact. Try to find a reasonable amount of hours people spend searching for documents within your organization in order to benchmark.

Real Time Insight

A manual or Microsoft Office based management system lacks the real time insight. Data needs to be structured from a Word document to an Excel sheet in order to do some kind of analysis. Besides the time it takes, mistakes are also made. When the data is used and input for business decisions, this means that they are made on the wrong data. Every time data needs to be keyed over to other documents, mistakes are introduced. Make sure you have a single source of truth that can be analyzed in real time.

Get Started 

If you’re at the point where you are ready to find the right quality management system for your business, we can help you. Through a short phone call, our product specialist will look at the problems you are currently experiencing, and will advise you with choosing the right solution that fits your needs. Get started today!

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Process Mapping

Every company has their own way of working, and are either implicit or explicit in documented processes. These processes are followed by almost anybody in the company. In order to find efficiencies in processes or during the interaction between them, it is important to map the processes. Make sure every process is included in the exercise.

High Level

It is always good to start mapping the processes at the highest level of processes in the company. Don’t go into much detail of every process, for now just note them down. Some great examples of high-level processes you can think of are, for example, sales, order handling, and project management. Also point out the support process on a high level like HR, IT, quality, compliance, etc. As a guide, you can just answer this simple question:

For every company this can be different, but there are some defined steps someone needs to take in order to become a paying customer. Having a clear overview is key, so create some kind of flowchart to put the process in logical order.

Which process does a person/company following to go from a prospect to a paid customer and what other non-core processes are there in the company?

Dive Right In

When the big picture is clear, it is time to zoom in on the individual processes. Sales can, for example, exist of prospecting and selling and maybe even marketing. It depends on where you draw the line. On the other hand, project management can be just managing the steps to produce the product or maybe also on the side to install/implement it. You draw your own line, but make sure you go one level deeper and check all the steps that are within a high-level process.

The Handover

The points where one process goes into the next are critical points in your company. During the transition from one process to the next, communication is critical. In this part of the processes lots of improvements can be realized by many companies. We will touch upon this point in one of our next posts. For now, it is important to highlight these handover points in your processes to make sure everybody is aware of them.

Audits

A great way to have a feeling if people are working roughly according to the processes is auditing. The different ISO standards forces certified companies to audit their processes, but also for non-certified companies this would be a great practice. There are different kinds of auditing techniques, but the Brown Paper Audit is a great innovative approach. Next week we’ll look more at this technique.

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Workshop Qooling: How to use data as input to improve my business.

Last week we hosted a great workshop by Tessa Lange. She is an expert in continuous improvement and shows the participants how to use data as an input to improve business. Some key take-aways will be pointed out in this post.

Why Collect Data?

Lots of companies collect a ton of data without any valid reasons. Data is often described as the new gold and therefore companies just collect tons of it, sometimes without reason. The downside of this is that somebody needs to create that data. In a company setting, this means that the employees need to key in the data into some sort of system. Creating this data costs time and effort by the employees. Hence, collecting the data without any purpose is a huge waste of valuable time and effort. Also, when people need to fill in a ton of forms and they don’t see the benefits of this, they will either get very frustrated or simply stop filling in the data. With this knowledge, it is even more important to think twice about why you collect certain data. Of course, there can be very good reasons for collecting the data like laws, certain standards or maybe to improve the company. Just think about the reason for every point of data that you are collecting.

How Do I Rate the Data?

When the data is collected, it is important to rate the data and check its reliability and validity.
  • Reliability = If you measured it again, would the outcome be the same?
  • Validity = Do you really measure what you want to measure?
To be on the same page with your employees, it is important set certain norms on what data is right and what data is wrong. Data is often used as a yardstick to measure performance and in order to do this sensibly, you need to know if the data is usable.

Interpreted the Data

Interpreting data isn’t as easy as it may sound. To draw conclusions out of data you need to understand the context. Context can be the unit of the data point or the relation of the data to data in a previous period or even a benchmark you work against. Simply concluding if the company is doing a good or bad job based on the data doesn’t make sense. Make sure you have context. When the context is clear and you are measuring the same data over and over again, you can check for anomalies in the data. Look for spikes or drops in the data, or points that break the pattern.

Start Improvement

When all the data is collected and you start to see trends that aren’t according to the plan, you can dive into these trends to see what goes wrong. When you really start to see a negative trend, you can start an improvement process to try to break the trend. This can be relatively easy, just for example, by talking with suppliers when they make too many mistakes. On the other hand, these plans can be pretty elaborate like complete safety awareness programs. The results of these improvements should be measured on an acceptable timeline. You cannot expect to see safety changes in a couple of weeks. While improvements from a supplier should be seen relatively quickly.

Conclusion

The most important lesson is “context”. Always have a context before you analyze the data. Before you know it, you are improving the wrong processes. Published by:

Choose the Right QHSE Platform for Your Business

When you decide to move your QHSE management system to an online platform, there are quite a number of important points to think about. Implementing such a platform introduces many changes in the company which should be managed properly. However there are several actions you can take beforehand to get a better end result.

Internal Changes Required

Every new platform requires the company to change their way of working. The changes can be small or big, regardless there are changes. To make the transition as smooth as possible, it is crucial to check if the company is ready to change. Talk with people and see if they are open to improving the company’s process. This doesn’t mean you should 100% agree with them, but give them some level of influence, as there are always people who simply reject any new initiative. Involving employees will increase the support for the decision. which will greatly benefit the speed of adoption when the decision has been made to implement the platform.

Way of Working

Every company has certain ways of working that are entrances into the operation. Some are deliberately created, like compliance checks, while others emerged organically. Whether the processes are manual or completely automated, processes will follow each other. A new system will have an impact on the process flow within the company. However, during selection of the platform, make sure there are enough customization options to keep parts of the process as they are right now. A significant number of solutions force companies to work according to a certain way, which seems great until it doesn’t. Processes might need to be changed or improved when the platform doesn’t allow for these changes, so you will end up with lots of resistance from the employees.

User Friendliness

Ease of use is a key component in the adaption of the platform. Of course the platform should be feature-rich, but mainly focused on the key users. The regular user only gets confused when there are a lot of bells and whistles he or she can click on and play with. Elaborate access management should be implemented to give you some great options to tailor the platform based on the roles of the employees.

Real Value

The value created by the platform is an important factor. The value can be quantified by means of a business case to calculate some ROI on the investment. However, the new platform will also give the company possibilities it didn’t have in the past. Calculating the ROI on these options is next to impossible. The real value will always be a combination of the real ROI and the new possibilities for the company.

 

Keep in mind! Pick a platform that increases the change of adaptation by the company when you really want to generate more data in order to improve the processes.

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