Quality management is the one aspect of any manufacturing operation that will win more customers, gain their trust, and improve a company’s reputation faster than any price move or promotional program.
Manufacturing quality is a mirror of how a company operates daily, reflecting what’s most important from the shop floor to the top floor. In a recent IQMS survey, 92% of manufacturers say product quality defines their success in the eyes of their customers. 50% define their success by their ability to meet on-time deliveries.
Both measures underscore how important excelling at manufacturing quality is.These and many other insights are from the recently published IQMS Survey, What Drives Growth in Manufacturing (free, PDF, opt-in). It’s accessible here.
Steps Every Manufacturer Can Take To Make Quality A Competitive Strength
The approaches defined below are equally applicable to a single plant or an entire network of production centers. What’s most important is that everyone owns the outcome and sees how their efforts make a difference.
Team and department leaders supported by real-time feedback on the progress towards quality goals are critical to making quality management pay.
Presented below are the Total Quality Management (TQM) critical success factors that lead to customer loyalty, higher sales, and greater profitability:
1. Recruit a product quality champion as quickly as possible who is in senior management.
Having this person on the quality management team immediately will remove organizational roadblocks. It will also make allocating budgets and resources more efficient, provide greater visibility for the entire process and carry out the financial decisions necessary to keep improving product quality.
Best of all, this person will be able to truth-test the metrics selected to show how shop floor improvements drive top floor financial results.
2. Get focused on how to excel at quality measurement and quality benchmarking fast.
This is the area where the majority of manufacturers struggle to make quality gains against competitors.
It’s important to set some challenging objectives in this area including zero-defects conformance, using Statistical Process Control (SPC) for monitoring quality, know what the cost of quality is by product, the proportion of defects by product, the percentage of products needing rework and the defective product rate is relative to competitors.
3. Define a strategy for how to excel at process management that reduces cycle and task times.
The goal of excelling at process management is to make speed a feature of any production system.
The focus on process management needs to include steps to reduce material handling costs, reduce setup and cycle times, improve finished goods and total process and delivery time performance.
4. Product designs and new product introductions are the truest tests of manufacturing quality there is and need to be excellent to win new customers.
Tracking the yield levels of new products and their relative sales growth rates, compared to Return Material Authorizations (RMAs) and component failure rates provides insights into how inbound inspection, supplier quality management, workflows on the shop floor and work instructions could be improved.
More manufacturers are also relying on Voice of the Customer (VoC) programs as well to gain valuable insights into how product designs can better meet and exceed customer expectations.
The elapsed time from first product design to first sales varies by industry, and the most competitive manufacturers are always looking to trim time off of this metric and deliver new products faster.
5. See how supplier quality management impacts company-wide performance by gaining greater insights into how it affects performance and material costs.
Supplier quality needs to get beyond inbound inspection, and quality audits to include inventory turnover, inventory accuracy, Kanban implementations in each production center, material cost visibility and supply chain optimization.
In the context of improving manufacturing quality strategies, supplier quality is often overlooked. It’s time to look at how supplier relations can be turned into a source of quality management strength.
6. Be passionate about knowing what you’re like to do business with from the customer’s perspective.
It’s easy to become inward-centric and not track the full impact of manufacturing quality decisions on customers. The companies dominating industries push themselves out of that comfort zone and know more than any other competitor in their markets about customers.
Knowing delivery dependability, customer service training effectiveness, how well complaints are being handled, if the percentage of complaints are up or down and if the customers are satisfied with response times are all essential. From this common base of knowledge, leading manufacturers know what percentage of their customer base will provide repeat business.
When any manufacturer puts in this much effort to understanding customers, they are often the most trusted and relied on for what they produce as well.
7. Manufacturers who realize the more they learn, the more they earn are also dominating manufacturing quality today.
Investing in training and development, putting in specific training programs to provide new learning opportunities, getting engineering and development in the field with customers are all excellent ways to gain valuable knowledge that can drive improved product quality.
The greater the knowledge shared across the product design, development, manufacturing, sales and service team the greater the potential for excelling on every dimension of product quality.