Tag: quality tools

Incorporating quality tools outside of work

In celebration of World Quality Month, the feature story of November’s Quality Progress is “Off the Clock,” which highlights the passion of quality professionals and their tendencies to incorporate quality into their daily lives.  In fact, Jennifer Stepniowski, Pro QC’s Special Project Manager, is included in the article as she discusses using checklists, brainstorming and affinity diagrams to organize summer fun for her family.

For most of us in the industry, quality is a passion.  It’s something we incorporate into our routines seamlessly.  And, it’s something we at Pro QC believe will help raise awareness to those outside of the industry.  World Quality Months provides us with an ideal opportunity here.  We talk so much about the technical aspects of quality due to the nature of the work of we do, but quality can be found throughout our personal lives as well.

A few suggestions from our team for incorporating the quality tools we know and love outside of work includes:

  • Checklists – Checklists are a significant time saver that come in handy for just about anything.  Outside of work, use them to create grocery shopping templates or to organize travel.
  • Brainstorming – Taking a few moments to really consider all of the options and incorporate others into that process saves time and generates new and fresh ideas.  Outside of work, use it for menu or vacation planning.
  • Fishbone Diagrams – Figuring out what the root cause is saves time and gets problems solved much faster than trying to patch up the “bones.” Outside of work, use it for anything that continues to be a problem such as time management issues. Getting to to the root cause will avoid continuously patching it up.
  • Flowcharts – Flowcharts are excellent visual devices that both educate and serve as tools for identifying continuous improvement.  Outside of work, flowcharts are a great way to teach children how certain tasks and responsibilities should be performed.  It can also improve the efficiency of household chores or other common tasks.
  • Line Graphs  & Histograms (Bar Charts) – Histograms are great for visually representing data collected and line graphs show a pattern of data in time order.  Outside of work, they’re great for organizing chores or even fitness and/or dietary information.  These are also excellent tools for analyzing budget information.

What are some other ways we can incorporate quality into our daily lives?

“Quality begins on the inside… then works its way out.”
― Bob Moawad

S.M.A.R.T. quality planning & goal setting…

Planning and goal-setting are certainly two of the most challenging tasks an organization faces.  However you look at it, macro or micro, strategic or tactical, short or long-term, planning seamlessly finds its way into all functions of management.

Quality tools, such as flowcharts, fishbone diagrams, histograms, etc. add tremendous and inarguably invaluable assistance with this process, but the success hinges on whether or not you’re using the right one.  And, which one is the right one?  The most relevant answer is found in identifying the objective and subsequent details as accurately as possible.

This is where S.M.A.R.T. comes in… Planning and goal-setting effectively to work towards meeting or exceeding the objective.  It sounds quite simple, but using S.M.A.R.T. forces you to think broader and effectively ask the right questions that will later turn into result-driven action items.

Be S.M.A.R.T when planning or goal setting at any level…

S – Specific

For example, a quality problem identified with poor performance coming from a factory abroad isn’t solved by simply acknowledging there is “some” problem and then throwing different solutions at it to see if things get better.  By starting out specific, you lay out a roadmap for resolution.  In order to be specific, data collection is often required.  For example, are there any specific trends noted in the quality problem, such as raw material inconsistencies or labor shifts tied to production lots?  Are there seasonal or shipment quantity considerations? Figure out what is exactly the issue causing the poor performance.  Those trusty quality tools really come in handy here. But, if you define something in a general way, you’ll likely get a general result.  The same happens when you start by asking the wrong question.

M – Measurable

Part of being specific is to help identify what metrics can be employed so that there’s reliable and valid data available to determine progress and further action.  In the example above, use the trends identified to place values on improvement.  This expedites the corrective action process as well because decisions are made easier.  How do you know when you’ve succeeded?  You have to know the specific problem in order to get the specific data you need to measure the performance.

A – Attainable (Achievable)

Can the quality issue here be resolved? How can the goal be accomplished? Is that achievable based on the data gathered?  It may turn out the problem has a deeper root-cause, such as issues at the factory management level or raw material supplier inconsistency.  Some of the solutions may not be achievable based on the other requirements.  Remember, they all work together to form an organized system of goal setting and general planning.  If it turns out the solutions presented aren’t attainable, redefine the issue and subsequent corrective action as in this example.  Contingencies are important here.

R – Realistic (Relevant)

Is it realistic to focus on the actual quality defects noted or the process creating the defects?  Is it something that fits in with the existing goals of the organization?  Based on the information gathered, is it realistic to believe the problem can be resolved to an acceptable degree?

T – Timely (Or Tangible)

Especially when you’re dealing with issues that affect customers, timeliness is critical.  Gantt charts are excellent for determining the time requirements of a specific issue.  Using measurements as checkpoints often ensures timely execution.

For more information on S.M.A.R.T. goals and planning, we like these sites:


Managing quality in long distance supply chains

Michael L. Hetzel, Pro QC’s VP/Americas, partnered with GlobalAutoIndustry earlier today to share some insight and recommendations regarding managing quality in long distance supply chains.

The seminar, which was hosted by GlobalAutoIndustry.com, touched on a wide range of quality challenges unique to those engaged in international procurement.  Michael reviews the cost issues and various considerations for selecting capable and ethical suppliers.  In addition, he incorporates important quality tools necessary for assessing and verifying conformance.  He discusses the considerations for using local staff or 3rd party quality providers as a way to monitor and ensure continuous improvement.

After the seminar, one of the questions asked was what he would consider the number one challenge in international supply chain management.  Michael didn’t hesitate to cite cultural issues and followed up with the importance of “becoming an expert on the country, target area and culture.”

In his closing remarks, it’s clear that sourcing risk can’t be eliminated.  But, the goal is clear in that there are several ways in which you can reduce the risk as much as possible.   “The foundation of a good outcome is in the preparation.”  Michael also tells us to assume nothing and abandon all preconceptions.

The presentation materials can be downloaded here: Hetzel Slides – Managing Quality in Long Distance Supply Chains – GlobalAutoIndustry.com 5-16-12.

If you would like additional information, contact Michael directly at mlhetzel@proqc.com.

Your quality questions answered

We’ve  answered many of our most commonly asked quality questions in our newsletter.  As a recap, here are the most popular:

What happens during a pre-shipment inspection?

What is a “drop test”?

How do you address the issue of a supplier that has the desired capabilities but is inconsistent in quality performance?

What is root cause analysis?

What is life cycle testing and how is it performed?

What is the difference between a continuity test and a hipot test?

Visit the Pro QC website to subscribe to the quarterly newsletter. And, let us know if there are any questions you would like to see us include!

Learn cause and effect diagrams and more…

We have found an excellent resource for videos explaining various quality tools.  One of our favorites relates to cause and effect diagrams, but we found the GoogleStorming video quite interesting as well.  There are several other videos relating to quality tools on the Dr. Eugene O’Loughlin YouTube page.  It’s worth checking out!

An additional resource for a instructional videos relating to a wider variety of topics includes the Khan Academy.