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Harness Quality as a Competitive Advantage by Utilizing Best Practices

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

efficiency, cost, quality

Bluestreak Reading Time: 8 minutes

Harness Quality as a Competitive Advantage by Utilizing Best Practices

Achieving success in today's business landscape relies on delivering consistent, high-quality products on time. This not only fosters repeat business but also cultivates a reputation for excellence, opening doors to new opportunities. Making quality a competitive advantage requires a comprehensive approach utilizing best practices that encompass the entire enterprise, including workplace culture, continuous workforce training, and the integration of cutting-edge technology to address quality gaps that affect both you and your customers. It's time to harness quality as a competitive advantage...

Consider these four benefits that businesses are experiencing by embedding quality into their operations:

1. Enhanced revenue through product quality: Superior product quality increases the likelihood of repeat orders from existing customers, particularly in price-competitive markets.

2. Building a strong reputation with reliable products: Satisfied customers who recommend your products to others can become the most potent marketing strategy for any manufacturer.

3. Mitigating the costs of fines and lost business through compliance: Adhering to customer and regulatory standards not only ensures satisfaction and loyalty but also helps avoid the substantial expenses associated with penalties and lost opportunities.

4. Exercising control over the cost of goods sold (COGS): Quality advancements can optimize the various cost components of COGS, resulting in significant cost savings that maximize profit margins.

Fostering a Culture of Quality

To transform quality into a competitive edge and foster an environment where it thrives, organizations should adopt these six best practices employed by successful businesses:

1. Prioritize product quality over cost: Senior executives must go beyond emphasizing cost control objectives and also champion quality goals and targets.

2. Appoint a C-level executive to oversee quality: Assigning an executive at the C-level who can eliminate barriers and navigate processes that impede improved quality is crucial.

3. Empower cross-functional leaders to enhance quality: Leaders in production scheduling, quality management, accounting, finance, sales, service, and support should take ownership of quality from their respective department's perspectives. They should also have the authority to drive improvements.

4. Establish governance with a focus on quality management: Governance should redefine decision-making processes for quality-related matters and identify individuals responsible for these decisions. This may involve creating new roles, such as a dedicated C-level executive solely focused on quality.

5. Overcome resistance to change by eliminating valueless procedures: Manufacturers often tolerate mediocrity, making it difficult to achieve quality goals. It is crucial to critically assess and eliminate or reshape processes and procedures that hinder progress.

6. Communicate quality successes and celebrate individual achievements: Engaging all employees can be achieved by sharing quality metrics through visual displays in work areas and establishing a formal Quality Champions program. Such initiatives generate momentum, leading to even greater results.

By adopting these strategies and building a culture of continual improvement and quality, businesses can transform quality into a powerful competitive advantage that propels growth and success.

Establishing and Benchmarking Quality Baselines

A vital aspect of enhancing a competitive edge today lies in the ability to assess process and product quality gaps and swiftly devise strategies to address them. Quality management teams employ various techniques to pinpoint the root causes of quality issues, with one highly effective method being statistical process control (SPC). SPC relies on statistical random sampling techniques to identify variations in product and production quality.

By leveraging SPC, businesses can establish reliable quality baselines for individual machines, production areas, and processes. Real-time production and process monitoring data collected from the shop floor can then be analyzed using SPC to uncover insights into quality gaps. This analysis helps identify the reasons behind recurring problems such as scrap, process inefficiencies, and quality issues. With these insights, quality management teams can effectively troubleshoot and close the identified quality gaps.

However, it is crucial to ensure that these insights are shared beyond the confines of the quality management team. The most significant quality gaps that hinder businesses from gaining a significant competitive advantage often arise from a lack of information and insights among cross-functional teams, hindering real-time collaboration. Consequently, benchmarking SPC performance across departments becomes essential to facilitate the collaboration required to discover and address quality gaps throughout the organization.

Shared Responsibility for Quality

The responsibility for quality extends across all departments within an organization. Here are some examples highlighting how cross-functional insights into quality impact different areas:

CEO and senior management: Product quality levels directly influence the achievement of volume shipments, revenue targets, margin goals, and cost objectives. Understanding quality insights is crucial for strategic decision-making.

Finance: Accurate financial statements rely on cross-functional knowledge of actual costs, including the impact of quality-related factors. Quality insights inform financial reporting and analysis.

Engineering: Feedback on the ease or challenges of producing designs at scale and any necessary cost tradeoffs to enhance quality are essential for engineering teams. Cross-functional insights help drive design improvements.

Purchasing: Inbound quality levels from suppliers and identifying any finished goods quality gaps caused by defective materials are vital considerations for purchasing departments. Quality insights inform supplier management and sourcing decisions.

Production: Efficient scheduling, adherence to standard costs, and maximizing production efficiency are critical for production teams. Quality insights enable effective production management and process optimization.

Maintenance: Knowledge of quality levels by machine is crucial for maintenance teams to ensure optimal machine performance and readiness for every production run. Quality insights guide maintenance activities.

IT: Information technology teams require visibility into product and process quality to provide appropriate support to other departments in their quality improvement initiatives. Quality insights help determine the IT systems and tools necessary for quality enhancement.

Integrating Quality Management with Business Systems

To effectively manage quality, businesses must ensure that quality management is seamlessly integrated with other essential software systems. This typically includes enterprise resource planning (ERP), manufacturing execution system (MES), accounting and finance, and inventory management systems, among others. By combining these systems with real-time production and process monitoring and quality management capabilities, teams can gain a comprehensive view of quality strengths, weaknesses, and their impact on manufacturing and production operations.

When optimizing existing systems or adding new capabilities, manufacturers should prioritize the following functionalities to embed quality practices into critical business processes:

Integration of real-time production and process monitoring data: It is essential to integrate real-time data from production and process monitoring systems with ERP, MES, and quality management systems. This allows manufacturers to track performance and cost variances in real-time, enabling proactive resolution of issues. It also facilitates the understanding of production run rates, yield rates by machines, and the impact of yield variations and SPC chart swings on financials.

Metrics-driven understanding of quality variances: Quality management software should support tracking and auditing of engineering change orders (ECOs) and tie them back to specific raw material lots and production runs. A similar analysis should be applied to return material authorizations (RMAs) to gain insights into quality variances.

Support for Electronic Data Interchange (EDI): EDI facilitates accurate and efficient information exchanges, reducing errors associated with manual data entry. Quality management solutions should support the automatic translation of incoming EDI files and the seamless updating of related records. The same capability should extend to outgoing files, ensuring effortless communication with customers and suppliers.

Traceability for managing financial risk: Comprehensive traceability capabilities should be in place to track and report variability reduction, cycle time reduction, and risk mitigation across the shop floor. Aggregating this data enables the quantification of financial risks.

Customizable Corrective Action/Preventive Action (CAPA): The ability to tailor CAPA processes to specific workflows is crucial for the continuous improvement of compliance and quality management.

Integrated financial reporting: The translation of production floor activities into financial results is paramount. Manufacturing ERP systems should provide integrated financial reporting to track how quality improvements impact production planning, scheduling, workflows, cost savings, and revenue generation.

Supplier relationship management based on quality: Effective management of supplier relationships requires conducting supplier audits and sharing the data on a secured corporate intranet site. The inclusion of analytics and metrics allows for tracking performance trends over time.

Conclusion The present moment presents the perfect opportunity to tackle the task of instilling a robust quality mindset within your organization. By integrating quality management into an enterprise resource planning (ERP) and manufacturing execution system (MES) platform, manufacturers can access real-time data crucial for competitive success. Recognize the numerous advantages offered by an integrated quality management system, which empowers manufacturers to enhance cost control and transform quality into their most potent competitive advantage.

About Bluestreak™:

Bluestreak™ is a powerful Manufacturing Execution System (MES) and a fully integrated Quality Management System (QMS), designed for the manufacturing environment and service-based manufacturing companies ( metal-treating/powder-coating, plating, heat-treating, forging, and metal-finishing), businesses that receive customers’ parts, perform a process (service) on them, and send those parts back to the customer). Companies need MES software tailored to specific functionality and workflow needs such as industry-specific specifications management, intuitive scheduling control for both staff and machinery maintenance, and the ability to manage work orders and track real-time data. If different work centers on the production floor aren’t “speaking” to each other via the MES, the data loses value and becomes disjointed or lost in disparate silos.

Bluestreak | Bright AM™ is an MES + QMS software solution specifically designed to manage and optimize the unique requirements of Additive Manufacturing’s production of parts and powder inventory usage.

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