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Manufacturing

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Investing in EQMS

Mike Roberts explores the four steps manufacturers should take before investing in enterprise quality management software

Across industries, companies have to deal with two major challenges among many other interconnected ones. First, the global economy is becoming increasingly competitive, which impacts operating margins, reliance on the supply chain, operational risk, and the ability to meet compliance. And second, products and the processes required to make them are becoming more and more complex every year.

These factors are only going to transform into more burdensome ones, and are prompting nearly every global company to at least consider an investment in enterprise quality management software.

Interestingly, the enterprise quality management software (EQMS) space is maturing rapidly, with many enterprise software providers now offering EQMS functionalities and a large group specialising in delivering EQMS specifically. However, before even considering which QMS vendor to choose, there’s a lot of work to be done: assessing current capabilities, documenting ideal capabilities, estimating the impact of EQMS, and leveraging existing industry knowledge to validate your business case.

Documenting your current quality processes and performance
Well before requesting budget for an enterprise quality software purchase, it’s always a good starting point to develop a high-level understanding of existing quality resources. Down the road this information can be used more specifically, by creating flow charts for each quality process. This will help to clarify not only a breakdown of what takes place within a process, but also the resources allocated to each step and potential gaps which may exist.

The enterprise quality management software (EQMS) space is maturing rapidly, with many enterprise software providers offering EQMS functionalities and a large group specialising in EQMS specifically

Mike Roberts, LNS Research
 
The following action items will provide a comprehensive assessment of current capabilities:
1. Detail an overview of key personnel and quality structure
Are quality responsibilities centralised, decentralised, or carried out via a hybrid model? Document how quality is dealt with at the corporate, divisional, and site levels, and who the sponsors are that will need to get on board. Remember, quality is as much of a people issue as it is a process and technology one.

2. Assess current processes in place for managing quality
Again, these should be broken down by corporate, divisional, and site levels. In a globally distributed company, there are likely many different quality processes across regions and sites. The same can be said for a small company that’s grown organically, building homegrown processes or implementing point solutions along the way. Regardless, take an inventory of each of these processes, their effectiveness, and how they are being used. It’s also important to know which have been standardised across the enterprise and which are site-specific.

3. Document current quality software and technologies
Obtain a complete understanding of the current quality IT architecture, from corporate systems used by executives and continuous improvement professionals to those used on the shop floor and to manage supplier quality. Like the assessment of current quality processes in place, it’s important to know what technologies are being used, their effectiveness, how they are being used, and if any have been rolled out as the company standard.

4. Investigate current quality metrics measured
Find out which quality metrics are being used, at which level of the organisation, and current performance. A vital area to focus on here is identifying if there are any disparities from corporate to site level on how each metric is being calculated, which can impair benchmark performance ability down the road and make it more difficult to justify an EQMS investment.

Attaining quality intelligence: don’t do it alone!
The most effective method for gathering this information is by leveraging the knowledge of employees across the value chain. By interviewing personnel from engineering, quality, manufacturing, supply chain, and so on, there should be a solid foundation of what’s currently available to manage quality and how it’s being utilised. Opening up this line of communication and fostering buy-in from key people will also help in developing a user requirement document down the road and getting the proper support when the time for an implementation arrives.

You can take this a step further by identifying key players in each area of the value chain and inviting them to join a quality leadership council. This cross-functional team will hold much more weight than any one individual. When a budget request is finally made for quality software, stating a business case from the perspective of supply chain leaders, design leaders, and service leaders will only increase approval chances.

Mike Roberts is research associate at LNS Research

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