Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Role of Quality

Frequently heard questions these days of Six Sigma and Lean are, "What is the role of Quality? We already have a very active Six Sigma process - why do we need a Quality function? What is the role of a Quality Manager?"

These observations have very good merit, and evoke strong emotions. I have 27 years experience in product and business process Quality in a large, multinational US corporation, including 7 years manufacturing experience, manager of the Statistical Consulting center of excellence, Staff Quality Manager in Corporate Quality Services, Division Quality Manager for two different business units, and Senior Manager of Lean Six Sigma Operations. At it's most basic implementation Six Sigma is a problem solving methodology for breakthrough levels of improvement. Six Sigma is a project management system, a quality metric and a goal. In some applications, Six Sigma is also used to develop leadership - teaching future leaders how to use statistical-thinking when making data-based decisions. It is the way we get things done.

Whereas Six Sigma DMAIC and DFSS (DMADV) require the use of statistically-trained project managers / specialists (e.g. black belts, master black belts, etc.) to deliver breakthrough levels of improvement, these specialists typically account for less than 1% of the enterprise's total employees. DMAIC projects tend to focus on eliminating defects in a process; DFSS is a methodology to create new products and services. It is said that DMAIC can achieve up to a 5-Sigma level of quality for existing processes; Design for Six Sigma (DFSS) is used to create new products and services that deliver 6-Sigma, or better, levels of performance.

Lean is a philosophy of eliminating waste; it delivers incremental improvement by engaging every employee to continually improve his/her process. Eliminating waste and non-value add activity reduces cycle time, improves quality, eliminates inventory and improves business results.

Quality is the business process of managing variation around the expectations of our customers. Quality is often measured by business process excellence and product (service) performance as measured against tolerances and specifications. The producer may define Quality, but Quality is ultimately judged by the customer.

The role of a Quality Manager is to promote the process approach in facilitating the design and implementation of an effective Quality Management System to enhance customer loyalty and deliver expected business results. Key business processes and Value Streams need to be documented, understood, measured, and tracked for purposes of identifying strengths and weaknesses; gaps and opportunities. These opportunities should then feed the business improvement project hopper. Increasingly, the role of Quality is to protect the enterprise by assuring compliance to regulatory and statutory requirements, including industry-specific standards, Sarbanes-Oxley, safety, health and environmental. Quality works horizontally across an organization serving as the customer advocate, to protect the brand, and build customer satisfaction.

A critical success factor in any change initiative is frequent and open communication. Adoption of a Quality Management System is a strategic business decision by the Leadership Team. Constant communication to the employees about the status and progress towards the fusion of QMS with Six Sigma and Lean is important to setting goals and deploying objectives within the new business model.

1 comment:

  1. could you tell please explain the role of lean management in an organization