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What are Good Methods for Improving Your System?

Discussion in 'Other Quality and Business Related Topics' started by Nikki, Aug 6, 2015.

  1. Nikki

    Nikki Well-Known Member

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    I recently had a meeting with my boss (I am the Quality System Manager).

    He stated that he felt I am very knowledgeable of my job, the QMS, and that I do well with audits.

    But.... He wants to see me focusing on improving our system. He feels that I wait for an issue to happen before I do something. He isn't wrong. I honestly am unsure how to go about it.

    Preventive Actions and Improvements are my weakest area. When I try to come up with PARs or Improvement ideas, my mind goes blank.

    We have a suggestion box, monthly production meetings.... Any ideas? Much Appreciated.
     
  2. hogheavenfarm

    hogheavenfarm Well-Known Member

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    It seems as if he thinks some event(s) had enough signals in advance to anticipate problems. These type of 'suggestions' are usually based on something concrete, it could even be before you took the position. To anticipate and prevent issues you need a good historical database of attributes or measurements. Running that through some data analyzers may give you some ideas for process improvement. Remember though, it is not strictly 'your job' to come up with process improvements. Suggestion boxes are good if they are done right but few are. Process improvements usually start with the operators, they know the system and what it is capable of, and likely have developed a few shortcuts which you could utilize as improvements by making them official, and giving them the recognition will go a long way to keeping them coming.
    I was fortunate enough in a former job to be required to work two weeks in every one of the 27 departments in the factory. Some I was absolutely terrible at (we will not get into that), some I did very well, but the end result was I knew every job and every operation in the factory, only then do you have the qualifications to offer 'process improvements' yourself !
     
  3. Bill.Pflanz

    Bill.Pflanz Member

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    A good place to start is a review of customer complaints. Hopefully you are collecting that information and you are taking the appropriate corrective action. The next step would be looking for recurring complaints and then changing your processes to prevent future occurrences.
     
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  4. Jennifer Kirley

    Jennifer Kirley Moderator Staff Member

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    I think it isn't too soon to start thinking about risk in terms of that which gets in the way of success. It also isn't too soon to consider culture, and how employees will be engaged so they will support the QMS beyond just conforming to requirements.

    Your boss says you do well at audits. That is good because it's your big chance to ask your auditees, as part of the conversation, what they would like to see done differently. What stands in their way of being successful in their work? Do they always receive what they need, when they need it, to produce as they are asked to? Are their instructions always clear? Do they always know what's expected of them? I keep coming back to the Baldrige "Are We Making Progress?" survey because its questions are actionable and allow the employees to tell it like it is.
     
  5. Pancho

    Pancho Active Member

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    If your boss is looking to you, the QM, to come up with and effect the company's improvement actions, he's misguided. As long as you're the boss's only improver, there will be little if any improvement, though your fault is only indirect. As a QM, you should know that improvement is a team effort, and your boss, with your help, has to empower all employees in the company to effect the improvement. Make that misguided idea the first improvement opportunity that you attack.
    Empower your employees. Get a wiki and let anyone edit your QMS documents. This, with the following, sets your improvement cycle on steroids.

    Non-conformities are indeed reactive, that doesn't diminish their value as the best source of improvement opportunities. And most corrective actions do not have to be complex. With a wiki simple actions will often happen even before there is time to enter a CAPA request. Complex or not, your colleagues should be taking the actions. Do encourage, sweet talk, and help all, specially in the period of time when your improvement culture is nascent.

    Soon after you get a few converts to improvement, you can also supercharge your suggestion box. Get issue tracking software and encourage anyone open improvement requests. Teach all to spot opportunities and open requests during meetings of all sorts, including management reviews, lessons learned, project meetings and the water cooler. Process owners should have authority to pursue or not the opportunities that apply to their processes. And your boss should be the main improvement coach (in cheerleader garb).

    Good luck!
     
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  6. Jennifer Kirley

    Jennifer Kirley Moderator Staff Member

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  7. PaulJSmith

    PaulJSmith Well-Known Member

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    All great answers so far. As others have pointed out, you shouldn't have to do this alone. In fact, unless you know every job and every process, you probably can't do it alone. It has to be a team effort. Enlist members of the team who are most familiar with the processes. Most companies do "Safety Walks" which generate ideas to proactively address potential safety issues. You can do the same with potential process issues. Get volunteers from each process to brainstorm ideas to improve their process, then start checking them off of the list as they are addressed. Your processes get improvements, your team members get a sense of being part of the improvements, and your boss gets his request to you fulfilled. Everyone wins.
     
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  8. Nikki

    Nikki Well-Known Member

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    Thanks everyone. I started off by going up to random employees and asking them what they think is the biggest problem is in their department - meaning what they think slows down their progress the most.

    I got some incredible answers!

    I've got a bunch of information now, and plans starting up to get the improvements processed.

    I definitely wont be going at it alone - and I will be putting together a team :)

    Thanks again all!
     
  9. MCW8888

    MCW8888 Well-Known Member

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    One of the inputs to continuous improvement processes is defect rate, or nonconformance, or the safety incidents that can be reduced.
     
  10. RoxaneB

    RoxaneB Moderator Staff Member

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    Without knowing the full scope and mandate of this team you're assembling, I do admit to feeling a sense of hesitancy going that route. You spoke with random - define 'random' - employees and they gave you some "incredible answers". However, are they also going to be included in coming up with actions and implementing solutions? Employee engagement is a big part to any culture of quality and improvement. And the more people involved potentially means more projects

    Let them come up with the project scope and charter. Let them collect the data - if possible - and identify causes and areas to work on. Let them come up with low cost/low tech solutions. Let them implement and assess sustainability.

    Your role as the QM would be to facilitate their process and track the overall results.

    In a previous role, we actually turned this into a competition. The teams had to present their problem (and solution) in front of a panel. I was always amazed at how creative they were - in both their solutions AND the presentations.
     
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  11. Andy Nichols

    Andy Nichols Moderator Staff Member

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    Don't do it, Nikki! Doesn't matter what team you have or what people tell you, it's not going to work...

    So, he clearly doesn't know how the QMS is supposed to work - there's a clue, he's looking to YOU to make improvements!:eek:

    I had the same comments made to me a loooong time ago. He's looking for you to fulfil a leadership role - leading improvement - without the rest of the management team being on board with the improvements? That's going to be a trainwreck, right there. And you greased the wheels...

    So, what to do? Explain HOW the PDCA (or whatever model you want to use) of the QMS is supposed to work. Start of by asking your boss to explain it just to confirm what he does/doesn't know.
     
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  12. Joe Cruse

    Joe Cruse Member

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    I always thought it was part of the "quality manager"'s job to help facilitate continual improvement in the processes, NOT go bird dog all the improvements and do them all on their own. Nothing wrong with walking the shop floor and looking around and talking to the employees, or in making up a team to look at this. Internal audits ought to be part of driving the improvements, too. Management Review, your quality policy, and your measurables on your quality objectives, with monitoring/measurement of your processes, should be helping you with continually improving your system. But your process owners and top management are the ones that are supposed to "own" this, not just the quality manager.
     
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  13. Nikki

    Nikki Well-Known Member

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    Thanks everyone!
     
  14. Jennifer Kirley

    Jennifer Kirley Moderator Staff Member

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    The next version of the standard is going to be interesting for top bosses who want to delegate all things quality to Quality Managers and their personnel. The transmission of roles from QA Person to Facilitator/Coach is sure to be somewhat painful for some, but required from the Standard's perspective. Once our top bosses can reconcile themselves to the idea that Quality isn't some kind of mysticism but is really things done well, we stand a chance at enjoying true leadership. I suspect that is going to be an incremental process as improvements have proven to be throughout the years.
     
  15. Andy Nichols

    Andy Nichols Moderator Staff Member

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    Something occurs to me that is frequently overlooked when discussing "CI". It takes time, people and therefore, money. Take any recognized form of CI - be it Quality Circles, 6 Sigma or even LEAN and you'll see that improvements sneed "selling" to management to permit budgets to be created/allocated. IMHO anyone who talks about improvements and hasn't also mentioned a budget is simply going to fail in effectiveness of their implementation!
     
  16. Pancho

    Pancho Active Member

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    In my experience, most CI can be done without any budget allocated to it, including revision of standards and CAPA. Even folks' time spent to investigate NCs or plan improvement actions is quickly recouped from the time savings achieved by avoiding recurrence of those NCs.

    Yes, some large improvements or capex require budgeting, but that is much less frequent and less effective when compared with the little stuff added up.
     
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  17. Andy Nichols

    Andy Nichols Moderator Staff Member

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    Aha! Pancho, you're calling corrections an improvement - which is a long philosophical discussion. I tend to take the position held by the auto industry that "improvement" comes, once you have established process controls which are effective. BIG difference.
     
  18. PaulJSmith

    PaulJSmith Well-Known Member

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    I'm not convinced that what Pancho is saying here. Opportunities For Improvement can indeed be pursued without the need for a large budget an/or a separate CI staff. Small companies do this every day. Identifying something that works but can be done better, then implementing changes to make it better, is not at all the same as correcting something that is not working.
     
  19. Andy Nichols

    Andy Nichols Moderator Staff Member

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    Paul: I guess I'm jaundiced by non-conformities from audits, (in particular) thinly disguised as "OFIs". It's a bit like (IMHO) me coming to one of your gigs and suggesting that you need to fix your tuning technique, or your equipment, or similar. Nice of me to "share" you'd think - and maybe it would be kinda appropriate, but...here's the rub...I'm NOT a guitar player! I'm only learning. I have no experience of YOUR performances, other than what I see at that time. Yet, somehow, I can make some comments about improvement and you'll act on them? Hmmmm...
     
  20. PaulJSmith

    PaulJSmith Well-Known Member

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    Well, and I think that's exactly the point. However, it would be more like my playing a gig and deciding I could be better at a particular cello part, then finding a better fingering and playing it that way with more success.

    Along those same lines, if an employee sees something that could be improved in their process, makes the suggestion, and gets it implemented, then there's really not a whole lot of expenditure (depending on the cost of the implementation, of course) in finding that OFI. Not so much someone else coming in and doing it, but the process owners themselves. As Pancho pointed out, the savings from more efficient operation many times takes little or no time to recoup any costs associated with the change.
     

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