Trust but Verify
Why quality cannot be left to chance and how it can be automated?
Every organisation has its own way of operating – its own idiosyncrasies and mindsets. But despite there being many alternative routes to attaining quality products, the common themes will be the same:
- everything knowing what they are to do,
- those actions interleaving successfully with each other,
- checking that what should have happened actually did happen,
- ensuring that future goals are written into the procedures of the organisation to guarantee their accomplishment
- and so on…
One on the list that is not often recognised, but is always there, is equivalent to the “Trust but Verify” phrase (originally a Russian proverb that was popularised by Ronald Reagan during the Nuclear Weapons Talks).
This relates to the fact that “Quality” is a difficult to item to quantify – not least as each person’s definition of what constitutes Quality varies somewhat from the next. Therefore, the only way that the organisation’s definition can be maintained is through regular checks.
Globally accepted best practice in this area relates to the use of internal audits combined with encouraging feedback from customers, assessors and staff. When combined with Board goals and the organisational Quality definition, the result is a regime of oversight, cross-checks and tracked reactions that ensures that the organisation’s activities achieve what they are intended to do.
With detailed and complex supply patterns, this becomes even more necessary. Products made by one company are components of another’s offering to a third which make up the sub-components of others again – until the final product (maybe an aircraft, a satellite or a vehicle) is completed. The only way that the final product’s quality can be maintained is by ensuring that all the individual sub-components are correctly designed, made and utilised.
With new technologies such as 3D printing, novel electronics and new exotic materials, the quest for the final Quality of a product becomes vital – and more difficult as changes in the process result in feedback form other components hitherto deemed sufficient and now possibly found wanting or unnecessary. In other words, such changes send ripples of iterations through the who purchasing process and the only constant is the that the resultant quality requirements must still match the needs of the final product.
The issue is that this gets highly complex and the repeated checks that have to be carried out can be difficult to track – not only for the separate component and sub-assembly manufacturers, but also for the OEM at the top of the chain. However much the burden is passed down to the suppliers, the OEM has to maintain oversight over the whole process to ensure that their own products are unaffected (otherwise you get scenarios such as the Boeing 737 Max, the Hotpoint recalls and the like).
Tracking programmes in business management systems can now handle the quality controls and oversights on behalf of humans. The quality checks are programmed in and the resultant continuous feed of test results allows the systems to record and react as necessary – and reverse track batch results if required as well. The theory of this is not new, but the latest iterations are getting more and more capable – reducing bureaucracy, enhancing results management, improving the process efficiency and dramatically aiding raise the bottom line.
To be clear with regard to the bottom line, this happens for a range of reasons:
- the removal of bureaucracy from the human operators will release them for work elsewhere (ore release them altogether potentially)
- the computer oversight systems can check more items, more often, more accurately so that the chances of error and low quality product getting through is exceedingly low – this raises the organisation’s reputations, avoids embarrassing recalls, prevents staff having to deal with customer complaints, allows a price increase on the basis of reliability
- once the removal of “bad” product from the processing line takes place (as a result of enhanced quality checks early in the systems), this means that material usage will be reduced (materials that were going into items that have been removed as “bad” and therefore such materials had been wasted) which also means that raw material volumes stored can be reduced – both of which will reduce costs of purchase, handling and processing
- reduced time and costs handling wasted products that turned out to be either of no use and have to be disposed or which can be reworked but which involves further costs and handling requirements.
None of these concepts is necessarily new – and the whole 6 Sigma approach is based around the basic ideas here – but the extent to which this can now be done is different. Never before have the automated systems been as good or as flexible in these fields. Nor have the extremes of checking been possible either practically or from a financial viewpoint in the past.
Now that bespoke systems can be quickly assembled from existing modules of existing programmes, the tailoring of new and evolving systems can be achieved quickly and precisely to match the organisation’s own specific requirements and focus.
Want to know how this can be carried out for your own organisation? Contact Carl Kruger at Qualitation