No matter the plant size, quality management systems measure up

By now you have seen the press espousing the millions of dollars contributed by quality efforts such as Lean and Six Sigma to the bottom line of large corporations. If you’re a small company, perhaps less than 2,000 or 3,000 employees, you may have wondered if these same quality techniques might do the same for your company? Well, the answer is yes, but… Smaller companies cannot ope...

04/15/2007


By now you have seen the press espousing the millions of dollars contributed by quality efforts such as Lean and Six Sigma to the bottom line of large corporations. If you’re a small company, perhaps less than 2,000 or 3,000 employees, you may have wondered if these same quality techniques might do the same for your company? Well, the answer is yes, but…

Smaller companies cannot operationally function the same as larger corporations such as General Electric, DuPont or General Motors. You already know that. Working capital, resources and the daily demand to deliver to their customers consume the world of smaller companies.

Smaller companies must also take into account these same realities when initiating, designing and implementing their quality efforts. Unfortunately, almost all the literature and information speaks to how larger corporations have achieved their successes. You may be among some of the smaller companies who have tried to follow the large corporation approaches only to discover they didn’t work for your company.

Quality absolutely works in smaller companies. In fact, my guess is if you are one of these smaller companies, you are already doing many things to manage, control and improve the quality of your products and services. Like all companies and organizations, you would like to improve the quality of the products and services you provide. To understand how to do this, we must separate the science and tools of quality from the hype surrounding approaches used.

I will use Six Sigma as an example only because it is well known and has been extremely successful for many corporations. Like all quality approaches such as Lean, process reengineering, benchmarking or performance measurement, there are two parts to Six Sigma. One part is its organizational design; the other part is the quality science and tools it employs.

The science and tools used in Six Sigma are not new; many of them have been in place for many years. So, what makes Six Sigma work? Is it the design or the tools? It is both, but the design can be modified, keeping the essential elements of the corporate designs while modifying approaches that will not work in smaller companies.

The design of how a company supports its quality is called the quality management system %%MDASSML%% QMS for short. A QMS is comprised of the systems and processes the company uses to support its quality efforts such as its inspection processes, how it measures performance against requirements and any personnel dedicated to quality, etc.

Putting systems in place

An organized, documented and systematic QMS must be in place for any quality effort such as Six Sigma to succeed. The elements that must be part of that system include: