In this blog post
Darwin’s theory of evolution states that evolution occurs through natural selection. Organisms change to better adapt to their environment and survive. We are familiar with the phrase “Survival of the fittest”. Over centuries, we have seen that this theory does not limit to organisms but applies to technology and businesses as well.
The last decade has witnessed rapid changes in data, analytics, connectivity, mobility, and digitized operations – what we now call Industrial Revolution 4.0. The 4.0 transformations also propagated improvement in performance, efficiency, new business models, thus formulating quality improvement or Quality 4.0.
What is Quality 4.0?
We all know Quality is an important aspect of all facets of a business. Quality Management System consists of Quality Control and Quality Assurance. Quality 4.0 is technology and data integrated into the quality management systems, without replacing the traditional methods taught by Juran and Deming.
Quality 4.0 aligns quality management with Industry 4.0 to capacitate enterprise efficiencies, performance, innovation, and business models by bringing in the need to embrace data and technology and using them to drive innovation while improving overall quality.
Quality 4.0 takes more than just data and technology. It is about the users of these technology and the integrated processes and value chains. It is also about the technology to maximize value by enabling transformations through culture, leaders, people, and collaboration.
The Culture of Quality
In this era, quality cannot function just as a chronicler, simply recording events and performing audits. Quality Management will have to be integrated into core processes so that all departments and teams are participating in and are responsible for the overall quality management process. Many organizations now have initiatives to develop the culture of quality, since quality often owns process execution with insufficient participation and ownership from other functions. “The Culture of Quality” exhibits four key pillars/elements: participation, responsibility, credibility, and empowerment.
After eons of evolution, quality is still seen as a policing function rather than as a catalyst for improvement and excellence. Research states that less than half of cross-functional teams surveyed see quality as a function that supports and enables strategic goals. Quality functions with insufficient participation and ownership from other functions/teams in an organization. This is where fostering the Culture of Quality plays a big role in an organizational strategy.
Adopting a culture of quality comes with a lot of resistance, which is inevitable. The future trends need these 3 principles for adoption:
1. Quality starts at the top
As the saying goes, a seasoned sailor is aware of every single crew member, nut, and bolt of his vessel. When the leaders of an organization are engaged in the initiatives of Quality, it sets the right tone and direction.
2. Quality as a Preventive Culture –
A change in mindset must be nurtured where Quality is seen not just as a compliance/audit requirement, but as a propeller by being more proactive and predictive. Change from defect detection to defect prevention is key. Operational Excellence and Continuous Improvement (CI) must be fostered as a collective effort to keep pace with the current changes.
3. Everyone Owns Quality –
Quality cannot exist in a vacuum as a standalone function. The culture of Quality, Operational excellence, and CI means everyone in an organization has one goal. When there is a holistic view of Quality, exceeding customer requirements and delivering right the first time becomes easily attainable.
While there are motivators like offering a highly reliable product or service at reduced cost and improved efficiency, fewer human errors and faster delivery, there are few challenges that need attention:
- Investments in skill acquisition or upgrade
- Fear of job loss due to automation and reduced human involvement
- Parochial goals and interest of line managers that are limited to everyday transactional activities
Quality in the next few years
While Quality and Quality Management is making a tectonic shift towards digitization, a few years from now, we will see Quality as a function reshaped from a document-centric, policing approach to a data/information-centric world. Internal audit function may evolve from manual reviews to semi-automatic or automatic review of controls. Audits and QA checks will no longer be reactive process controls, but inline process controls with review and exception reports. Methodology of reporting will shift from calling an observation as a Non-Compliance to ‘Business Disruptions’.
With Quality 4.0, corrective and preventive actions will become predictive and preventive actions as we begin to gather more historical data. Agile approach will be adopted in the monitoring cycle and it would shift from a periodic check to continuous proactive monitoring. Reporting reactive KPIs will evolve to real-time reports and CAP triggers. Last but not the least, risk management will be fundamental in the design and control of a process, and its application will no longer differ in magnitude across the organization but be better understood and applied equally throughout.
Digitization, people, and value chains are important to any business, but it is key to the future trend of Quality. The new trend is to make Quality a way of life, rather than be perceived as policing and a burden. Our daily existence revolves around meeting quality in our products or services, throughout its lifecycle. Yet, how often do we think about quality beyond the rigors of meeting customer requirements and holding a regulatory compliance certificate?