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Integrated Quality Systems Requires Integrated Technology

By Donovan Hardenbrook, Director, Global Quality Management Systems, Littelfuse [NASDAQ:LFUS]

Donovan Hardenbrook, Director, Global Quality Management Systems, Littelfuse [NASDAQ:LFUS]

By 2018, over 1.5 million organizations will have transitioned to the new ISO 9001:2015 standard. In today’s highly competitive world, being certified to ISO 9001 not only makes business sense but is a requirement for doing business on a global scale. Organizations that are making this transition will have an opportunity to make improvements to the technology that supports their quality management systems.

"If an organization is moving towards an IQMS, then integrated technology is an important component of realizing the value of integration"

What is a Quality Management System?

ISO 9001 is the international standard that specifies requirements for a quality management system. Wikipedia.org defines “quality management system (QMS) is a collection of business processes focused on consistently meeting customer requirements and enhancing their satisfaction.”

What is an Integrated Quality Management System?

According to their website, ISO has published 21,723 different international standards. In recent years, ISO has attempted to integrate other quality standards with ISO 9001:2015. Ideally, an organization can create an integrated quality management system (IQMS) with common elements that exist with each ISO standard such as planning, documentation, internal audit, continuous improvement and management review. Depending on the ISO standard, 40-60 percent of the ISO 9001 elements (clauses) are common with other standards such as ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001.

If an organization is moving towards an IQMS, then integrated technology is an important component of realizing the value of integration.

Information Technology and Human Glue

Most organizations have multiple software applications to manage different business-critical processes (i.e. QMS) in sales, marketing, new product development, planning, and human capital management. The problem is that these systems often can’t communicate or share data with each other. “Human glue” is often required for moving data and initiating changes across multiple software systems. The result is employees exporting and importing data into Excel, Word, and PowerPoint files so they can do their analysis and reporting.

When we take into consideration other software applications used for highly-specialized functions such as manufacturing execution systems (MES), computer automated design (CAD), and statistical process control (SPC) the amount of software applications it becomes readily apparent that there isn’t one integrated software solution that can meet all the needs within an organization.

How Good is Your Technology?

Because software technology is integral to the effectiveness of any QMS, there are some important questions that should be considered such as:

• Will our technology make it easier or more difficult to manage our core processes?
• Are users satisfied with the usability, functionality and performance?
• How difficult is it to get data and metrics for monitoring, analysis and reporting?
• How expensive will it be to improve the functionality of our technology?
• How integrated are our core software applications with each other?

Six Steps towards Integrating Your QMS Technology

1. Partner with IT

Evaluating and selecting technology solutions without IT involvement is a big mistake. They understand the existing technology capabilities within your organization and are looking at the latest technology trends.

A great partnership is having someone on the IT side who has a fundamental understanding of the business collaborating with a subject matter expert who understands technology.

2. Map Value Streams for Core Processes

Managing quality means spanning all core processes within an organization. Additionally, these processes are typically cross-functional in nature so having a deep understanding of how work gets done is vital. At a high level, determine the main activities involved in the value stream. Some key value streams to consider include:

• New Product Development
• Production
• Support Operations such as ordering, delivery and inventory
• Quality including customer requirements, corrective and preventive action, customer satisfaction and management review.

3. Minimize and Standardize On A Few Platforms

Determine which platforms are best to support the organization’s needs. These platforms need to be built on an architecture that is flexible, scalable, cost effective and will meet the longer-term business needs. Building in-house competency on these platforms will help to ensure that the platforms keep pace with the business needs. Some technology will be cost prohibitive to even consider replacing such as your ERP system.

4. Map Technology to Value Streams

Using the value stream maps, determine areas where technology will be used to provide data and manage workflow. Map the core platforms to activities in the value streams, noting the current technology being used. Deal with the one-offs that the core platforms cannot support on a case by case basis. However, drive as much of the data, workflow and reports into the core platforms.

5. Develop Multi-Year Roadmaps for Each Platform

Organizations have a limited budget to spend on software technology so it’s important to lay out a three to five-year plan on which technology and modules will be implemented. If you are transitioning to a new platform, consider a limited pilot with a functional group or business unit focused on immediate problems that need solving. This will provide valuable learning about the platform, encourage engagement and support, and deliver a quick win by delivering immediate value.

6. Sell the C-suite on Value not Technology

When asking for funding, focus on the value. What problem is being solved? How much faster, cheaper, and better will things be? Focus on existing problems that will be solved. Show how the technology being proposed will make the QMS better, faster or cheaper in terms of meeting customer requirements or satisfaction.

Summary

Quality standards make business sense because they are designed to help organizations improve customer satisfaction, achieve better results, and continually improve. Standardizing and integrating quality systems also make sense. Taking an integrated technology approach can maximize the benefits of integrated quality management systems.

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