5 Ways Quality Principles Can Improve Your Bottom Line
Nicole George - Director of Global Strategy
Sep 20, 2022, 01:00 AM
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Quality, in part, could be considered “a product or service free of deficiencies” — which is how the American Society for Quality (ASQ) defines the word. And in our industry, quality is, indeed, often associated with manufacturing and the pursuit of producing a physical product with zero defects.
But, while quality certainly impacts manufacturing and production, all functions and all businesses — not just manufacturing — can benefit from defining and deploying quality management systems throughout their organization.
There are numerous benefits to integrating quality into your organization’s culture. Here are five of them:
1. Cost reduction and avoidance
The most obvious and tangible impact of implementing quality throughout an organization is cost reduction, and one of the best places to start the quality journey is to map out the steps and tasks for a process. To get started on our quality journey, let’s look at the steps you would take to map out the process related to routine maintenance on a machine in your shop. Start by asking your team questions that help identify strengths and challenges in the process:
What tools and data are required to perform a task?
Which people are needed?
How long does each task take?
Are there times where the next task cannot be completed due to missing resources?
What makes the task easier to perform?
What slows down the task?
Describe what a productive day looks like? A challenging day?
From here, sketch out the process, making sure to include who is responsible for each step and what tool, resource or data they need to complete the task. Find out how long the step takes and what the output of that step is. This is called process mapping.
Next, take a look at the overall process and notice where there is waste. At Genie, we leverage the principles of Lean thinking to help eliminate waste in each of our processes, whether the process is on our manufacturing floor or in the way we collect and act on customer feedback.
Back to our routine maintenance example. You might determine from the process mapping that there is considerable movement in collecting the tools required to perform a maintenance task, and discover that organizing tools and workstations closer to where the work is performed could save 30 minutes per task, reducing the cost of labor and increasing productivity. This increase in productivity and reduction in labor costs could then allow you to reinvest in other ways to help you achieve your organization’s long-term strategic vision.
2. Increased accountability
Let’s look at another example. Say you’re the account manager for an equipment rental business and your customer desperately needs a 30-foot articulating boom. You meet with your project manager, maintenance manager and service technician and agree the fastest solution for your customer is to expedite a repair on an existing machine. You share the great news with the customer, but learn two weeks later the repair hasn’t happened. No one intentionally missed this repair, but because the business process was not designed for quality, human error allowed for a lack of accountability, resulting in a missed customer commitment.
You and your team recognize this as an opportunity for improvement and implement a personal management system that clearly defines when and how to follow up on outstanding actions, driving increased accountability. As a result, the next time you’re in a situation like the one described above, the repairs are done on time or early.
3. A more engaging company culture
If we, as a society, have learned anything in the last couple of years navigating the global pandemic, it’s the importance of being flexible, adapting to abrupt change and doing more with less. Recruiting, retaining and promoting top talent remains a priority for many companies. So, what does quality have to do with company culture?
Imagine a workday that, despite ever-changing challenges, has clear direction, high productivity and processes in place that allow for innovation and drive accountability and results. A company with a strong quality management system helps its workforce to work smarter, not harder, and employees are better able to achieve their goals. When the company is performing well, there is less workforce stress, allowing employees to meet and exceed their goals while also enjoying the journey.
4. Improve customer experience
While product quality has a clear, positive impact on your customer’s experience, the intangible aspects of quality, like business process improvement and elimination of waste, also influence the customer experience.
Let’s go back to the earlier example of the customer who wanted to rent a 30-foot articulating boom lift. Except, imagine that before the customer even arrived at your rental counter, you had processes and tools in place that allowed you to be more proactive with machine maintenance. This included a good system to track equipment maintenance needs. This system alerted you that your boom lift was coming up on a 150-hour service interval that could help improve machine performance and reduce downtime. This allowed you to be proactive and schedule time to perform routine maintenance. While performing the routine maintenance, you noticed a part that needed to be replaced and ordered it. By the following week, the part had arrived and you were able to finish service on the boom.
This time, your customer doesn’t need to wait on repairs because the repairs already had been performed, and your customer has a positive customer experience.
But, what if the boom experiences an issue on rent? You might use telematics to remotely diagnose a machine issue, which allows you to send your technician into the field with the right tools to address the problem the first time. Again, this saves your customer time and improves the quality of their experience.
Whether it's good record keeping, the use of technology like telematics, or our earlier example of setting up your repair shop in a way that not only saves you money but helps you service machines faster all show how quality systems can enhance the customer experience.
5. Enable innovation
Adopting and deploying quality throughout every function of an organization increases efficiency and decreases waste. The cost savings, or cost avoidance, can be reinvested in your company to fuel innovation and growth. Innovation may mean product and services enhancements, or it could mean modern customer management software or educational tuition assistance to foster continuous learning for employees.
Start your quality journey
These are just five examples of how quality that occurs outside of manufacturing can benefit your business. The impact can be far reaching and give you an advantage over your competition. There are different degrees of quality, and you don’t necessarily have to go through an entire Lean process evaluation — just talking to your service techs and organizing the shop in a more logical manner can make a big difference. But remember, no matter where you are on your quality journey, there’s always an opportunity to take the next step.