The core principles of effective quality management are not new to your organization. To get where you are, you’ve spent plenty of time and energy implementing operational best practices. The rapid pace of software innovation though has offered a new opportunity to savvy manufacturers. Market leaders and innovative competitors alike are looking to accelerate business growth with software-based quality management optimization. Read on to find out about the range of quality management software available to you and how QMS can benefit your organization.
Seizing the QMS Opportunity
Quality management software (QMS) offers an opportunity to enhance quality management across the enterprise. It’s no longer enough to have engineering, the production floor, purchasing, sales, and service working independently to improve quality. Distributed systems are inherently inefficient. They’re a structural impediment to achieving your quality goals. An integrated approach that allows data to flow between each area is required. QMS systems offer a comprehensive tool kit to analyze quality related risks, set quality objectives, implement workflows to achieve standards, and audit for optimal performance.
Strong QMS is assisting manufacturers in meeting some of their most critical business challenges:
- Ensuring regulatory compliance. Manufacturers are often subject to an alphabet soup of regulatory standards (FDA, ISO, NERC, SSOP, HAACP, and more). The ability to demonstrate compliance is critical. Compliance can be required for permitting, an eligibility condition for bid consideration, or a business necessity to avoid penalties or other legal action. Managing for regulatory compliance is complex work. QMS systems provide the monitoring and reporting tools you need to simplify the complexity.
- Analyzing and reducing risk. Errors, defects, unexpected service work, lawsuits, and recalls each pose a threat to the financial health of your business. Improved quality management offers a chance to mitigate these business risks and smooth out the variance in your financial projections. QMS systems offer not only the functional tools required to more effectively manage for higher quality and fewer problematic products. They also include analysis tools to quantify the financial risks related to quality exceptions. Identifying the cost of quality management improvements versus the likely impact of reduced financial liability is one of the more challenging business issues facing manufacturers.
- Increasing customer satisfaction. There is no industry or business model where quality is not a key competitive differentiator. Your customers are continually evaluating your products for their reliability, ease of use, and simply how well they do what they are supposed to do. Every sale is, in effect, a promise. Whether or not your customers feel the promise was kept will in large part determine your ability to gain future business, upsell related products, and generate continued enthusiasm for your goods.
- Eliminating inefficiency. Defective unsold products are waste. Unexpected or early service work is a drain on company resources. Scrap is, well, scrap. QMS systems offer you the transparency into your processes to help you create quality goods efficiently.
Key Features and Functions of Quality Management Software
Quality management software systems offer a wide variety of functionality. Core functions and features often include.
- Compliance control. QMS software systems provide a central management system for all enterprise compliance initiatives. Compliance control features include documentation, planning, scheduling, reporting, and auditing related to adhering to regulatory standards.
- Quality objective definitions. Regulatory standards of course are not the only measure of quality that matters to your business. Defining your quality standards is the first step to achieving them. Quality objectives can be set across a variety of dimensions including cycle times, scrap/waste percentages, defect rates, measurement deviations, durability metrics, and more.
- Risk analysis. Complex what-if scenario reporting tools are required to reliably analyze potential costs related to quality exceptions. Predicting failure and service rates, as well as their financial implications, requires flexible reporting tools.
- Workflow management. Input determines output. Workflow management tools offer assistance defining all processes involved in manufacturing an end-product. Reminders, timers, and alerts are frequently utilized to reduce the reliance on human memory and improve quality. Corrective action assignments can be determined ahead of time and response patterns mapped.
- Monitoring and reporting. Once workflows have been established and standards defined, processes still require continual monitoring. Self-report checklists and more automated means of gathering data each have their place in terms of triggering notifications when standards have been breached.
- Corrective action management. Tools managing corrective actions include task assignments, reporting, and monitoring to ensure that the right response has been implemented when quality has deviated outside of pre-identified standards.
- Parts non-conformance. Defining the dimension your parts are measured upon for non-conformance is an important part of quality management. Parts non-conformance functionality can be as simple as a database of standardized parts metrics. Or, it may include more sophisticated monitoring controls that integrate with operational equipment.
- Approval management. At many points in your manufacturing process approvals may be required. A coordinated approach to submitting requests and managing approvals can save time, while ensuring consistent process reviews are happening along the way.
- Customer complaint management. Engineering, operations, and internal quality assurance each have a role in reporting product issues. So too do your customers. Many quality management systems include fully functioning help resource tools to assist service personnel in quickly resolving customer issues.
- Audits and inspections. Optimized quality management must include proactive measures. Assessing your operations requires scheduled auditing and inspections. QMS software packages allow you to define, schedule, and execute audits and inspections.
- Document management. From compliance standards to internal workflow descriptions and beyond, quality management creates a tremendous amount of data. A document management system can coordinate the data management challenge, facilitate collaboration, and ensure easy access to important quality management documentation.
- Reporting and business intelligence. Strong reporting tools are a cornerstone of any effective quality management software system. The ability for decision makers to easily reference key performance indicators and performance dashboards is a necessity to turn quality management data into actionable business intelligence.
QMS Integration Considerations
Quality management software incorporates information from across the enterprise. Very often, QMS systems are found within larger enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.
Because QMS systems typically operate best when they are taking a holistic approach to the enterprise challenge of optimizing quality, you may need to manage integrations with other information systems, such as:
- Supply chain management. SCM systems manage the provisioning of goods from suppliers through to the customer. Relaying information regarding quality issues stemming from certain suppliers is an important piece of the quality management puzzle.
- Customer relationship management. CRM software programs provide a coordinated approach to capturing customer specific information. Order histories and other customer interactions are logged to CRM programs. The ability to flow quality issue information from CRM software to QMS programs is important. It can assist in ensuring that quality issues addressed post-sale are being addressed both in terms of service work and process improvement.
- Material resource planning and production scheduling. MRP software manages the materials required for production and the processes that go into the manufacturing operations. Importing quality related information from the QMS to the MRP system will help create more accurate manufacturing plans and forecasts.
Taking the Next Steps
If you are at the point where you are ready to find which quality management software options are right for you, we can help. Through a brief phone call, our software specialists will look to better understand your business and software needs to help you locate a handful of solutions that can address the issues you are currently experiencing. Get started today!