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Quality Management - Different Perspective

By Ramesh Subramanya , Founder and CEO, Marathonqtech Solutions

Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skilful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives.”-  A famous quote from William A. Foster.

Quality management systems as per ISO9001 builds on seven principles like customer focus, leadership, engagement of people, Process approach, Improvement, evidence based decision making, Relationship management.

Looking back at Quality management, Quality systems from the time I started carrier as Fresh graduate engineer, the experience and understanding of the Quality and Quality management systems varies from company to company, though we had great thought leaders defining and redefining from time to time.

If we start analysing why there is so much variation in understanding of Quality management systems, many situations we get an answer “one size fits all “approach is the main reason for lack of uniform understanding of Quality management system.

In manufacturing organizations, QMS is driven mostly by the customer expectations, in one of my first job we had a team focussed on customer quality, basically they were trained on customer specifications, customer requirements, the rules and checkpoints the customer would adopt to review or Inspect a product before it is accepted. Some time it looked very funny for us as we use to see some of these folks come at last minute before the despatch of the product, open up packing, inspect, review and Test the product on random sampling basis, many scenarios they use to reject the lot based on sampling techniques.

Second business context is about in process quality, we had identified work stations and created a concept called next work station is customer. Basically it means that the next person in the assembly line is supposed to inspect for the previous work station tasks and then continue with his or her task. This approach was 100 percent inspection in all workstations. Though initially it resulted in extra effort, reducing productivity after few months we started seeing excellent results in in-process quality.

In many occasions we had identified root cause of poor quality was due to poor quality of incoming materials, poor design (we have to push Development team to design the product for easy manufacturability). In my experience I was involved in presenting to management the case study of Poor Quality design which had resulted in increase in poor quality product, low productivity and high rework.

Coming to software Quality, in the late 1990s, many organizations adopted Quality management systems (QMS) based on ISO 9001 and later to CMM and CMMI models. In my experience many organizations were running rat race to get Stamping ISO9001 and CMM/ CMMI certifications just to get recognize in the market for more orders. I was involved in three medium to large organization as lead and head of Quality management systems, the experience is really wonderful. In many scenarios it was hard to explain the delivery team on importance of quality, need for process, reviews and inspections. We had spent multiple sessions with delivery team starting from Fresh graduate to senior management. One of the biggest resistances we faced was Quality management systems is too much documentation and takes lots of time! Many of the engineers even suggested that they will complete the work, deliver it to customer and then complete documentation. It was quite a difficult scenario to convince them that Quality should be in built within the Process and the tasks they perform , Quality is Build by the developer , they don’t need Inspection , review and testing by a third party. We took the approach of automation of process, checklist and templates as much as possible, introduced e-learning, self review, incentivise developers to reduce defect injection etc. We also have to spend many times Training customer Business analysts and Project managers on Importance of process adherence , impact of defect injection at a later stage of the delivery would cost more due to high rework etc.

• For the Business executive like CEO / CFO/CMO – the challenge is always to balance between Time to market, Quality of Products and Cost of the Product.

Finally the questions and answers for following rests within the organization based on the business goals, size of the organization etc.

• Who owns the Quality of the product or services in the organization?

• Who are the stakeholders? What kind of Quality systems / Management systems should be in place?

• Should we get someone from outside like certification bodies and audit and certify our Quality management systems regularly?

• Do we need more documents in the Quality management systems, will more documents in the quality systems help to improve Quality of products.

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