In the manufacturing industry, you need to ensure you have a strong quality management system in place. In addition to producing well-made products, quality management ensures that your facility follows regulatory standards, and that you won’t face any sort of noncompliance fines.
Investing time in quality management makes your work more efficient and improves customer experiences. The better you can make your products, the more likely you’ll attract repeat business.
Table of contents
- What is quality management in manufacturing?
- 6 ways to perform quality management
What is quality management in manufacturing?
Quality management in manufacturing is simply the idea of making sure all finished products meet certain quality standards. These standards can be internal or the result of outside regulation. One example of an organization in charge of setting quality standards is the International Organization for Standardization, or ISO. ISO has put forth several regulatory standards over the years; for manufacturers, the most notable are ISO 19600, ISO 13485, ISO 14001, and ISO 9001.
Fine-tuning product quality standards makes your processes more efficient and allows you to satisfy your customers more consistently. Creating a quality management system is a four-part process.
1. Quality control planning
Your first step is always going to be planning your quality management strategy. This is where you set goals and decide what quality standards in manufacturing mean to you. Knowing the standard you’re aiming for tells you what’s required to get there. Then, decide on the processes you’ll use to enforce your criteria.
When designing quality controls, consider:
- Stakeholder expectations
- Any applicable legal standards
- Who in your business will perform each required role
- How often you’ll measure processes with quality audits
2. Quality control
This is where you carry out the quality management plan you created in step 1. When doing quality control, you’ll be physically inspecting and testing the steps of your quality control plan to find out if it works or not. You’ll carry out said tests at all stages of the manufacturing process. Recommended inspections include:
- Testing raw materials
- Pulling samples from the manufacturing line
- Inspecting finished products for inconsistencies
Make sure to record all the data you observe when doing quality control, so it’s easier to figure out which problems you face most often, and from where. Turning this data into a chart, graph, model, or other report makes it easy to communicate it to stakeholders.
3. Quality assurance
Quality assurance is proactive, whereas quality control is reactive. Quality assurance involves inspecting goods and processes at the source, so that you can find and address mistakes before customers receive your products. This stage of quality management is where you:
- Confirm everyone is following the pre-set quality management strategy
- Measure how effective your processes are in practice
- Take note when there is a disconnect between intended results and actual results
- Identify areas where quality assurance could be smoother
4. Quality improvement
After collecting all your data and determining where there are still gaps, it’s time to plan improvements. Re-evaluate your quality assurance processes and finished product, making sure that you stay compliant with legal standards, and restart the quality management cycle. Do this as many times as it takes to arrive at a final result that meets your agreed-upon quality standards.
6 ways to perform quality management
While quality management processes are clearly defined, it can also be vague and unclear how exactly to properly execute each of the four steps. When working through your processes, there are several techniques and tips you can use to improve your quality management strategy.
1. 100% inspections
The 100% inspection is also used when inspecting incoming goods. It’s a comprehensive method, since it requires that you inspect every single one of your finished products individually to ensure they meet quality standards. One example is making sure food or pharmaceutical products are all labeled with expiration dates. These inspections are time-consuming, and thus most necessary when failing to ensure compliance carries a heavy penalty.
2. Statistical quality control
Several different procedures fall under statistical quality control, which just means quality control that’s based on statistics. For example, one technique manufacturers might use is acceptance sampling, where a certain number of finished products are selected for inspection. If the number of defective products is below a certain percentage (which you define), then the entire lot of products is accepted.
While statistical quality control is faster and cheaper than 100% inspections are, they are less thorough and there’s always the possibility you tested good products by chance. Plus, these methods only evaluate end products and not your entire process.
3. Statistical process control
Like statistical quality control, statistical process control uses statistics to measure quality. These methods are sometimes referred to as SPC manufacturing, and focus on business processes by looking at:
- Services you provide to customers
- Management leadership and commitment
- Whether you’re practicing continuous improvement
- Your responsiveness to issues
- Your team members’ commitment to their work
4. Total Quality Management
Total Quality Management (TQM) is a philosophy focusing on the team members in a manufacturing business, and ensures they all feel responsibility for upholding quality standards. Essentially, the goal of TQM is to create a culture where quality management is the norm.
The 8 pillars of TQM are:
- Customer focus
- Employee commitment
- Continuous improvement
- Process adherence
- Systemic approaches
- Data-driven decisions
- Integrating systems
- Effective communication
5. Six Sigma
Six Sigma is a management system businesses use to implement specific improvements. It focuses on setting concrete benchmarks companies can use to grow sustainably. One key goal of Six Sigma is that there should be no more than 3.4 errors per one million units, or an error rate of 0.0000034%.
To reach this low error rate, managers employ a number of techniques, including:
- Brainstorming, where team members collaboratively analyze problems and develop solutions
- The 5 Whys method, which is a form of root cause analysis that asks “why” as many times as it takes to determine the ultimate source of an issue
- Customer voice, which refers to using customer feedback for help understanding quality issues
- The 5s system, which at its core is a method of organizing your workplace to eliminate as much waste during processes as possible
6. Lean manufacturing
- Muda: Muda refers to activities which are purely wasteful and add no value to your business. These wastes increase your costs and make tasks take longer.
- Mura: Mura translates to “inconsistency/irregularity”, and it is the underlying cause of the activities classified as Muda
- Muri: Translating to “overburden”, Muri refers to a situation where you’re putting undue stress or expecting unrealistic outcomes from either processes or employees
Another key aspect of lean manufacturing is optimizing your inventory management. The goal is to always have what you need to meet production quotas and customer expectations, while maintaining your budget and avoiding unnecessary resource use.
Quality management systems are easy to establish and maintain with workflow automation software like Lumiform. By using the platform to create company-specific inspection checklists, you can ensure that your workers always have precise instructions and that quality assurance checks are standardized. Assign, schedule, and adjust checklists with a single click, and your staff will receive automatic updates.
By scheduling inspections to occur one after another and using regularly generated analytics to measure and improve the way you ensure quality standards, you can introduce a self-perpetuating quality management process to your manufacturing company.