Sunday, September 27, 2015

Quality at the Source: Build a Population of Inspectors

Isn't it just common sense that the cost of quality is lowest the earlier you catch problems? Conversely, think about just how expensive it is when your customer finds himself in the role of your quality inspector.  Credits, freight and frustration result, as well a risk of losing a friend yo may have spent years trying to make. 

The goal of the concept "Quality at the Source" is to create an entire company of quality inspectors. No silos. No dumping accountability over the fence to Q.A. The spirit of Andon is to never pass along a defect to the next customer, This is a very similar concept to Disney having 55,000 customer service people and janitors. It's also the same idea when using Kanban/supermarket to create an entire company of inventory control/purchasing people. The basic idea is to transfer ownership of quality to every single person in the company. 

As a review, there are 3 basic steps to do QATS:
1. Training: in addition to knowing how to do their jobs, employees need to be taught what are the "critical points" of their jobs with regard to defects and how to inspect them quickly in the course of doing their jobs.
2. Visual Aids: employees need help in developing very simple visual tools so they can easily spot a non-conformity. Often these aids can be photos of good vs. bad, simple electronic tests or gauges. Another component of visual aids is the concept of Poka yoke, or mistake proofing, working to make it very difficult to make a mistake. 
3. Documentation: this means checklists, not SOPs or Work Instructions. The idea is that people doing value-added work (work your customer pays for) don't end up doing waste (you can't Invoice your customer for employees filling out cumbersome comes out of your end).

Now, back to lean. You know I always work to create a spirit of kaizen before anything else. Start with showing employees how to use A3 thinking to work through the DMAIC to make employee suggestions come to life. It is very common to see small companies do hundreds of improvements (waste removal) every year using A3. The point is that you transfer the responsibility to improve processes to the experts.....the people who do the work every day for years, sometimes decades. 

Once you achieve this level of ownership in your employees, the strategy of quality at the source becomes much, much easier for people to grasp and accept. Conversely, but f everything about the management style is "top down", people will perceive it as being forced to do someone else's job for them, and not theirs. 

In true A3 fashion, simple apply the 3 steps of QATS in one value stream using A3 thinking. If you already do A3, consider the A3 closing as the teaching opportunity.

As coaches, you will find yourself coaching a team of people who are focused on producing and moving along only the very best work, vs. a company full of people who "just work here". 

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