Customer in Defining Quality

The Growing Role of the Customer in Defining Quality

Four key factors drive the intersection of customer and quality:

• The role of quality within an organization

• Integration of goals in strategic planning

• Level of transparency on quality goals and reporting

• How the quality measures are used.

It is clear that many organizations are becoming true partners with their customers in order to maximize the value for both stakeholders. Organizations’ definition of quality, the actual quality processes, and using quality measures to drive performance and culture are all closely tied to customers. Because quality and customers are so closely aligned in successful organizations, the two concepts are intersecting into a customer-centric quality culture.

While manufacturing organizations tend to use mature quality practices—in regards to governance models, availability and use of metrics, quality management frameworks and certifications, and training—do their practices include a focus on the customer? What defines a customer-centric, quality culture and what are the driving factors of its success?

To answer these questions APQC(American Productivity and Quality Center) conducted correlation analysis on data, specifically for the manufacturing industries, from American Society for Quality – The Global Sate of Quality survey conducted by APQC for ASQ. The customer-centric quality culture can be defined by four statements that elucidate the organization’s relationship with its customer around quality:

Most of the survey respondents indicated they agree with the statements. However all cultural attributes were not weighted equally. The emphasis was placed on customer service and product performance, rather than two-way engagement or quality and what it means to the customer.

source: http://www.industryweek.com

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Internal Auditing – How Often ?

Any organisation/business is required to conduct internal audits to maintain its ISO9001 standard. The audit involves testing out company processes and procedures to determine the standard at which they operate when compared to how they should work. Audits are designed to help employees but the mere mention of the word can see your staff sent into a panic, scrambling around to make everything look perfect. However, communicating yourself well to your staff on the benefit of the audits, and letting them know that this is not a finger pointing exercise, can serve well to make these audits more positive.

Internal audits should be viewed in a positive light, a chance to take a step back and have your process reviewed by a fresh set of objective eyes. They are an ideal way to prepare for external assessment too. In some ways internal assessments can be more thorough as processes are examined more closely, more frequently and in greater detail than external auditors.

ISO 9001 does not specify how often internal audits should be conducted. Instead, the requirements are that organisations audit based on how important a process is, the risks involved and whether there is an existing record of previous concerns. Consideration should also be given to quality objectives as these can dictate audit frequency. At the least, internal audits should be carried out annually. There are two ways around this – auditors may decide to review processes in one go, or they may portion off aspects and have a plan which details the schedule over a number of months. Complex processes may require more frequent assessment and this should be built into an internal audit plan.

The audit plan removes the need for panic and helps eliminate an atmosphere of mistrust. It lets everyone know what will be happening and when, as well as allowing process owners time to complete any improvements that may be taking place. Although the audit plan is made general knowledge, the detail relating to timings should be confirmed with respective process owners as soon as is possible.

The internal audit should not be seen as second string to an external audit and for that reason it needs to be as thorough as possible. Appointed auditors may benefit from some training and development to support them in getting the best out of the process. Auditors should apply a variety of methods to test the process including talking to employees, reviewing data and relevant documentation as well as and perhaps most importantly observing the process in practice. Part of being thorough is keeping accurate documentation that is a true reflection of the findings, for both management and future audits.

The aim of the audit should not be to purely report non-conformance, but auditors should also use the opportunity to highlight areas of a process which may benefit from change. Therefore as important as the audit is the follow up. Follow ups are critical to ensuring that the audit cycle is closed off, and they are also a great motivating factor for further improvements.

source: http://synergosconsultancy.co.uk

Conducting Audits: Science or Art:

contact:  kris@themanagementsystems.com

Conducting Audits can be a Science but Meaningful Audits is an Art:

  • Identifying missing elements and obvious     audit image6noncompliance/nonconformances is easy,
  • Identifying what is good and/or done right is necessary but difficult,
  • Identifying nonconformances to the intent of the standards or ineffective processes and activities is  difficult in a working environment,
  • Separating the trivial (observations and findings) from the Important takes judgement and experience,
  • Lecturing about audit conduct and policy is easy,
  • Asking the right questions is harder,
  • Getting people to talk and listening to what they have to say can be difficult,
  • Establishing credibility (audit has value) is an art, it must be earned,
  • Maintaining control of the audit without turning off communications takes leadership,
  • Separating fact from fancy takes experience; reliance on objective evidence, 
  • Making recommendations to resolve findings & observations is not good audit practice:          – Lack of familiarity with the process and practice                                                                                – Lose objectivity and become part of the problem,
  • Making suggestions that would stimulate resolution is recommended, where necessary.
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