Once it is checked and deemed incorrect then the first or a third person corrects the mistake and the second or a fourth person checks it again, which means a minimum of 4 people will have been paid, and this rises in further increments of 2, depending on how many times the job goes around the correction loop.
Finally, some things that are checked and then passed as correct may well, in fact, still be wrong, causing confusion, complaints and penalties later on. This is known as the ‘hidden factory’.
Let’s now think about the impact on the people
When a company develops a culture of checking, and investing a lot of money to pay people to check, what they are actually doing is paying people to find errors that the process has allowed other people to make. Unfortunately, the cause for error is often not seen as the process; it is seen as the person.
We have all made mistakes; it happens, and quite rightly most people get back up and learn from them. However, when you are informed that you have made a mistake, how do you feel, pleased? Generally not. Potentially worse, the people who found the mistake tend to feel pleased with themselves, because that is what they are paid to do; find errors. What motivation do the checkers have in terms of developing the process?
We have heard clients say things like “if the process was mistake proofed we would be out of a job”. This is exactly where companies do not want to be. Teams who aren’t empowered to evaluate and improve their own processes and ‘assure’ the customer that they will receive their product right first time.
How businesses can get the most value from Quality Control & Quality Assurance
Let us not forget – The aim for all organisations should be to provide a product or service to a customer that meets their requirements on time, first time, every time. There is no space for having satisfaction at finding errors; the satisfaction should come from giving the customer what they expect.
Companies therefore need to strive towards having a mistake proofed set of processes; processes that make it as near as impossible for an error to be made, or at the very least, easier to meet the customer requirement than make defects.
So how can Quality Control and Quality Assurance be best utilised to achieve this aim? An easy view could be to move away from Quality Control to Quality Assurance, but firstly that isn’t easy to do, and secondly, we feel here at Lean Consulting that both Control and Assurance are both required, and have strong interdependencies on each other.
The Operational Manager and their team can use data which the Quality Control process has collated to design ‘assured’ quality into their processes. Management should also use other data at their disposal to identify opportunity for process improvement, such as complaint data, skills matrices and their visual management. Root Cause Analysis is performed on the data to help generate improvements.
As improvement plans are put in place and deployed into the process, and the Quality Control team should be utilised to measure the strength of the new process in terms of whether the product meets the customer requirements.
It might not be in every company’s gift to have a set of highly capable processes; however, it is in every company’s gift to promote and invest in Quality Assurance.
By investing more in Quality Assurance and embedding it as part of the team’s culture, will increase the process performance, increase the likelihood of right first-time output, and therefore decrease the amount of activity that takes place by Quality Control.
Quality Control is important, but companies are currently spending more time and money on checking outputs than improving the process. Turn that on its head, and the operation will inevitably be more successful.
Simon Hopley, Lean Consulting