When we look at the root causes of many quality issues in China or Vietnam, we find “there is no quality system at the factory” or “they supposedly have one, but it was a really bad QMS implementation”.
I thought about it and I can point to a few serious misconceptions that have derailed the QMS implementations in many factories. They are very common when a company got ISO 9001 certified, in particular.
Let’s cover the first reason for a bad QMS implementation in this article:
Hire a good quality manager — he will get it all set up and we’ll have a good QMS
Why implementing a quality management system isn’t in the hands of just the quality manager
It just doesn’t work that way!
Top management (typically the factory GM and its owners) have to provide clarity on these topics:
- Purpose / mission statement
- Overall strategic direction
- Culture, values
If you want your factory to make good quality products, in other words, it starts with the signals sent by top management.
Deming’s 14 points for management
Let’s review Deming’s 14 points for management. I indicated who is typically responsible for each point in blue.
1. [Top mgt.] Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service, with the aim to become competitive and to stay in business, and to provide jobs.
2. [Top mgt.] Adopt the new philosophy. (In the context of a Chinese or Vietnamese factory, I’d say “awaken to the challenge of intense competition and the demands of your customers”.)
3. [R&D and Quality] Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place.
4. [Purchasing but also R&D etc.] End the practice of awarding business on the basis of the price tag. Instead, minimize total cost. Move toward a single supplier for any one item, on a long-term relationship of loyalty and trust.
5. [Production, logistics, as well as all other departments] Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service, to improve quality and productivity, and thus constantly decrease costs.
6. [HR mgt. and all departments] Institute training on the job.
7. [HR mgt. and all departments] Institute leadership. The aim of supervision should be to help people and machines and gadgets to do a better job. Supervision of management is in need of an overhaul, as well as supervision of production workers.
8. [Top mgt., HR mgt., and all managers] Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company.
9. [Top mgt. and all departments] Break down barriers between departments. People in research, design, sales, and production must work as a team, to foresee problems of production and in use that may be encountered with the product or service.
10. [Top mgt., production mgt., quality mgt.] Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the workforce asking for zero defects and new levels of productivity. Such exhortations only create adversarial relationships, as the bulk of the causes of low quality and low productivity belong to the system and thus lie beyond the power of the workforce.
11a. [HR mgt, production mgt.] Eliminate work standards (quotas) on the factory floor. Substitute leadership.
11b. [Top management, cascading on all managers] Eliminate management by objective. Eliminate management by numbers, numerical goals. Substitute leadership.
12a. [HR mgt., production mgt.] Remove barriers that rob the hourly worker of his right to pride of workmanship. The responsibility of supervisors must be changed from sheer numbers to quality.
12b. [HR mgt., R&D mgt., etc.] Remove barriers that rob people in management and engineering of their right to pride of workmanship. This means, inter alia, abolishment of the annual or merit rating and of management by objective.
13. [HR mgt. and all managers] Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement.
14. [Top management and all managers] Put everybody in the company to work to accomplish the transformation. The transformation is everybody’s job.
Do you see any point that relies solely on the quality manager here?
There is none.
I think Deming made great points. It starts at top management and the whole organization has to be involved in the QMS implementation.
By the way, the committee that updates the ISO 9001 standard removed the mention of a “management representative” in their latest version. The new standard is clear:
- Top management can’t appoint someone to take care of the QMS.
- Top management has some work to do as part of the Quality Management System (setting objectives, unlocking resources, etc.).
So, what is the role of the quality manager when implementing ISO 9001?
Now, obviously, given the level of maturity of 99% of manufacturers, a quality manager is necessary. Their role typically is to:
- Manage the teams that specify standards, that perform inspections and audits, etc. as those teams should be kept independent from production, purchasing, and other teams.
- Make sure everybody is aware of their role in customer satisfaction.
- Arrange/provide training and support in problem resolution.
- Plan for ways to improve quality, and provide support & guidance in the implementation of that plan
It is, obviously, a bit more complicated than that. In Factory Management: the 4 Main Roles in the Quality Department, I outlined 4 roles:
- Checkers: people who check, check, check, in a consistent manner and are dedicated to their mission
- The specs person: someone who understand customers (and typical end-users) well, and can translate those needs into technical specs
- Improvers: people who see system and process issues and can drive improvement
- The manager of the quality department
Quality having a prominent role in the company culture is critical
So, if top management did not set the right culture, if people throughout the company don’t already know that quality is very important and they all have a role to play, can a quality manager do a nice job performing the QMS implementation?
Maybe, if top management helps along the way. But all the odds are against him/her.
Have you implemented a QMS in your factory? Did you find top management to be a help or hindrance? Let me know by commenting, please.
Keep exploring the topic of quality management systems
Listen to this podcast episode: All You Should Know About Management System Standards & Auditing Them [Podcast]
Read these blog posts:
- The Sad State of Quality Systems in Most Chinese Factories
- What Is The Minimum Viable Quality Management System For A New Manufacturer? [8 Steps]
- Factory Management: the 4 Main Roles in the Quality Department
- Quality Manager Interview Questions To Test Knowledge Of ISO 9001
- Benefits of ISO 9001 for a Chinese manufacturing organization
- Factory Audit Tips: 10 Signs of a Bad ISO 9001 Implementation
- The Basics of Quality Management for Buyers [Podcast]