In today's dynamic business environment, the need for companies to maintain their competitive edge is more critical than ever. But often lost among the announcements of new global trade agreements and the introductions of the latest technologies is the most fundamental element vital to a company's success: quality of product or service.
While thousands of manufacturers have successfully instituted quality assurance programs and are reaping the benefits, far too many continue to defer. The most common reason for not implementing a quality assurance program is the belief that a company's operations are already running efficiently and a formal plan is nothing more than expensive window-dressing.
In reality, the reverse is true. Decision-makers concerned about the cost of a quality assurance system often underestimate how important quality is to the bottom line. By adopting a formal program, a company can expect to increase its product quality and profit margin, decrease its operating costs and improve its customer satisfaction. Savings realized from a quality plan far exceed costs.
Here is a checklist manufacturers can use to see if it could benefit from a formal quality assurance program:
Are your scrap rates above your industry average?
Do you experience unscheduled equipment downtime?
Does front-line supervision spend more time putting out fires and answering routine, repetitive questions than performing their assigned tasks?
Are you operating at less than 100 percent capacity?
Do assembly, installation or delivery parameters exceed estimates or projections?
Do you carry high inventory?
Is waste excessive?
Do you have high employee turnover?
Do you frequently deal with mis-shipments or improperly completed orders and their consequences?
Do workers ``just don't seem to get it right''?
Do expenditures for inspections, testing or audits seem to exceed their worth?
Do you really know what is important to your customers?
Do your vendors have difficulty meeting your requirements?
Do you travel frequently to resolve problems?
Are there incongruities between sales commitments and your internal capabilities?
If you answer yes to more than two of the above, your company is at a distinct competitive disadvantage. A properly implemented quality assurance plan can help you level the playing field.
Kudlock is vice president of Tri-Tech Services Inc., a Pittsburgh-based provider of engineering consulting, quality assurance and training services.