FIVE WAYS to IMPOVE
your QUALITY SYSTEMS
DURING the RECESSION
You would think effective data analysis, even in the best of times, would be easy. In today's business world, hardware, software and data have never been more readily available. And yet, I see so many companies literally lost in a sea of information – the very information that holds the key to significant quality and productivity improvement!
But the problem gets worse during an economic downturn – with the cutback of experienced manufacturing personnel, the skills needed to analyze data and respond to complex problems might be lost altogether.
How do we hold our manufacturing and quality systems together after this painful one-two punch? Here are five ideas to keep in mind as you wrestle with maintaining the capability to solve complex quality and manufacturing problems in the face of declining capabilities and resources.
1) Sponsorship. Knowledgeable executive understanding and sponsorship is a prerequisite to success, especially when times are tough. Even with many shifting priorities, company leadership should consistently demonstrate an expectation for expert data analysis and an unwavering commitment to quality. Ask the right questions -- the crucial questions -- that only appropriate data analysis can answer.
2) Reward success. Acknowledge people when they make the right choices and demonstrate the use of appropriate data analysis. Once the organization sees the power of the results and enjoys the benefit to the bottom line, highlight it. Make it known that the methodical use of data and problem-solving tools is part of the everyday business expectation. In good times and bad, the focus on quality is constant.
3) Make the most of limited resources. You’ve probably lost experienced problem-solving talent. You can retain at least part of this core competency by assuring that remaining employees can use the tools at hand. Microsoft® Excel is a great place to begin virtually any data analysis. With features such as pivot tables, lookup functions, conditional equations, and basic statistical calculations, Excel provides highly useful tools and it is on nearly every desktop! Ward & Company can help you train employees to get the most out of this fundamental capability.
4) Use the economic downturn as an opportunity. For many organizations, the capability of performing even basic statistical analysis is somewhere between weak and non-existent. If business levels are down, why not use this as an opportunity to train employees and build this critical competency? Once demand and production ramp up again, what better manufacturing competitive advantage can you institutionalize than an ability to use rapidly and effectively use data to solve complex problems?
5) Seek outside help. Even the most customer-focused organizations get cut to the bone … and then past the bone. If you need to bring in outside resources, Ward & Company can provide expert, reliable help to organizations that need to cut costs, minimize waste and solve problems without scaling personnel levels back up. Whether it’s a short-term crisis or a long-term commitment to improving operational effectiveness, an outside expert is frequently beneficial as a catalyst for rapid change.
About the author:
Doug Ward is the founder of Ward & Company LLC. His company is devoted to effective problem solving and process improvement using a strongly analytical approach. His insights have benefited businesses across the globe in the manufacturing, service and financial sectors. He helps companies by employing the right tool for the right job. His experiences extend to forecasting, multivariate statistical modeling, Total Productive Maintenance (TPM), Total Quality Management (TQM), Lean Manufacturing, benchmarking, ISO and QS certification. He is a Six Sigma Master Black Belt.