Anyone in business will agree that business is about relationships. We’re all familiar with some of the typical “stakeholders”, aka customers, suppliers, employees, management.
In this day of increased emphasis on systems and automation, we must be careful not to downplay the importance of people and the personal back and forth that goes into running any operation.
In quality management, your quality system essentially documents what the relationships are and how they function together to achieve the desired outcomes. But it’s the “quality” (see what we did there) of those relationships which ultimately determines how successful any program will be. So if quality management is at the core of profitable manufacturing operations found in successful companies (we think it is), and relationships which function well together are at the core of successful quality management programs (also true, in our opinion), then in order to build a culture of quality, it’s extremely critical to establish, nurture and strengthen key relationships.
Organizations and relationships
It’s okay to state the obvious here. The typical manufacturing business has a variety of relationships, which, for discussion, can largely be divided into categories.
Internal relationships are those who often (not always) function most closely in daily operations. Employees, teams/departments, management, experts make up this group, functionally executing the business in practical and productive ways. Corporate legal counsel or a special projects engineer, although on paper as a third party, often fulfill internal types of roles. Internal relationships are strategically organized, but also tend to function according to chemistry, or other factors which draw individuals into working together, willingly or otherwise. Sometimes individuals don’t hit it off positively, but still pool their competencies together to create positive results.
External relationships are numerous and connected to internal relationships in a plethora of ways. Customers, suppliers, regulators, certifiers, industry associations, tax authorities and any number of other third parties are among those named externally every day. While the corporate entity is considered the object of all those seeking to interface with the business, in fact the points of contact for external relationships are myriad. It’s true that in business some of these relationships seem to take place successfully on their own. The tyranny of the urgent may also bring them into proper alignment. But the truth is, it takes no small amount of effort to make the most important relationships work, in business and in life.
Good processes = better relationships
To grow more intimate with your spouse or significant other, you spent structured time and effort building your relationship. It wasn’t listed on a spreadsheet or reported quarterly, but thoughtfulness and planning, sometimes coupled with spontaneity, over time, goes into a relationship that works. It’s no different in business. Sometimes the project at hand leads everything forward on its own. Other times the CRM or timely meeting report is exactly what is needed to keep things on track. Business undeniably creates its own brand of intimacy.
Quality Liaison Services of North America is home to a seasoned pool of representatives and consultants who understand the need for structure and method in execution. They are good at creating great relationships. Periodic activities like morning meetings, monthly newsletters, status reports, site visits, do much more than fill days with activity. These systematic events create opportunities to identify issues, fix problems, point out success, discover innovation, test and revise, save money.
Time scheduled to figure things out, smooths things out. Use of tools such as project tracking software to input, track and report all project related activity and events, provides visibility for everyone in the trenches, and for others who just need to be briefed.
Relationships = the best efficiency
QLS, located in the Heartland, is home to North American industrial values and innovation. When considering the importance of TQM (Total Quality Management) to the enterprise, documentation, schedules and competition, sometimes cause structure to give off the air of rigidity. But when TQM is delivered via personal service, everything works better.
QLS is on site every day at the OEM. We're the supplier's representative for efficiency, keeping track of their products and activity, how shipments arrive, how they are handled, stored, processed, installed.
We’re the OEM's fast track for communication and resolution. If an issue arises, we're right there to address it, simplifying communication, condensing the timeframe, keeping production nimble, keeping costs minimal, facilitating solutions. Good relationships make the difference.
The truth is, TQM done right removes complications as they arise, or before. A smooth-running operation with well-planned and tested parts, delivered on time, shipping zero-defect products to happy end users, makes everyone’s life easier.
Suddenly nobody is thinking about quality at all, or structure, or processes; just recalling how pleased they are, how smoothly the day went, how strong the bottom line is becoming, and the people (aka relationships) which make it all possible.