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What You Know vs. What You Should Know

QLS Blog

The old expression "what you don't know won't hurt you," possibly has its place in soil erosion or sordid affairs. But when it comes to quality management, what you don't know could be causing you chaos behind the scenes and costing you money. The only way to get an accurate state of affairs in your business, is to have a closer look.

From perception to reality

Many businesses pride themselves on dealing with the unexpected. Employees often demonstrate great worth by keeping issues off the desk of their manager.

"He's a problem solver."
"She gets things done."
"That department just keeps sending us results."

These are accolades many dream of hearing. But as a business, how much do you really know about the condition of your departments? shop floor? production team?

Medium/heavy truck, heavy equipment, agricultural equipment OEMs and other related industries all place stringent expectations/requirements on suppliers (TIER I / TIER II). Suppliers compete and work diligently to comply with specifications, changes, timeframes. Success is achieved. Awards are presented. Entire businesses are built around one innovation or another. Relationships grow, quality is celebrated, efforts are rewarded in these environments. And that's as it should be. 

But what disruptions lurk behind the scenes in the average OEM operation? Are there bottlenecks that nobody bothers to discuss? Is the chaos mostly located "under the rug" where it's quickly and efficiently swept?

Many companies with highly-sought-after finished products, clean dynamic production floors, and top-notch team members running complex operations, still lack consistent visibility when it comes to managing quality issues. This willful ignorance should not be characterized as malicious. After all, there are finished goods to get out the door and end customers waiting to buy.

But what if fewer headaches existed? Or none at all? How much simpler would life be? How much stronger would the company's bottom line become?

In 2018 Quality Liaison Services tracked 10 million parts connected with ongoing customer production. The study was done using live data in QLS Dot, the company's project management system. Of the parts tracked, 20% were found to contain some type/level of non-conformity.

The sampling was a cross-section of short-run parts at multiple customer accounts, not long-term parts with continuous issues. Yet 20% is a massive number. It's extremely rare that any operation would be aware of or report a 20% defect rate as part of any regular production reporting. 

And that is exactly the point. The truth is, the condition you find yourself in could be hurting you and you simply may not know it.

Knowledge brings everyone together  

There's an unspoken practice in many businesses where people simply doesn't openly discuss or promote process improvements because nobody wants to have ownership of the previous less efficient process. Additionally, when a process problem is identified, there is a certain amount of discussion that naturally takes place in locating the source of the issue. This activity can sometimes deteriorate to complaining or assignment of blame.  

Sometimes the OEMs (or suppliers) are simply not aware of challenges amongst their supplier base. There's also fear that identifying challenges will strain the relationship. Perhaps there is no process in place to formally identify the challenge and deal with it. The truth is when challenges go unchecked, problems can escalate.

When an OEM finds itself doing things the supplier should be doing, the solution may be simple. But the OEM's core business is to get products out the door. So they may overlook a simple process change in lieu of the "tyranny of the urgent." A supplier misses a chance to do an even better job for their valuable customer.

QLS is not in business to point fingers. We've never once brought any involved party under a hot light bulb for interrogation. An incorrect process step is always an opportunity to learn and improve. We help our customers enhance relationships upstream and downstream by identifying bottlenecks, chaos and unnecessary expense, helping to repair the defect, and finding ways to ensure it doesn't become a habit.

Third party quality monitoring provides proven strategy, systems and experience to solve technical issues in manufacturing. But sometimes it boils down to simple communication. All parties may not be ready to start a conversation, as each in their own efficient way ensures that shipments go out on time.

It may be time to invite someone in to help fill the gap, kick off the conversation. Perhaps it's time to relieve headaches and bottlenecks, funneling additional strength to the bottom line.