Building Quality into Process
Quality is something that most of the people discuss around the world. As customers consider ‘Quality Products’ or ‘Quality Services’ as a requirement, many are willing to pay a premium price for the Quality.
Quality does not come at cheap, either as Quality Controlling or as Quality Assurance, Quality does costs a lot. Having a separate Team inside your Company just make sure your products/services are up to the required Quality standard costs you more. This was one of the problems that Toyota faced back in 1960’s and they came up with the concept of ‘Building Quality into Process’ where you do not rely on one specific team to make sure Quality is maintained instead you build the Quality Standards in to each and every step of your processes.
There are many methodologies used by Organizations to improve their Quality practices. Some of them are, Total Quality Management (TQM), Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma, etc… Here we discuss a methodology which is a part of Project Management Technique practiced by Toyota and many other organizations.
Before every thing we need to understand what is Quality and what is a Process. Once we know those two then we can discuss on how to Build Quality in to Process.
Whats is Quality ?
Everyone has their own definition of what is Quality. If someone wanted to now, it’s easy to Google it. But here I’m giving a another definition for Quality (which I learnt from a MBA class on ‘Quality Management’ at University of Moratuwa)
‘Quality is what the Customer’s Expectation of a Product or a Service’. If your product can meet or exceed the expectations of your customer, voilà, you have a Quality Product. At the same time if you can’t meet the expectations of your customer, your product will be considered as a low quality product.
Let me ask you a Question, here you have two cars. One is a Mercedes Benz E-class Coupe and the other is Suzuki Alto 800. Which one is higher in Quality than the other ???
Dah… we all know the answer… Of course it is the Mercedes Benz…
Why do we say so? It is because we the Mercedes has all the features which we never expected from a Car. While on the other hand Suzuki Alto may not have some of the basics which we were looking, ex: air-bags, ABS breaks, etc…
So now you know how we define what is Quality and what is Not.
What is a Process ?
Process is the ‘activity’ which turns inputs to a desired output. Yes, desired output.
We now know what is Quality and whats is a Process (if we didn’t knew it) Also we know what is a Quality Product (which meet or exceeds our expectations)……. Wait….. But what is a Quality Process???
- Can you build Quality into a Process???
- As per the definition, Quality Process should exceed the expectations of customers…. So, are customers expecting something from a Process???
Customers are expecting their desired Product which comes as an output of a Process. So if a process can provide the customers their desired output all the time (not one time, not few times but all the times) we can consider that process as a ‘Quality Process’.
To build a Quality Process, you have two ways of doing it.
- Have a separate activity called ‘Quality Check / Quality Control’ at the end of your process which will only send the Products out only if they are according to the customer’s expectations.
- Build the Quality into each and every activity of the Process.
To have the ‘Option 1’, you need a separate Team to do that and if they find a defect product, the cost of manufacturing that product will be a loss. Therefore having Quality Control is a waste. Wast of resources, wast of time and money.
This leaves us with the Option 2. How do you build quality into the Process???
Here we go…
To explain, let’s take a simple Process which everyone can understand.
“Let’s make a Cup of Tea”
Let’s discuss the steps you need to follow in order to Build Quality in to the Process.
You need to have clear Purpose, a purpose which defines what your expectations are from the process. That means you need to define your desired output. Since we are taking the process of ‘making a cup of tea’ as our example, our purpose is;
“We need a Tasty Cup of Tea”
When we define the purpose, of course we have implicit expectations too. Better to identify those at this stage. Those will be;
- Not too much sugar, and not too low
- Not too much hot, and not cold. Should be drinkable
- In a proper cup, not in a paper cup
No matter what your process is (either sending a rocket to the moon or making a cup of tea), you can define your purpose.
Next, you need to identify what are the resources your requires to make a cup of tea. Here are what we need: Water, Tea Bag, Sugar, A Cup, Kettle (electric kettle), Spoon, Electricity, A person.
OMG, this much of resources to make cup-of-tea. Try imagining the resource requirement to send a Rocket to the Moon…..
Next, you need to categorize them as per the 3M concept. 3M? Yes 3M and that is: Men, Machine and Materials.
|Men :||A Person|
|Machine (which are used) :||Kettle, A Cup, A Spoon|
|Material (which are consumed) :||Water, Tea Bag, Sugar, Electricity|
That looks simple. May be because of we are making a cup of tea. But if you are defining a process, which is complicated, be careful and make sure you define each and every step of the process correctly and from START to END.
- Boil the water
- Pour boiling water in to a cup
- Add a tea bag to the cup
- Let it brew for 2 minutes
- Take off the tea bag from the cup
- Add sugar
- Stir well until sugar dissolves
OK we did it, what’s next…..
Isn’t this even simpler than previous step? we can just write the same thing from bottom to top which we wrote for the previous step.
NO…. We can’t…..
And trust me this is the most important step of all. If we get this wrong, we will not get our desired output.
When we are defining something from END to START, you need to be precise on what your end is. But here we have already defined our desired output or the purpose in the Step 1, which is ‘A Tasty Cup of Tea’.
So you know the end, then let’s start from then END to START. (Here we will use a diagram called ‘System Chart‘ to depict our steps from end to start)
What is the last this that you have to do which will give us a Tasty Cup of Tea? That is, Stir Well until sugar dissolves. Also here you will need a Spoon (which is a resource) to do this activity.
What do you Stir? You have to Stir the Sugar Added Cup of Tea.
How do you the Sugar added Cup of Tea? It’s from Adding Sugar to the Cup of Tea. Also, here you will need Sugar.
Likewise, continue to the beginning and you will get the completed System Chart.
Once you complete the System Chart correctly, you will get sub activities (in Green color), intermediate outputs (in Yellow color) and resources (in Red color).
This will show you exactly what you have to do, at what stage you have to do it and what resources you will need to do that.
Up to this steps what we did was defining our process. We broke down a big process into small intermediate activities (or processes) which will give intermediate outputs. From here on-wards we will build quality (set customer expectations) in to these individual activities
In this step, what we have to do is to:
- Identify the exact customer requirement (or customer expectation) of the final out come of the Process we defined.
- Send the customer requirement across the process (from END to START). That is to define the customer requirement for each and every intermediate activity.
For easy identification, (as shown the in the System Chart) I have colored the Final Out Come of process in BLUE color and all other intermediate activities in YELLOW color. So, let’s send the customer requirements across the process.
|A Tasty Cup of Tea :||Temperature: 55 C (should be hot enough to drink and not in room temperature), Sugar dissolved|
|Sugar Added Cup of Tea :||Temperature: 65 C|
|Cup of Tea :||Temperature: 70 C|
|Cup of Brewed Tea with the Tea Bag :||Temperature: 80 C|
|Cup of Boiling Water with the Tea Bag :||Temperature: 85 C|
|Cup of Boiling Water :||Temperature: 90 C|
|Boiling Water :||Temperature: 100 C|
If any intermediate output does not have the standards, then we will not get the desired output at the end. Therefore either we need to correct it at that stage or start it all over again.
This way is much effective than Quality Controlling at the end, because you will find whether you product is either defective or not at every intermediate step. Also you do not need additional people to check the Quality, who ever who is doing the activity at each stage can maintain the customer requirement defined for that activity.
Now we have defined the Customer Requirement (or Quality Standards) into each intermediate output, now we have to define the same for the each intermediate activity.
|7. Stir Well||Should stir until all the sugar is dissolved in the Tea|
|6. Add Sugar to the Cup of Tea||Add two spoons of Sugar into the tea (using a tea spoon)|
|5. Take of the Tea Bag from the Cup with Brewed Tea||Hold the Tea Bag from it’s label and take it out of the Cup of Tea. (volume of the tea will drop by 5ml, due to Tea Bag absorbing some of Tea)|
|4. Brewing||Let the tea bag be in the hot water for 2 minutes|
|3. Add Tea Bag to Boiling Water||Add a Tea Bag to the Cup of Boiling Water (keep the label of the Tea Bag outside of the cup, so that we can take it off)|
|2. Pour the Boiling Water into a Cup||Pour the Boiling Water from the Electric Kettle into a Ceramic Cup.|
|1. Boil the Water||Boil the water (until the Temperature reaches 100 C), using an Electric Kettle.|
Now we have define the Quality Standard (or What to Do) at each activity. When building quality in to Process, that is not enough. You have to define the efficient & effective method of doing each activity (or How to Do it).
The last step of Building Quality into Process is you define how to do each and every intermediate Activities. That method should be efficient and also effective.
- Efficient : Method should consume the least amount of resources, including time.
- Effective : Method should give the desired output.
Let’s take the last activity, ‘Stir Well’. For this activity you will get Sugar Added Cup of Tea (65 C in temperature) as an input. You need to stir until sugar is dissolved but the Temperature drop should not be more that 10 C (because the output of the activity should be in 55 C in temperature). So, let’s discuss few different methods of stirring and try to find out whether these methods are efficient and effective.
- Here you stir by moving the spoon clockwise (or anti-clockwise)
- You have to do 10 rounds until sugar is dissolved.
- Temperature drop will be 10 C
- Here you have to stir by moving spoon side ways (along the diameter)
- You have to do 15 rounds until sugar is dissolved.
- Temperature drop will be 5 C
- Here you have to stir by moving spoon up
- You have to do 5 rounds until sugar is dissolved.
- Temperature drop will be 15 C
As you can see,
- Method 1 : Effort is 10 rounds & temperature drop is 10 C (efficient & effective)
- Method 2: Effort is 15 rounds & temperature drop is 5 C (less efficient but very effective)
- Method 3: Effort is 5 rounds & temperature drop is 15 C (very efficient but less effective)
So here we have to select the Efficient & Effective method.
Likewise you have to find the efficient and effective method for all intermediate activities. Once you complete that, you have build all Quality parameters into the Process. That means now you have a process which meets or exceeds customer expectations.