Clarity Management Consulting

Posts Tagged ‘Safety’

A FEW BASICS FOR EVALUATING YOUR PROCESS IMPROVEMENT AND QUALITY MANAGEMENT PRACTICES

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

Leadership: Are executives and managers trained in quality and process improvement (Baldrige, Six Sigma, Lean Management and/or Manufacturing, others)?

  • Leaders who are not trained in these areas are not committed to quality and continuous improvement, nor can they create an organization that can effectively implement such systems. This is reflected in the quality of the product or service.

Process Reviews and Documentation: Are there periodic reviews of processes, including business and manufacturing processes? Are these processes properly documented? Is the documentation maintained and updated as needed?

  • Periodic reviews and well-maintained documentation suggest a degree of awareness of needed changes.

Data Management: How is process data handled in terms of collection, analysis, and maintenance, and storage?

  • Data management is the lifeblood of any manufacturing process irrespective of the product type. The same can be said of business processes with relatively high volumes, such as invoicing or call center activities. Access to data will drive the ability to measure and improve process performance. Inadequate collection, analysis, maintenance, or storage of data suggests inattentiveness to quality.

Visibility of Process and Quality Culture: Is there visible evidence of the implementation of process and quality principles?

  • Work areas, particularly in manufacturing, should display visible signs of basic process and quality discipline. Examples include work procedures documented at each workstation and implementation of 5S (Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize, Sustain).
  • The absence of such things is a visible sign that the organization lags the industry in basic quality procedures.

Individual Training and Certifications: Have employees been trained in critical quality disciplines?

  • Training and certification in quality disciplines such as Six Sigma and Lean empowers and equips employees. This training is critical for continuous improvement.
  • Such skills are essential to supporting quality and customer satisfaction, and ultimately, shareholder value.

Organizational Certifications: Has the organization earned (and does it maintain) general quality and industry-specific certifications such as ISO 9001 and others?

  • ISO 9001 is a well-known and foundational standard. Documentation should demonstrate the organization’s aptitude for and commitment to the tenets of ISO 9001.
  • Other industry standards may also be in order, such as AS9000, the Aerospace Basic Quality System Standard used by defense and aerospace companies.

Occupational Safety: Does the organization have a history of compliance with OSHA and other standards?

  • Past infractions and/or fines will suggest a degree of risk depending on the severity of the problems. The extent of the financial risk could be mitigated in the eyes of customers by demonstrating that plans are in place to prevent further incidents. This would include training, reviews, inspections, and adequate data to indicate that improvements have taken hold.

Viewing Safety as an Aspect of Quality

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

This week the Bureau of Labor Statistics released some interesting findings for 2009. An Associated Press article reported that the Bureau documented a 17 percent drop in workplace fatalities last year. The article notes that much of the decline can be attributed to a reduction in hours worked as a result of the recession.

This is good news when taken at face value. However, occupational health and safety practitioners know that the number of fatalities can start to climb as the recession subsides and more people join the ranks of the employed. Now is the time to consider new strategies for elevating safety as a primary workplace concern in the competitive business environment. One means of accomplishing this is to provide an entirely different frame of reference for the safety debate.

Safety is, very simply put, a quality concern. An incident is really a defect produced by a failure in a process or work flow. Process and layout designs should reduce the risk of such incidents just as they should reduce the risk of defects. Safety advocates can gain support in their organizations by using this context to discuss workplace concerns.

Lean and Six Sigma techniques can be used to assess and mitigate the risk of injuries and other incidents. These methods are used together to facilitate the improvement of a wide variety of processes. Examples include manufacturing and assembly, medical services, financial transactions, and environmental testing. Other disciplines such as project management can be used in concert with Lean and Six Sigma to ensure the success of improvement efforts.

Lean techniques are used to: (1) identify the portions of a process that create waste, and (2) facilitate the process redesign. The first step is to map the process to understand how it works and to highlight problem areas. In the safety arena, this translates into looking at the process flow and the physical layout to determine where hazardous conditions exist.

Six Sigma encompasses a variety of tools that are used to reduce process errors and quality defects. Six Sigma can also be used to gather and analyze data on safety incidents and dangerous occurrences to evaluate possible causes and improvements. The approach consists of a series of steps known as DMAIIC: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Implement, and Control. These steps address each phase of a process improvement effort, and all are required to evaluate potential sources of errors, defects, or hazards. From there, improvements are recommended, implemented, and evaluated. The tools used in Six Sigma include Statistical Process Control (SPC), design of experiments, and individual statistical analysis tools, to name a few.

Using Lean and Six Sigma to assess hazards and safety incidents provides an opportunity to evaluate these issues in a broader context. Treating incidents as a type of defect or process failure allows workers and managers to see the business impact of safety as well as the personal impact. This analytical, performance-based methodology provides an excellent framework for the due diligence needed to make safety improvements and enhance the overall health of the work environment.