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Quality Management for SMEs is dead, or is it?

Somewhere in the deepest darkest corner of the premises, there is a little room that once was a storage room. With a little reorganising, and the inclusion of a desk, the windowless space has been “transformed” into the Quality Assurance Department! This is a momentous day!


This is a big commitment in more ways than one, and as the company must demonstrate that commitment to the certification body, they have recruited the most capable person from within their ranks to be the new Quality Manager. Exciting times ahead! Appointing someone from outside would be too expensive, and anyway an internal appointment knows the systems and procedures better. Plus they can do the job part time, so win – win. 


This is where the fun starts. The company is now at a crossroads, and very often guided by Quality Management “Consultants”. Does this make it simpler or more complicated?


Some companies take the turn at that crossroads which focuses on getting “The Badge”. Impending doom is already nigh! This requirement is of course important to a lot of companies, but it should never be the driver! Yes “The Badge” may be a requirement forced upon them by their customers, but if this is the driving factor then that’s when “Quality” dies for many Medium Sized Enterprises.


For companies on that road, “Quality” typically becomes the sole responsibility of the new “Quality Manager'', who now reports to the Management team every month. The monthly updates inevitably start with the statement “The Quality Management System is going really well but is taking longer than anticipated!”. Quality Managers spend their days, evenings and weekends writing endless Standard Operating Procedures. All of these are neatly filed in black lever arch files gathering dust in the “Quality Department”! No one ever touches them until the dreaded “Audit”! An exercise that strikes fear into the very bones of any Quality Manager, but yet is barely mentioned at the Management table. 


Those lever arch files are however dusted off for one other very important occasion! And that is? That’s right….when something goes wrong! As soon as a customer has received a defective product or service, the Quality Manager springs into action. Appearing out of the traps like a dog after a rabbit, with a mission to find out who is at fault! They grab their special colour high viz, virtual peak cap, virtual baton and stride out onto the floor where all the “normal” people work. You can hear the sighs and groans from the masses as they feel the impending doom of being tied up in paperwork for the next 6 months! Rumours start to circulate that the Quality Manager would have made a great Traffic Control Warden if they had got the points at school. The Quality Manager is of the view that it would be far easier to do it right the first time! Just follow the SOP! The reality is that at this stage the job has turned into a paperwork exercise to chase “The Badge”. It is dead. The whole process is now a necessary expense but serves very little other purpose to the business. 


By the way it’s not just the external quality consultants that make this whole process seem deliberately complicated (I know I’ve spelt expensive wrong!), there is also a small piece of the Quality Manager that likes to protect their own fiefdom. We all put our arm around our copybook to some extent, but in a lot of these cases it results in a part time, undervalued Quality Assurance Department that is staffed by demotivated people, who once were the very best at what they did! Their job now however is to “police” “The Badge”! 


We all know this stereotype and if I had a Euro for every time somebody told me they found Quality Management Systems (QMS) too complex, I would be a wealthy man. Fear is one of our strongest emotions and it really is something I see when I meet people experiencing a QMS or even the ISO 9001:2015 standard for the first time. It doesn’t have to be that way, and in fact isn’t that way for a lot of companies. Typically the more resources the business can afford to dedicate to Quality, the better the results! For Medium Sized Enterprises, resources are often an issue, so they fall into the trap of overcomplicating what is actually a very simple process. 


In the interests of openness and transparency, I have to tell you that I make my living as a Quality Management Consultant. There are different types of Quality Consultants however and my primary focus for the businesses I work with is to ensure continuous improvement and improved profitability for the company, by fostering a positive Quality culture throughout the organisation. After that Certification is a nice bonus.


What many MSEs don’t understand is that Quality Management is actually a cost effective problem solving process to apply to their own business? By working in tandem with dulann Ltd, who deploy a technological solution to Quality Management, any MSE can operate a Quality Management System that works within weeks, without a full time resource (and it will get you “The Badge”). At its very simplest Quality Management is a continual improvement tool that looks at every aspect of your business and tells you where you can get better. This is a never ending closed loop that continually tests and fixes your business so your performance is always improving, and your costs are always reducing, who wouldn’t want that?


“Isn’t there a huge documentation requirement?” I get asked this all the time and the easy answer is “No”, the new ISO 9001:2015 standard has moved largely away from requiring documentation for every process and the power to decide what documentation you need now largely rests with the QMS owner themselves. With a handful of exceptions the QMS owner can now decide what documents are needed to enable their business to operate and a good rule of thumb when deciding if you want to document a process is this: if there is a chance that the process won’t be carried out as planned, then you should document it. So if your organisation is very small and all your knowledge is controlled and used by only a handful of people then the risk is much lower than for a large business with multiple users of a process. What the new Standard does insist upon is that a series of 12 processes are put in place but these are all key ways to ensure business excellence and shouldn’t be feared in any way. So for me it obviously makes sense for larger business organisations to have a series of documents detailing their processes in detail, but for many smaller Businesses this work is largely unnecessary.


“I’m going to be buried under a mountain of Admin work” is the other biggie I hear all the time and this one is more relevant to everyone. There is administration work required to successfully operate a QMS but all businesses have administration tasks that must be completed and I would argue that the admin work done as part of a QMS is actually “Intelligent” admin work which is actively improving your performance and reducing errors and downtime and ultimately long term the QMS admin will save you from huge amounts of time wasted dealing with uncontrolled problems. You’re not going to be able to avoid “Admin” in your business, the key thing is to do only “Admin” that adds value to your bottom line. A great way to further reduce this admin work (even the value adding admin) is to use technology and software solutions. 


The last barrier or excuse I get all the time is “I just don’t have the resources to follow through on this” and I primarily hear this from small Business owners who are under pressure from all angles. They need QMS expertise available to enable them to work to an International Standard but they can’t afford to hire a full time Quality Expert and they actually don’t need a full time resource anyway, they just need somebody available for a few days a month who can direct and manage their Quality activity.


So the Quality World is like the Real World itself, and advantage lies with the big guys whose access to resources both human, and financial, means they have a head start in the journey to QMS excellence.  


MAKING QUALITY MANAGEMENT MORE ACCESSIBLE

Surely the Quality Management Industry can be made more accessible for everyone who needs it? I believe it can and I have a passion for driving “Equality” and “Accessibility” in Quality Management but what do I mean by that? I have worked with many larger organisations in my career and most of them excel at Quality Management because they have lots of resources that they can dedicate to that aspect of Business and they can recruit experts in this and every other field. But what about the small or medium sized Company, how do they match that with more limited resources, how do they level the playing field so they can compete effectively with the Big Guy?


Well one obvious answer is technology and of course I have seen and used digital Quality Management Systems in my Quality journey but invariably these are priced out of the range of the little guy which again hands the advantage to the larger organisation who can afford to throw money at this. So traditionally the entire idea of “Quality Management” and achieving an International Standard like ISO 9001:2015 has been biased in favour of larger Companies who have more resources. dulann have designed a digital QMS that is scalable and affordable. Everyone from a Sole Trader or a very small Business up to a large Global Multi-National with thousands of employees can get access to the same level of Quality Management Expertise and a Digital Solution. 


Contact us on info@dulann.com today to book a demonstration.


THE dulann DIGITAL SOLUTION

dulann Ltd. is a Wexford based Digital Transformation Company who have developed a series of digital management tools and they strive to make Technological Solutions available for everyone. Working with local Irish & Global Clients they have developed an excellent Environment, Health & Safety Management System using React software and have also launched a digital Quality Management System. Using React as the platform to build on means that the entire system is modular and customisable so it can be made as small or large as a client requires. But no matter how many modules a client takes on the system is a closed loop and all gaps are easily identifiable. Then as an organisation grows they can add extra modules.


QUALITY MANAGEMENT AS A SERVICE

This feature makes it incredibly easy for a Quality Consultant to now offer his expertise to multiple Clients and small to medium sized Businesses can have access to a Quality Management Service at the level of support they need only and the cost of quality becomes akin to paying for their Electricity or Wi-Fi. Now a ten head count organisation with a requirement to become ISO 9001:2015 Certified can engage an experienced Quality Management Expert for a few days a month with access to a digital QMS solution making any required admin completely painless. All of this can be arranged through dulann Ltd and their Affiliated Companies.

Now the little guy can compete at the same level as the big guy with access to the same tools and expertise at a cost which is within their means and using only the expert time they need. This will revolutionise the QMS market and help dozens of small to medium enterprises achieve International recognition for their Business and their Products and Services.


Eamonn Doyle - Systems & Standards Services

I have worked in Business and Quality Management in Ireland for 30 years working with Global, National and Local Companies like Carl Zeiss, Pilkington, Kerry Group, SOLA Lenses, Taoglas and many more. I have helped businesses achieve certification in Quality, Environmental, Health And Safety and Food Standards and I specialise in building a fully customised QMS from scratch for any type of business designed to meet whatever International Standards they have to achieve. I have seen the standards like ISO develop and change over that time and have a deep knowledge of the systems required to achieve them.



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