Continuous Improvement (CI) is a management philosophy of improving processes continuously in an effort to reduce waste, repetition in work and inefficient processes.
Quality Assurance (QA) is an effort to find and overcome problems with quality – that is, directing the performance and behaviors toward more appropriate and acceptable outcomes.
Quality Lifecycle Management (QLM) is an enterprise-wide, cross-functional solution that ensures product performance, reliability and safety are integrated into the product development lifecycle. This includes Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Failure Mode Effects Analysis (FMEA), traditional controls and more to bridge the gap between processes and departments.
Plan, do, check and act for continuous improvement.
The Deming Cycle model, more commonly known as Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA), is the most popular continuous improvement strategy. It involves defining your current processes, defining an action plan with targets to improve processes, monitoring the success of changes that are implemented, and evaluating the success of your changes to uncover if more changes are necessary.
According to Nick Van Weerdenburg at Quality Digest there’s more to continuous improvement than just the physical manufacturing processes. In fact, 80% of issues are repeat problems and 80% of issues are with conforming materials. This means that there is a problem with learning and with communication between departments. Van Weerdenburg suggests utilizing Quality Lifecycle Management to fill the gaps in continuous improvement thinking.
Utilizing QLM to fill the gaps in CI.
QLM goes beyond simple improvements like holding onto excessive inventory or poor waste management. QLM oversees all quality control measurements. Traditionally, each component of quality has been implemented independently. QLM looks at the broader picture and addresses quality company wide, it transcends documents and departments, which makes it a useful tool when implementing continuous improvement practices.
The five principles of Quality Lifecycle Management:
Quality is characteristic driven: You must convert features and needs into tangible characteristics. These are things you can measure and define, such as the length of the rod or the thickness of the envelope. Using characteristics to define quality give you specific standards that manufacturing needs to achieve.
Quality realization: This is the design, verification and control of products based on best practices and previously learned lessons.
Quality definition: You need a systemic process in order to obtain data from quality differentiation. For instance, you try process A, it causes problem x, so on day 20 you switch to process B. But after 100 days you don’t remember why you changed in the first place. Keeping track of all the variables is important in order to communicate it to every group involved and to not forget over time.
A life-cycle approach: Data gets generated from all different areas, costumer use, manufacturing, design etc. In order to understand how the life-cycle works you need a common language to describe the attributes and issues regardless of which group is communicating them. You also need a bill of compliance (BOC) which will highlight room for improvement. Lastly, you need seamless access and communication between all of the groups in order to adequately address any of the needs identified during the life-cycle process.
Active Knowledge Management: This is pretty obvious. If you know the previous four principles, USE THEM. You have to actively address any lessons learned. Otherwise, the whole implementation of QLM as a method of continuous improvement is a failure.