Operations Management

Planning for Quality

Written by Andrew Goldman for Gaebler Ventures

When designing a new product or process, build quality control into the design. By addressing quality issues early in the development process, you can avoid many headaches down the road.

Whether you're launching a new product, purchasing a new piece of software or starting a new process, make sure quality control is built into your design.

Planning for Quality

Delivering a quality product is a crucial element of customer service and internal cost control. By reducing and ultimately eliminating defects, you maintain happier customers while keeping your inspection/rework/return costs to a minimum. When it comes time to alter your operation with a new product or new piece of equipment, make sure quality control is factored into the decision.

When you're designing a new product, it's important that the product can be put together without major defects. This means the materials used and the assembly process need to be carefully thought through. By designing a product that can be produced defect free, you'll save yourself a lot of headaches. While this may not be entirely feasible, you should still aim to create a product that can be produced and assembled with as little problems as possible.

When it comes time to purchase new software, there's a great opportunity to eliminate internal defects. Before purchasing the software, you should have a strong understanding of the implications of the new computer program. For example, you should know who is most affected by the software, are you're your outside customers or internal operations? In either case, you should be aware of quality problems with the existing software and seek to eliminate these with the new software.

Due to changes in demand, you may be compelled to alter the layout of your operation. This is another great opportunity to increase your quality. You should identify all of the areas where quality problems occur with your current layout.

This could include everything from dropped products to faulty equipment. Once you've identified the quality problem areas, you should try and eliminate the causes. By altering your production layout you can create safety systems to help reduce defects in the problem areas.

It's important when purchasing a new piece of equipment that quality control is at the forefront of the decision. Often time's new equipment is purchased to increase capacity or throughput. Make sure you base this decision on expected quality as well.

I witnessed a decorative baking operation, which was done completely by hand. It was a laborious process but very high in quality control. The company sought to purchase a new piece of equipment to handle the decorating process. During a trial run, it was obvious that throughput would drastically increase but with the amount of quality issues, more time would be spent fixing the defective products. When you factored in the cost of defective products and the cost to rework the product, the new machine was not worth the investment.

When you're starting a new process, new product or new piece of software or equipment, you have a great opportunity to improve your quality control. Take the opportunity to build quality control into your design at the ground level. The cost of poor quality can be astronomical and by being proactive, you can greatly reduce your defects and costs while increasing your customer satisfaction.

Andrew Goldman is an Isenberg School of Management MBA student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He has extensive experience working with small businesses on a consulting basis.

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