Our Journey to Understand What is a “Successful Quality Culture”

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Quality_Collaboration

Lately, we've talked to a lot of innovative product companies trying to build a successful quality culture. The first question we asked was–what is a “successful quality culture”?

It means different things to different people, but in general it appears to be actively testing and assessing products from the moment they start development through when the product ships and is out in the field, all the while questioning “Can we do this better?”

Vague, I know, but to expand on “better” is tough. Generally we heard “better” means fewer steps, less scrap, less complication, more predictability, with lower costs. How do they think they can do this? These companies want to capture and address product complaints quickly, troubleshoot engineering issues, and leverage customer feedback.

They also want to proactively look at products and manufacturing processes that are working just fine to see if they can make them “better” too. All of them are trying to get their products out to the market as soon as possible, and want to have confidence the product quality is high and that end users will be well served. To that end, they are working hard on incorporating a quality focus into everything they do.

There are well known quality processes already defined. We collected comments from medical device manufacturers about how to improve quality processes including corrective and preventive action (CAPA), corrective action request (CAR), supplier corrective action request (SCAR), 8 Discipline (8D), 5 whys, and other remediation requirements. Here are a selected few:

  • “We need everyone in our company, our design partners, and our supply chain to know about quality issues, and to take them seriously so we don’t repeat mistakes.”

  • “We want a way to assign responsibility and accountability to the right people, but also enable everyone to collaborate on solving the problem.”

  • "If we can just get engineers, quality teams and suppliers to all record the issues and solutions in the same place, then we could find issues, see trends and know where to focus our efforts to have the largest impact.”

  • “We need to report on quality efforts across the board, so everyone can see why these initiatives matter, and can understand how we are doing against our company-wide goals!”

These comments speak to the challenges that companies of all types and sizes face in their efforts to build that successful quality culture.

All of this research led us to one core principle: quality tools must support and encourage the investment of time and ideation from all stakeholders throughout the total product lifecycle in order to drive a culture of lasting continuous improvement.

This is where development of Arena Quality really started. We built Arena Quality to be a holistic solution, enabling company-wide collaboration among dissimilar groups. Together, everyone can capture and address product issues to create product improvements. And all have a focused understanding of quality value, pride in continuous growth and confidence that their contributions will drive company success.

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About the Author

Kathy Davies
Kathy teaches at Stanford University, where her students use Design Thinking to design cutting edge products and to reshape their lives, at Stanford and beyond. Kathy has worked with Arena ... Read More 

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