Consistent quality is central to improving warehouse efficiency, efficiently managing inventory levels and delivering on customer expectations. Relying on an ad hoc approach to quality might have worked in good times but, in times of crisis, a comprehensive and systematic approach to quality can help minimize costs and maximize productivity.
An effective quality program encompasses both quality assurance and quality control. Quality control identifies flaws in a finished good before it is shipped to a customer, but without quality assurance you can’t easily identify where the problem originated. Quality assurance monitors the production process, such as ensuring quality of incoming raw materials or components, adhering to defined production processes and product testing. A successful quality program must oversee both control and assurance.
Here are six steps to implementing an effective quality program:
- Define what should be inspected. Not only do you need to define which items should be inspected but also what should be reviewed about those items. Because each item serves a unique purpose, the inspection criteria is likely unique as well. Using NetSuite Quality Management there are two main inspection types:
- Qualitative inspections - verifies that the item is in good overall condition
- Quantitative inspections - allows you to define multiple, measurable elements along with criteria for acceptance, i.e. diameter, width, length, temperature or chemical composition
- Establish pass/fail criteria. Once you know what should be tested, you must define the standards that quality engineers will use to test against. You will define acceptable levels of variance for each element as well as anything that should automatically result in a failure. Documenting the standards is crucial to ensuring inspections are consistent.
- Define the parameters of the inspection. Next you will define what each inspection should look like. It will likely be a combination of qualitative and quantitative inspections. At what frequency do you want inspect? Will you conduct a 100% quality inspection – checking each item individually? This takes time and is expensive, but if it is a component from a new vendor or a new product launch, this might be the necessary. For the majority of products however, you may decide to inspect using sample sizes and lots. Using NetSuite Quality Management, you can define rules for inspecting specific sequences of lot or serial tracked items, set the sample size you want to inspect and establish how many lots should to inspect. You can set inspection rules specific to vendor or location – allowing you to easily keep a closer eye on components coming from a new or higher risk vendor.
- Design an inspection process and workflows. Using a system to communicate to the quality engineers exactly what you want inspected ensures no matter who is conducting the inspections, you will get consistent results. With NetSuite Quality Management, once an item has been identified as requiring inspection, it is added to the inspection queue, and a quality engineer is assigned the task. Workflows walk the inspector through the inspection and prompt them to capture the results. Using a mobile app enables quality engineers to perform inspections, review standards, record data and submit data for analysis directly from the inspection area.
- Create a procedure for handling defects. What happens when an item fails inspection? How many failures can you have per lot before the inspection fails? You should set up a workflow that defines what to do with the failed item as well as the associated lot. This could be further inspection of the lot, trigger a return to the vendor, or a quarantine and release strategy. Using NetSuite Quality Management, this process is customizable, allowing you to have a unique process for each item.
- Review the program and improve. Once you’ve implemented a quality program, it’s time to review your results and make improvements, to both the program itself as well as the product. Product innovation and production teams can use quality test results to identify weaknesses in the supply chain, reoccurring product defects and inefficiencies in the production cycle. Likewise, quality teams can proactively identify reoccurring failures, resulting in decreased waste, defective goods and returns.
Quality doesn’t happen by accident. A quality management system enables companies to proactively address inefficiencies in the manufacturing process before the goods are complete. Identifying defective componentry and raw materials and flawed processes as they happen enables production to proactively make changes, and ultimately increases customer satisfaction.
Learn more about NetSuite Quality Management features and functionality in the NetSuite 2020.1 Release.