There’s no doubt that the world is becoming increasingly interconnected and technology-centered as each day passes. Driverless cars have taken to the road in pilot projects in several countries; modes of communication are instant and global, both under 140 characters and above; and medical treatments are being tailored to fit personal genomics. But what does this mean for quality management?
As available products and services become more technologically complex, one might be forgiven for assuming that all of the processes and technology to actually produce them to marketplace is similarly advanced. In many cases this is indeed true, but many people might be surprised to learn the prevalence of manual and localized processes and solutions that are currently in place for managing product quality, across industries.
According to the LNS Research quality management survey, to date taken by more than 1,200 global quality executives across industries, 78% of respondents currently operate in some state of quality disconnect across their enterprises. And this is becoming an increasingly pressing issue in quality organizations as customer expectations and requirements increase, regulations tighten, and the supply chain continues to splinter and become more complex. In short, manual quality processes and point solutions are causing companies to fall behind. Fortunately, there are tools available to get back to the front of the pack, namely Enterprise Quality Management Software (EQMS).
What Is EQMS? What Are Its Benefits?
Many leading organizations today have begun to integrate and standardize their quality operations through the use of EQMS. EQMS allows organizations to manage content and business processes for quality and compliance across the value chain, and is designed to integrate with other enterprise applications such as ERP, PLM, and MOM. EQMS enables a modern, Web-services based technology platform that is role-based, avoids forms, and focuses on workflow execution. It’s helping companies better perform a variety of functionalities; two notable from our research as commonly deployed in EQMS are document management and non-conformances and corrective and preventive actions (NC/CAPA). These directly coincide with the major quality challenges organizations face today like fostering better collaboration, dealing with quality being viewed ‘as a department rather than a responsibility,’ and handling disparate and disjointed systems.
With such immediate and directly applicable problem solving capabilities, EQMS seems like a no-brainer for many companies, but the problem is finding the right solution for your organization, as solutions vary widely by industry, functionalities desired, technology delivery platforms, company size, location, and other factors. There is no magic bullet, and choosing the wrong solution can torpedo an implementation before it even begins.
The Criticality of Getting it Right from the Start
Organizations are clearly seeing the value of EQMS, and it’s moving from the ‘nice-to-have’ to ‘requisite-for-success’ category. Over the past year, 70% of survey respondents have seen their organizations’ EQMS budget increase by 5% or more, with nearly 50% of this particular group seeing it increase by more than 20%. While recognition of the value of EQMS and the corresponding budget allotment are important first steps on the road to realizing the benefits of EQMS functionality, they are a long way from being on the other side of a successful implementation.
A misstep at the onset could result in delayed or incomplete roll-out, fewer than desired functionalities adopted, or—worse—a failure altogether. Spending the necessary time and effort up front is the most important step in ensuring your implementation rolls out according to plan. The following are four key steps to abide by:
Scoping the Role of Your Planned EQMS
A full EQMS implementation might take months or even years to be complete, and it all depends on the scope of the project. Are you looking to standardize documentation? NC/CAPA? It’s important to prioritize and establish what will fill in the most immediate and pressing gaps in your quality management. You should be realistic here in what you’re trying to achieve, with what timeline, and what ROI will be necessary to prove to budget holders. The surest way to get off on the wrong foot is to bite off more than you can chew for your project scope.
Assemble a Cross-Functional Team
One of the key benefits of EQMS is integrating quality into all facets of the value chain, and effectively turning quality into a consideration for all key stakeholders, rather than a department that enforces it upon others. Since quality is now in everyone’s mind, you’re going to want to assemble a cross-functional team of key stakeholders across departments to really iron out the goals and requirements of your EQMS project. No single department has all the answers, and it’s important to solicit the opinions and feedback of leaders across groups to collect all the information necessary to build out the EQMS vision.
Build Requirements, Research Vendor Landscape, and RFP
It’s important that your cross-functional team builds out requirements both technical and functional, and designates them as either mandatory, desirable, future potential, or with similar hierarchical labels. After your cross-functional team has developed a comprehensive set of requirements, the search for appropriate vendors should begin in a centralized document that gathers all the inputs of the team members. This can include the requisite Web searches and industry events, but to cut through more of the marketing angle, vendor selection guides and advisory services can be helpful with constructing and evaluating your RFP.
Demonstrations – Remote and In-Person
The demo phase should be clearly defined into two parts—one an initial remote phase to quickly establish if a particular vendor exhibits potential requirements that fit with your company and has the credentials to support your organization. The second, more in-depth phase should ensure that requirements are specifically demonstrated in a structured manner. This should include step-by-step scripts built and approved by the selection team. Final demos should be completed face-to-face where possible, and include an implementation discussion to get a sense of how the vendor proposes a roll-out in line with the scope outlined in the RFP.
Putting it All Together
There are many aspects of these EQMS steps on your journey that interrelate and overlap, each with its own importance in reaching your final goal of an implemented EQMS with desired scope, functionality, and timing to deliver the ROI that will prove the project’s worth, and hopefully keep it going into the future, either with broadened roll out in location, functionality, or both.
To learn more about the crucial steps and considerations for getting and keeping your organization’s EQMS implementation on the best path for success, be sure to register for our free webinar with LNS Research, “EQMS Solution Selection Best Practices for Global Enterprises,” Tuesday, July 14 at 1:00 pm EDT.