Managing from the Quality Plan

One of the benefits of having a written Quality Plan is that it makes communicating and explaining the processes used to new starters, or other interested stakeholders, far easier than without one.

The ability to demonstrate to new starters how their contribution fits within the larger operation can help them see the value they deliver, and their worth to the organisation.  It also gives them a reference to use when they have questions (along with an organisation chart for their area, but that’s not discussed here).

The Quality Plan can also help managers identify the key elements they need to manage to keep the operation running effectively and efficiently.  By ensuring the elements are available when needed, delays within the operation can be minimised and customer satisfaction can be optimised.

Skills

Think back to our Chair Factory example.

We didn’t identify individual roles for each stage, we just assumed each member of staff could work effectively in every stage.  As a result, we’ve identified all of the key skills we need to ensure our staff have:

Activity NameSelect Wood from WarehouseMeasure and Cut Wood into PiecesAssemble Chair
SkillsExperience of assessing lumber for visible grain Licence to drive forkliftBench joineryBench joinery

If, for example, we’d distinguished different team members for each stage, we would have gathered the skills needed for each job (relevant to the stages they worked in).

This would then act as a source of information for both job profiles (essential skills, plus any necessary qualifications) and into the Learning and Development Plans for the staff.

Essentially, any skill identified as key, the organisation should have a means of delivering to staff (it is unreasonable to assume every employee will always have every skill needed) and records to track who was trained when.  Remember, some qualifications are periodic, rather than perpetual, and require periodic retraining such as first aid, fire safety, potentially GDPR, anti-bribery, etc. depending on the roles undertaken.

The training records are valuable to the organisation because, for example, a workplace injury of an employee can be determined as the employer’s fault if the employer cannot prove the employee was properly trained in safe practices.  For the minimal effort of retaining such records, they can be incredibly valuable in the long-term.

Environment

Similarly, our Quality Plan can also tell us of the key environments needed to operate successfully.

Activity NameSelect Wood from WarehouseMeasure and Cut Wood into PiecesAssemble Chair
EnvironmentWarehouseProduction AreaAssembly Area

The Environments can exist in the same physical space but may require the organisation to make changes or maintain them in a suitable fashion.  For example, our Chair Factory can use the same physical space to both cut lumber and varnish the chairs, but trying to do so at the same time would compromise the varnishing stage (as the sawdust in the air from the cut lumber, settles on the drying varnish ruining the finish).

By identifying these different environments needed, the organisation can plan on how to maintain the integrity using the resources available.  It also allows the organisation to determine if they need to perform Quality checks, such as visual inspections before work starts (to ensure the environment is ready for use).

 Materials

The Materials identified in the Quality Plan can tell the organisation the key purchases and stock that the organisation needs to manage, i.e. procure and maintain suitable levels so when needed, the resources are available.

Activity NameSelect Wood from WarehouseMeasure and Cut Wood into PiecesAssemble Chair
MaterialsFuel and oil for forkliftTimberLumberLumber parts Glue

Such materials will include the obvious raw materials consumed during the process, but should also include items that are less obvious at first … e.g. in our chair example, fuel and oil for the forklift are not part of making the chair, but they are a key resource in the process … moving timber by hand because someone forgot to buy fuel for the forklift is a lesson that no member of staff would appreciate.

Equipment
The Equipment named in the Quality Plan can tell the organisation both the equipment they need to have available, but also what equipment they need to maintain.

Activity NameSelect Wood from WarehouseMeasure and Cut Wood into PiecesAssemble Chair
EquipmentForklift Truck Hi-Viz VestSaws ChiselsMalletsSaw benchClamps Assembly table

In our Chair Factory, this would include the obvious equipment such as the forklift truck, but also maintain the hand tools such as sharpening the saws and chisels when needed.  Neglecting to maintain such tools regularly will directly affect the quality of the work produced.

As with materials, records of equipment maintenance are important.  The organisation’s insurance may require equipment to be inspected and maintained for the sake of safety (which is the case with a forklift, for example) and being able to prove it has been done can be very useful if something goes wrong.

Information

The final resource discovered was the Information needed.

Activity NameSelect Wood from WarehouseMeasure and Cut Wood into PiecesAssemble Chair
InformationLumber Specification Chair DesignChair DesignChair Assembly Instructions

The information falls into two categories:

  • Internal information – Information only used within the organisation
  • External information – Information made freely available to the public

Regardless of the type, all such information needs managing in a similar way to ensure it’s availability and accuracy.

For example, if the chairs are to be sold, then the specifications of the chair and price are key external information resources that need to be shared with potential customers.  Inside the organisation, the cutting plans and assembly instructions for the chairs are essential pieces of internal information needed by the assembly line.

Information management need not be a complex process.  A record of where the information is shared allows updates to be published to the right places in a timely manner as the information changes.  Imagine how upset a customer would be who purchased a chair based on old information and received something that didn’t meet their needs … we’d have upset a customer for no reason. 

Similarly, keeping a record of when information is checked for accuracy, or last updated, ensures the organisation reviews it’s information regularly to ensure it stays current with external factors outside the organisation’s control.