From ensuring that components work properly to preserving products with the right shipping containers, your quality control strategy directly correlates to a happy base of consumers. Implementing a foolproof quality management strategy leads to satisfied customers, increased sales, a reduction in production costs and, of course, an all-around good product or service.
Companies that lack in quality control stand to lose a lot. Apple and Tesla recently came under fire for skimping in the quality control (QC) department, proving that customers not only expect a good product upfront but that they expect rapid adjustment when a quality issue is identified. And then there’s the issue of health and safety. A proper quality control methodology can help prevent dangerous defects, recalls and liabilities. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently came down on pharma giant Bayer over quality control issues.
While it seems like a big deal in modern manufacturing and design, the concept of quality control has been around for decades. According to the American Society for Quality (ASQ), it really got moving during the Industrial Revolution in the early 1800s. These days, it’s just as important, and there’s a myriad of technologies available to help streamline and simplify the process. Let’s take a look at some quality control best practices that are easy to add to your QC strategy.
- Go Statistical or Go Home—Anymore, it’s not enough to just make changes. You also have to have a system in place that lets you thoroughly measure how successful they are. Statistical quality control is a QC strategy that closely monitors the quality of products through data and analytics. Implementing a statistics-focused approach can help you identify pain points sooner and ensure that they’re not replicated along the manufacturing, sales or fulfillment journey. It’s also regularly recommended for manufacturers looking for ways to make their products more uniform.
- Use the Right Containers—The best QC strategies are holistic, meaning they focus on quality on every single step of a product’s journey—from the raw materials to the end user. One part of the quality control that’s often overlooked is the shipping and delivery process. For example, if you’re shipping temperature-sensitive goods, you might need to shift from regular containers to insulated shipping containers to ensure that your product maintains its quality until it reaches its final destination.
- Get the Best Software—Specifically, you should consider upgrading to a high-quality inspection software. While human inspectors have many advantages over automation and software—they should all work together, ideally—software can help fill in gaps when training is poor or out of date. It can also help eliminate paperwork, create real-time communication for faster decision-making and add more structure to the inspector’s work, among other advantages.
- Don’t Discount Tech—There’s no shortage of crazy, high-tech and downright fascinating quality control innovation out there. For example, one European company is working on perfecting a computed tomography X-ray system that takes pictures of an object from many perspectives and then combines them to construct a 3D model. According to its makers, this system can help improve the quality of complex internal structures to prevent defects. We’re not saying you have to invest in exorbitant, new systems for the best results, just keep up on changing QC tech, so you’re ahead of the curve.
- Use a Checklist—Robots, automation, and 3D printing are great and all, but sometimes it’s not a bad idea to keep it old school. Checklists are vital to any good quality control system because they help keep employees accountable every step of the way. They also eliminate human error because we’re all occasionally a bit forgetful. Checklists can tie into another extremely important best practice—documentation. Keeping your quality expectations clearly documented provides easy-to-reference criteria for inspectors.
- Review Your Strategy—One of the worst things you can do in quality control is to get too comfortable with the system you have in place. Like any good business strategy, yours should be agile. It should change when manufacturing changes—even if that means moving a component a half an inch or very slightly changing a chemical formula—but also when consumer demands, regulations and cultural expectations change. Readily adapting to new regulations, for example, can help you lower your liability and prevent costly recalls.
- Include Partners in Your Process—The people who supply you with the raw materials, warehouse space, logistics or any other facet of your business should be just as focused on quality control as you are. When you’re making new partnerships, work with them to create end-to-end quality control solutions so that there are no gaps in the supply chain. Of course, you can’t expect your partners to pick up slack for your business, but you can communicate with them so that there are no missed opportunities.
- Empower Your Employees—Setting core values with your product or service at the forefront can help empower employees and inspectors to care more about the final product. For example, if one of your business’s goals is to make something more convenient for the consumer but testers and inspectors find that your product or service is more frustrating or time-consuming than it is convenient, it’s important that your team feels as if they can voice that. Letting all the kinks get worked out in-house before they’re discovered can save you money and bad reviews.
- Collaborate and Communicate—An effective quality control strategy isn’t just good at identifying issues, it also does it in a way that’s fast and efficient. The best way to make yours more responsive is to break down the communication gaps between departments so that everyone is on the same page and so that changes can be made rapidly without holding up production. Better communication can also help ensure that funds are allocated where they’re needed the most without any unnecessary delays.
About the Author:
David Madden is an efficiency expert, as well as being the Founder and President of Container Exchanger and ExchangerHub. These companies help manufacturing and distribution companies buy and sell used industrial packing such as plastic and metal bulk containers, gaylord boxes, bulk bags, pallets, and ibc totes and industrial racks such as pallet racking, flow racks, and drive-in racks. These companies have served thousands of buyers and sellers through USA, Canada, and Mexico.