Quality is not just an action; it is a way of life. We can say we are quality conscious but as the days pass the discipline can fade. The tools become worn, dull, and finally discarded. This is common in the human psyche; when we do not keep focused or refresh on disciplines, we tend to “forget,” skip steps, or ultimately stop the practice entirely. So, we must revisit the tool shed periodically to make sure our tools are razor sharp and at the ready.
In the quality arena, that means brushing up on work instructions, maintenance procedures, training reviews, and overall workplace awareness. We can do this in a variety of ways. This month I’ll outline a few ideas that have worked well for me in the past and may be useful to you as well.
This goes without saying. We cannot produce a product or manage day-to-day operations unless we know what we are doing, right? Having a robust training program is a must. This should include the use of procedures or work instructions. Employees should be able to reference these documents any time they have questions on any of the tasks they are required to perform. However, just having the documentation available is not enough. There should be a periodic review of the employee against the work instruction and/or procedure. Just training or scoring them once and setting them free is not enough and can result in difficulties in the later rounds. Employees should be reviewed at least annually for continued proficiency. This is where inconsistencies can be uncovered and corrected.
Creating and providing random quizzes regarding employee tasks or company procedures is a great way to keep important items at the forefront of awareness. These could be compiled as excerpts from specific work instructions, workflow reviews, customer interaction, or company policies. These don’t necessarily have to be performance evaluations but can be more about gauging the pulse of how a specific item is working and whether there needs to be any “sharpening.”
We all learn in different ways. Some can simply read a document and be totally fine with it—off they go. Others tend to be visual learners, thus video tutorials can be a strong tool to help these learners. There are many options out there to create tutorials. They can be basic PowerPoint tutorials, humorous doodle videos, or even live footage videos. The options seem endless. This engages the students/employees into the activity and provides a strong vector for learning.
Audits usually strike fear and anxiety when the term is even mentioned. However, this activity is not intended to be feared. This is a valuable tool to review a process, work instruction, or even a production area. The idea is to ascertain whether everything is working as intended and identify any possible challenges that require attention. This can simply be employees in a certain workspace reviewing their tools and supplies, equipment, and general work environment. It also can be more in-depth to review key performance indicators (KPIs) to see whether predetermined outputs are being maintained.
Finally, the actual system should receive periodic reviews. This is a requirement in ISO9001. If the tool shed is in disrepair, how can we tune up our operations? Work instructions, procedures, and company policies should be reviewed to make sure they are always ready to support the team that needs them. We need to make sure our team has the tools they need when they need them.
Stay sharp, my friends!
This column originally appeared in the May 2021 issue of PCB007 Magazine.