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Every Day is Quality Improvement Day

Being alert to what might be wrong or could be better, is a solid way to keep improving, even daily.

We can discover improvements on-the-go, every day, and pursue improvements quickly, if we adopt the practices of good auditors.

Always Alert - Routine can lead us to not paying full attention to our environment. By always being alert, we can quickly spot a tool out of place, a trip hazard, a bottle of solvent with the cap off, a smell that doesn’t belong, a sound that indicates trouble. One of the exercises in PQA Certification’s internal auditor training for ISO 9001 is to stand near a workspace and see what we can find in five minutes. We start with “What happens at this workstation?” then “What is that tool?” “Why are these items arranged like this?” “Is that tool calibrated?” and more. Astute observations of workspaces, and in the interactions between workspaces, process and steps, can help us see ways to improve.

Look, Listen, Smell, Touch - Another quality is use as many senses as possible: yes, looking at a workstation or situation, but also listening, sniffing, touching (if it won’t damage product), and feeling the floor for trip hazards. Would we hear machines in good order, calm and fruitful conversations? Or squeaking where it shouldn’t squeak, and voices in conflict? We learn much by keeping our five senses active.

Curiosity Rewards

“Curiosity killed the cat” is the old saying, but a beneficial curiosity is one that leads to uncovering more than we saw at first. One of our auditors, in a finishing plant years ago, saw a strange-looking finish on some parts, and asked his escort what was happening; it turns out the parts were about to be treated in a way that would weaken the metal, causing a safety hazard.

Curiosity has led auditors to discover parts not properly identified, processes not being followed, records not kept, and much more. However, these were not obvious from the first look. Curiosity, and the ability to keep asking questions until the answer is clear, can lead to uncovering something that can be improved, even on the spot.

Daily Engagement of People

People directly involved in the task usually know what is awkward, slows them down, or takes too many steps. Engagement of people is one of the key principles of ISO 9001:2015, and actively soliciting suggestions from those following the procedure or using the tools, is an obvious way to find improvements all year long, without waiting for an audit. Suggestion categories could include safety risk, error risk, and efficiency improvements.

One PQA client solicited and received over 300 improvement ideas from its employees. Leaders sorted them out strategically, and by department, then posted them prominently in the work areas. Everyone could see day by day what was being worked on and improved. Those improvements – really, upgrades to their system – reduced their findings in the next external audit by half and led to efficiencies, not to mention a lift in morale!

Recognition and Rewards

A person who suggests an improvement is mentally invested in it, and may be the best one to lead it, or at least participate in finding a solution. We like the word “Champion” to describe these project leaders, but you may have your own. Recognition can lead those champions to keep investing energy in finding improvements, and encourage others to join.

Recognition for a team or department can include many different rewards: public mention, plaques, tickets to popular events, special mealtimes or break goodies, and of course financial rewards of many kinds.

These are only a few of the ways continual improvement can be your engine for growth. What are your favorite stories? Submit them in writing for a chance to win a $50 gift card!

Are you ready to start your own ISO certification journey? Contact us for a free quote today!


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