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Your QMS Truly CAN Help You Reach Your Strategic Goals

What one thing in your QMS seems arduous but can help your company take a leap forward this year? For some, the answer would be finding ways to collect and analyze needed data. For others, it’s employee engagement in the company’s objectives. Or, resolving vendor relationships that remain painful despite effort. For many, it’s finding new customers and new ways to serve old customers.

What if I told you that all of these could be helped by the effective use of one tool?  In over 20 years of auditing, the one tool we’ve seen that has the greatest potential for change (but remains the most dreaded and least used) is Causal Analysis or Root Cause Analysis. Most avoid it because it’s not fast and it can’t be done effectively by solely one person. Causal analysis, done right, brings together a team of individuals with different perspectives, to look at ongoing challenges or opportunities for improvement or cost savings and to research the reasons behind the issue. Most lasting improvements in a company happen this way; we’re seeing those who consistently use this tool continue to grow in this new economic environment.

Yes, there are many excuses not to do real causal analysis – trust me, we’ve heard them all: “I already know what caused the problem!...I don’t have time to do that for every customer NC (they’re OK with replacements, why shouldn’t we be?)...We already do it, and don’t see any benefit.”

Let me be honest:  PQA issues certificates of conformity to ISO standards as part of our business, but our desire is to see our clients achieve their goals not just to do audits. We believe, and have seen over and over again, that companies who put real effort into their QMS, not only reduce waste and earn customer loyalty because they don’t make repeat mistakes, but outshine their competition and grow. Especially since 2008!

May we offer a suggestion?  Encourage all supervisors and team leads to join you as you watch the following video from the Juran Institute as they model an effective and thorough 5-why’s method of causal analysis. It only takes 2 minutes, and then ask your team some questions:

  • What if they stopped at the first reason? Washing less frequently would help but would it fix the cause?

  • What if they had assumed the second reason was enough? Netting off the monument to stop the problem would have created other issues.

  • What if they gave up at the third reason – it seemed like something outside their control after all....

  • How does this apply to how we evaluate causes?

Many actions taken as a result of NC don’t really fix the problem long term, because people give up too soon. As a result they end up doing Containment or Correction (an actions to fix the immediate issue) instead of a true Corrective Action (which prevents the NC from recurring – ever!). A good root cause starts with a 360 review of all possible inputs (that’s the framework of the Ishegawa fishbone). Do your teams look for causes:

  • outside the obvious department?

  • within the method or processes used (including your written procedures)?

  • in the material, its supplier, its delivery?

  • with the machine, equipment, or tool used?

  • in the measurement or analysis employed?

  • with manpower--staffing, skills, training, and understanding?

  • from environmental and technology impacts?

Once you have identified all possible contributing causes, collect data on how often each possible cause contributes to the NC, analyze the data to determine which action will have the most effect, implement your corrective action, measure the effect of that action, and then when you’re sure you have prevented the cause of the NC, don’t just close your CPAR, control your new process by modifying documentation and training to your new procedure.

So this year, may we encourage you to invest in improvement by chasing that root cause like it was a rabbit in your carrot patch. Don’t let your teams give up too soon. Instead encourage staff to find the real root cause… and maybe even reward improvement teams who take the effort to find the true root cause, and by their effort make a measurable difference to the company.

For those of you already doing this – We applaud and respect your commitment to your company, your staff and your customers--you are an inspiration!

We wish a Happy, Healthy, Profitable 2014 to you all.


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