The traditional view of quality management is to ensure that norms are adhered to so that the company can obtain the certification it requires. But is it really that simple? Or could QM have a more holistic relationship to corporate culture? More specifically, does QM in a learning organisation look any different from QM in a traditional hierarchical organisation?
Quality is not everything – but you won't get anywhere without it
Quality is a fundamental concern of any company that wants to become – and remain – a market leader. It starts with the quality of its products and services, continues in the quality of its internal structures and processes (including the communication channels it adopts) and extends to the kind of requirements, such as environmental management, that apply to all companies. And of course global supply and value creation chains, which entail the putting into practice of vastly different definitions of quality, are equally important.
ISO as a springboard for action instead of reaction
For learning organisations, ISO 901: 2015 is the international gold standard for quality management. It covers not only workload distribution but also the understanding of quality management itself.
- Workload distribution: prior to norm revision, the QMO was the central contact for all quality assurance initiatives. This meant that colleagues from factory floor to management never really took ownership of quality management for themselves. The international norm provides for shared ownership, where management is now required to take an active role in QM.
- Prior to the revision, quality assurance was primarily a reactive issue. It involved implementing norms that had to be complied with in order to obtain licences and certificates. The revision altered this definition of QM from one of inspection and implementation to one of strategic planning. The QMO was increasingly freed of operational duties, developing quality guidelines as part of a strategic approach.
The right skills – and accountabilities – for the job
GAD goes above and beyond the basic requirements of the ISO norm. Every employee is responsible for recognising and implementing quality assurance measures in line with their skills profile. In a classic top-down organisation, it would be production managers and shift managers who, under the current ISO 9001: 2015, have responsibility for quality assurance. In the learning culture that prevails at GAD, individual middle managers have given way to task-defined roles. As a consequence, and to ensure transparency, accountabilities have had to be redefined. At GAD, these are continuously being developed by the staff members themselves in an ongoing process of adaptation to current requirements. The supervisor and mentor for this process is Stephan von Galkowski alongside his colleague Werner Götz, who also has responsibility for energy and environmental management. It is under their auspices that process environments and process briefs have been created.
What does this mean for day-to-day operations? Project briefs define processes in more detail. For the process itself there is a process owner, i.e. a supervisor for the area concerned. The brief defines the roles and tasks involved. A role could be works preparation, which itself contains various responsibilities, such as creating works plans and feasibility studies. Who assumes which responsibilities is subject to continual revision. The emphasis is always on suitability for the responsibility in question, not the personal authority associated with it, as is the case in classic hierarchical structures.
Specific quality criteria: IATF, REACH etc.
As part of the continual internal development of responsibilities, the strategic competence of the QMO extends to the sector-specific quality-focused positioning of the company.
- The sector-specific norm known as IATF requires a high degree of market awareness in order to quickly identify risk and initiate preventative measures.
- At GAD, environmental and energy policy is an especially important responsibility.
- GAD produces components for the food industry (e.g. for tea bag staples or salami fastenings). Thanks to GAD's food hygiene management procedures, the ability of aluminium components to play their part in the value creation chain is assured.
- Under the EU's REACH regulation, companies must commit to using non-environmentally-damaging chemical processes as part of their supply chain. This is done in the form of self-imposed obligations, for which GAD has produced its own individual statement.
Employing the concept of eco-efficiency, our pioneering global cross-sector environmental policy encompasses the visionary aim of using only recyclable materials in its manufacturing processes. For GAD there are many points in the supply chain where such an approach can be applied, especially in the processing of aluminium for our indirect customers.