What Does Your Priority Shipping Bill Say about your QMS?

November 14, 2014

by James Habecker

priority shipping for manufacturers

from www.customcritical.fedex.com

You’ve been there before. It’s 4:48 PM and you’ve just had to send someone to FedEx or UPS to expedite yet another package to the customer who just called looking for his parts. They’re 2 days overdue, and now they won’t get there for another 24 hours – and it just cost you a shipping upcharge. And your customer is not thrilled, to say the least. And you’ll have to pay overtime to the guy who won’t get out of the postal facility until 5:30. And that same guy is showing signs of frustration, and might leave you in the lurch after you just invested 4 months in training him. And, and, and……

If you’ve found yourself feeling like you’re chasing your tail this way more often than you’d care to admit, you might have a quality problem on your hands.

Quality problems are one of those issues that just tend to snowball. System creep happens easily as companies start implementing “fixes” to prevent bad quality issues. The next thing you know, the proverbial tail is wagging the dog. There are tons of “fixes” in place, which diverts resources from what’s truly valuable: producing quality work that your customers’ value.

Don’t feel bad. It happens to so many companies, because it’s easier to take quick (yet impermanent) action than to stop, analyze, strategize, and implement true solutions “once and for all.” It’s human nature. But it’s time to invest in a more meaningful corrective action if you have two or more of these issues:

Top 10 Signs you have a Quality Problem


  • You see the same problems reoccurring multiple times.
  • You’re experiencing high staff turnover.
  • Too many shipments must be expedited.
  • There’s a high indirect labor burden.
  • On time delivery rates are low.
  • Scrap and defect rates are high.
  • Too much overtime is being spent to remake bad parts.
  • You’re getting poor customer satisfaction reports and negative customer feedback.
  • Repeat business isn’t growing and referrals aren’t coming to you.
  • Your team is involved in excessive visual inspections.

Your time is precious. If you don’t have time to do it right you must have time to do it over – and let’s face it, nobody really has time for that!

quality management systems expert Jim Habecker

Jim Habecker is our Quality Management Systems expert

Would you believe that I once worked with a company where 23% of the total labor force was dedicated to visual inspection? This was a non-value-added task, yet it was consuming almost a quarter of everyone’s time. When processes are in control, they don’t need to be inspected as often. But getting them in control…. there’s the rub!

It takes time. Effort. Energy. Knowledge. And you might have to suffer through some production downtime to get it right. But don’t kid yourself into thinking that’s too high a price to pay. You’re probably spending twice what you could be saving right now, doing things in a less efficient way! Too many layers have probably been built up to prevent defects from escaping, but the root issue and problem has yet to be taken care of.

Investigating the Root Cause

The real root cause of the problem might be in a different area than where you’ve tried to fix the problem before. Think the problem is your operator wasn’t trained properly? Perhaps, but maybe the machine isn’t holding the tolerances properly. Has it been checked? Do the requirements match up with the tooling? Is the right material being used for what you’re trying to achieve? If it’s really the operator’s training that’s the problem, what have you done to resolve it? Do you use the proven Training Within Industry method? If not, you’re missing out and losing “tribal knowledge” that could make that operator many times more effective.

Without a proper root cause analysis, trying to fix the problem will feel disjointed, the problem will re-occur and cause more problems and frustrations throughout the organization. You’ve got to eventually face the music, because you can’t just keep putting more inventory on the shelves in hopes of guarding against quality management failures! You need a Quality Management System that really works for you.

Taking the First Step toward Improving your Quality Management System

Here are some quick questions to ask yourself that will get you started on the path to better quality.

  • When was the last time you had your QMS reviewed by a Quality Systems Professional?
  • Are your quality systems documented?
  • Does your process router match what is actually occurring on the shop floor? Or have processes been added over the years that are not accounted for, adding hidden cost?
  • Does the QMS scale properly to the size of organization that you have grown to be?
  • Is there enough detail in the system to support the scale of your organization?
  • Who is responsible for overseeing your QMS on a daily basis? Are employees informing management of issues as they occur, or only when they “blow up”?
  • Have your customers changed things that have gone undocumented or have not been reviewed by your operation or production manager?

So don’t let that tail wag the dog. Take control now by having a complimentary QMS consultation. It’s the first step toward calming the chaos and stopping the fire drills. Just think of what you could save on your next shipping bill!

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