Measuring quality through software
LNS Research has released its Enterprise Quality Management Software Selection Guide, which looks at 18 major vendors in the spaces and offers comparisons on performance and applicability to individual industries. Matthew Littlefield, president and principle analyst at LNS Research, discussed with CFE Media the value of measuring quality with software, and how the acceptance of such tools is growing throughout the plant.
CFE: In evaluating the top vendors for Enterprise Quality Management Software, what criteria would you say is most critical for an effective system for end users?
Littlefield: There are a number of factors that determine how well suited a particular vendor is for a particular client. First and foremost I think comes industry experience, some vendors have experience in life sciences, others have experience in discrete manufacturing like automotive or aerospace and defense, still others have started to develop experience in consumer products or food and beverage. The drivers and needs are very different in all these industries and very few vendors have expertise across all these industries.
Second I would say existing IT infrastructure, some companies are heavily invested in ERP, others have a large PLM footprint, still others have disparate systems at the enterprise level, again different vendors have different strengths in this regard. Finally I would recommend looking at the technology itself. Originally EQMS vendors were very form based, over time many have updated their technology to be work-flow based that has a more solid data model and ability to interoperate with other systems through web-services.
Finally, is the vendor continuing to invest in areas like BI, Mobility, and an enhanced user-experience. Some companies are and others are still behind the curve.
PE: Why is software the best measuring tool for quality? What industries might benefit the most from such a system? Conversely, which industries are not a good fit for EQMS?
Littlefield: Software is an important tool for a number of reasons but I think one that stands out the most is our changing business environment. Companies are continuing to expand globally, products are continuing to increase in complexity, regulations continue to expand, and consumer demands continue to increase.
|“For a quality culture to take hold it truly has to go to the operator level. Continuous improvement, non-conformance management, compliance, and more all have to be managed at the most granular level possible.”|
Companies that don’t specifically invest in a platform to manage how quality impacts the entire value chain and how quality addresses all these market drivers will be at a distinct competitive disadvantage.
From an industry perspective, industries that have high risk products, high risk processes, a deep impact on consumers, or a restrictive regulatory environment are all candidates for EQMS, including life sciences, consumer products, discrete manufacturing, and process manufacturing.
PE: You mentioned the education process is critical in a successful deployment of EQMS. How far into the organization does this training need to go? For example, will this get to the operator level?
Littlefield: For a quality culture to take hold it truly has to go to the operator level. Continuous improvement, non-conformance management, compliance, and more all have to be managed at the most granular level possible. We are now seeing some companies that have 10,000-plus users on EQMS systems.
PE: What are the leading causes of failure for EQMS, or any operating system for that matter?
Littlefield: Very rarely is the technology to blame itself, although that could be the case with some vendors that have not kept based with investments in their products. Most likely that failure comes from executive leadership not promoting and believing in a quality culture. If executives do not walk the walk it can be very challenging to have the right culture and technology adoption flow through the organizations
PE: What’s the potential ROI for a successful implementation?
Littlefield: ROI is tough to measure in the EQMS world and many companies don’t. Although there are two ways we are starting to see companies measure ROI. First is around the Cost of Quality and second is around risk reduction. Both are viable ways for measuring business success and companies that invest in EQMS can often see major improvements in these metrics, often providing an ROI in less than 1 year.
PE: Why might this be a good time for manufacturers looking to upgrade their quality management process to take a look at EQMS?
Littlefield: We have seen companies be most successful with EQMS in two major ways. One if there is a major quality issue or compliance issue at your company, adopting software maybe a very prudent step for correction.
Second if your company is focused on a new (or improving an old) operational excellence initiative, EQMS can help in the success of these initiatives and building quality into operational excellence.