Using a Process Control Maturity Matrix

A tool to develop a world-class quality process

by Raymond Augustin

One of the basic tenets of process-based industry, and of industry in general, is that if something can be measured, it can be managed. A close corollary is that when one can measure something, one can begin to understand it. The novelty of quality control and continuous improvement has already worn off. These concepts are no longer competitive advantages, but requirements for business survival. In fact, the very nature of competition has caused the bar to be raised on a regular basis.

As quality practitioners matured and deployed techniques that were borrowed, inherited, and developed in the manufacturing arena, one critical element surfaced. Controlling quality, given the product design and process parameters, became the ultimate manufacturing goal.

The next step was to improve the quality of product design. This required that quality be designed into the product so manufacturing could maintain the predetermined quality level. This approach, however, ignored the process. Even the best-designed product results in suboptimum output if manufactured through an incapable process.

How, then, is a quality process developed? The answer is simple. Almost all process-based industries should define, characterize, optimize, validate, and control the quality process before implementing it. What makes an organization stand above others is the depth of rigor to which these five levels of process development are employed. A good way to measure how a company's methodology for process development compares to world-class industries is to place development endeavors on a process control maturity matrix (PCMM).

Using the process control maturity matrix

The PCMM provides a reliable basis for consistent evaluation of research and development (R&D) and serves as a guide to improve management and development processes.

sm_112figure1.jpg (6708 bytes)To use the matrix, identify what process development techniques are currently employed and locate them in the matrix. Next, indicate the technique's level of deployment using different colors or shading (see Figure 1).

The further to the right a development activity falls on the matrix, the more rigorous the techniques become and more valuable the information gleaned. As an activity progresses through the levels, the tools and techniques also increase both in scope and in impact to the bottom line. The most rigorous and comprehensive method, therefore, can be found at the matrix's top right corner, as this method requires a solid foundation to be of value.

The level of deployment is key

World-class organizations operate at medium to heavy deployment toward the right and upper half of the matrix--the stage of statistical analysis. Keeping this in mind, process development leaders can immediately compare their ongoing process development work against the best methods available. Leaders can determine what stage activities are currently in and how much deployment each needs to achieve a world-class status.

An R&D director, for example, mapped out her current process development activities, found them on the matrix, and shaded each segment to identify deployment levels. In doing so, she could compare her organization's activities against the best in the class and isolate the weakest link(s) in the process development chain.

With the PCMM, she was able to summarize the maturation of current process development efforts, measure the process against the best methods available, and better manage the organization's process development endeavors.

RAYMOND AUGUSTIN is a project manager for Domain Manufacturing in Burlington, MA. He received master's degrees in industrial engineering and business administration from the University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL. He is an ASQ certified quality engineer and software quality engineer, and an ASQ member.

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