How Do You Begin?

by Cecelia McCain

So, how did I begin in quality? I began knowing basically nothing about it and evolved my knowledge over 13 years. I implemented total quality management (TQM), was a state quality award examiner and am now a certified Software Engineering Institute configuration management model assessor and Six Sigma Black Belt. My goals are to never stop learning quality concepts and their many applications, especially quality implementation in service organizations.

More than a decade ago, the temporary staffing company I worked for in Michigan was striving to achieve Ford Q1 certification. Ford Q1 certification is given to Ford Motor Co. parts and service suppliers who have a high impact on customer satisfaction as determined by Ford. The approach my company was using was to compile thick evidence binders based on the great service we were providing Ford and the positive customer relationship in place. The results of the initial external audit were not very encouraging, and my company decided it was time to take a different approach.

At the time I was a deployment project manager in the company’s service department, and I, along with another service department manager, was asked to analyze the Ford Q1 effort. We knew very little about quality, so our first step was to visit the bookstore and buy as many quality books as we could reasonably carry.

Our research began with Ford Q1 and progressed to quality in general. We then realized very little concrete information was published on implementing quality programs in service companies. After all, we had no equipment to calibrate, and we couldn’t exactly drop test our product (as our “products” were temporary employees).

In the meantime, we had other customers who had their own standards they wanted the company to meet asking about our level of quality. How could the company be all things to all customers? Since the quality system couldn’t be rewritten every time another customer’s standard came along, we decided to develop a comprehensive in-house TQM system.

We hired external quality consultants who taught basic quality concepts, such as quality planning, control, improvement and auditing. Once trained, we reviewed quality standards and requirements from Ford Q1, ISO 9000, the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, Xerox and as many other standards as we could find.

Using the seven Baldrige categories as the foundation, we aligned the items from the other quality standards, eliminated redundant items and built our quality system. We created a database to manage the quality standard requirements and the associated quality library, documentation and training materials. We conducted quality concept training and tracked it with a training matrix.

Departments developed SOPs, measures and control plans and conducted internal audits to ensure adherence to the company quality system. The internal audit process included the use of corrective actions, follow-up, initial audit reports and final audit feedback reports presented to senior management.

The company achieved Ford Q1 certification in 12 months, with a quality system recognized as best in class by both Ford and Xerox. And I was promoted to director of customer quality assurance.

After the quality system was fully deployed, I accepted a transfer to serve as district manager for the upstate region of South Carolina, where I also served as an examiner for the South Carolina Governor’s Quality Award program for four years. I reviewed written applications for the Baldrige based award and made recommendations for on-site visits. This provided me with a breadth of quality knowledge not possible working with just my own company’s quality system.

After my first year with the program, I was designated lead examiner, which gave me the opportunity to plan the on-site visits, coordinate audit activities with company liaisons, determine scoring and critique and edit final audit reports.

I returned to Michigan and accepted a position at Compuware Corp., where I am the director of quality program management. Almost going back to where I started from, I am responsible for the design, development and deployment of Compuware’s quality management system. Recently certified as an ASQ Six Sigma Black Belt, I find myself once again pursuing Ford Q1 (and ISO 9001) certification, but with one big difference. This time I have a wealth of quality knowledge and experience from which to draw.

CECELIA MCCAIN is the director of quality program management at Compuware Corp. in Detroit. She is a member of ASQ and a Six Sigma Black Belt.

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