Thriving in Disruption, Driving Toward Quality 4.0: The 2019 Summit


More than 200 quality professionals convened in Dallas for the third Quality 4.0 Summit, where they explored the impact of people, process, and technology on the ability to thrive in disruption.

Over two days, sessions on key issues including robotic process automation, IoT, cybersecurity quality culture, and voice of the customer shed light on emerging trends. One term—“digital”—was heard in practically every session.

Throughout the event, discussions centered on establishing a successful path toward Quality 4.0. Attendees at various stages of progress shared their perspectives on shaping an enterprise-wide strategy, celebrating quick wins, and communicating effectively to ensure their organizations’ initiatives were equally successful and sustainable.

For those who joined us at this year’s Summit, thank you for being a part of this growing event! If you were unable to attend, read on to learn about key trends and discoveries from the week in Dallas. We look forward to seeing you at our 2020 Summit and will have additional details in the coming weeks.


Dave Ryeson, Boston Consulting Group, and Elmer Corbin, ASQ, co-presented the Quality 4.0 Takes More Than Technology research report’s findings and perspectives on requirements for successful Quality 4.0 implementation to a packed room at the Summit. In this highly anticipated session, Ryeson and Corbin discussed the global online survey and deep-dive interviews with key manufacturing industry leaders and practitioners in the field of Quality 4.0. The survey evaluated the 200+ survey participants’ views on Quality 4.0 today and in the future to understand critical use cases, current and future impact, major challenges, and roles and skills needed to evolve. This report was created collaboratively by Boston Consulting Group, ASQ, and the German Association for Quality (DGQ).   


Attendees at the 2019 Quality 4.0 Summit had the unique opportunity to hear from leaders in innovation, technology, and transformation at three exceptional keynote addresses at the event.

Rick Smith, founder of Fast Radius, Inc., kicked off the conference. His presentation began with the story of Arie Kurniawan, a young Indonesian man who participated in an open innovation challenge. The challenge was to redesign a bracket that attaches an airplane’s jet engine to its wing. Despite having little manufacturing experience, Kurniawan’s design beat out over 1,000 other submissions, thanks to his use of a new design technique enabled by industrial 3D printing technology.  This story provided a background for a deeper dive into the changes in the quality community. Smith said Quality 4.0 would disrupt practically every industry, but would also create new jobs, roles, and opportunities for quality professionals.

The next morning, futurist and Pendio Group CEO Todd McLees continued the examination of challenges and opportunities related to digital disruption, the exponential rate of innovation, workforce of the future, and digital ecosystems. McLees offered insights into the rate of change in innovation, the challenges it presents, and the need for new levels of collaboration to re-skill, up-skill, and “new-skill” the workforce of the future. He also encouraged attendees to visit the website to better understand roles and positions susceptible to disruption.  His parting advice: Connect with stakeholders in your organization to build and work within ecosystems that will increasingly become a key competitive advantage.

The Summit’s closing keynote was provided by Elmer Corbin, former head of cloud and artificial intelligence solutions delivery for IBM Watson Health and 2018 ASQ Board of Directors Chair, who looked back on transformative moments in his education and career, and revealed the vital role quality played in fostering innovation in each phase. Corbin offered a compendium of lessons learned throughout the conference, urging attendees to prepare for the future by expanding their multipurpose soft skills and comprehensive digital roles. By developing digital enablers for Quality 4.0 implementation, Corbin noted, quality professionals can build an effective common data architecture foundation. He concluded his address by reminding the audience to celebrate the wins along the way and focus on proof of concept use cases that bring value and solve real pain points.


Quality Conversations offered attendees the chance to sit in on interviews with seven leaders from different industries and roles to ask them about their experiences with Quality 4.0. The participating quality leaders shared their insights on Quality 4.0, focusing on getting started, prioritizing data handling, and the need for good communication skills. They are summarized below.  

Getting Started With Quality 4.0

  • Start small, or with a pilot project to test an idea or a technology.
  • Begin with a quick win to demonstrate the value and possibilities to get buy-in.
  • Be adaptive and learn as you go.
  • Start now! Learn the capabilities of different options and how to think about them.

Big Data

  • Prioritize the data and getting a handle on it first−data needs cleaning before using.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) initiatives should come after knowing your data, the problems you’re solving, and your business objectives. When it comes to big data you need a plan; you must be prepared and malleable.
  • Comprehensive, real-time data and massive datasets can tell you things you weren’t expecting, and that may come with new opportunities, immediately actionable decisions, and risks. This can be disruptive, but it’s better to disrupt your own organization before your competitors disrupt you.

Communication Skills

  • All types of communication skills are imperative to successful Quality 4.0 implementations. Machines and systems need to be able to communicate with each other. Humans need to be able to communicate with the machines and the systems. Humans need to communicate about the machines and systems with other humans, particularly those in other departments and top management.
  • Quality professionals need to be able to navigate the various communication streams and effectively explain why Quality 4.0 matters to each stake holder and describe the role they play in the bigger picture, the bottom line, and strategic plans.
  • Change management is Critical


There were numerous engaging and innovative sessions available throughout the entire conference. Based on attendees feedback, three sessions stood out from the crowd.

Leading Through Change & Ambiguity: Overcoming Barriers With Better Management Strategy

Speaker: Matt Meuleners, FOCUS Training.

Significant change creates ambiguity that can lead to low morale, anxiety, and risk avoidance behaviors. Understanding the steps to change management increase the chances that your organizational change will be successful. This module focused on tactics learners can use to navigate through emotional and technical challenges that accompany significant change. Participants discussed with peers and develop a plan for engaging their own teams.

People and Process Skills for Industry 4.0

Speaker: Peter Merrill, Quest Management  

The World Economic Forum report, the ‘Future of Jobs’, Identifies 3 critical competencies, and 3 vital areas of knowledge. The vital competencies are Emotional Intelligence which supports Creativity, an imperative in the future, and Creativity, in turn, essential for Complex Problem Solving. Three vital areas of knowledge for a future career are, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning which merge one into another. In this session, attendees discussed the importance of these skills and knowledge areas in the workforce.

Motivational Drivers: Which Ones Exist on Your Teams?

Speaker: Matt Meuleners FOCUS Training

In this session, attendees explored motivation and what drives it from a biological, social, emotional, or cognitive perspective. Participants were introduced to the wide range of motivational drivers through an interactive demonstration called Money Jump, in which volunteers push themselves to reach progressively higher targets. They engaged in a “live case study” method to teach each of four sets of theories on motivation. In this approach, participants used a real-world situation from their own work or personal life as a sample to apply each framework and its best practices. 


A highlight of the Summit was “Quality 4.0 @ Work”, a collaboration session guided by table captains Puneet Dhillon, Kerri Clifton, and Pablo Romo, who are members of our Emerging Quality Leaders Program. Attendees gathered in focused tabletop groups to discuss the factors driving their company’s move toward a Quality 4.0 implementation, vital roles in the pursuit of Quality 4.0, barriers to execution, and identifying key stakeholders in the process. Some of the Discussion highlights were captured by the table captains:

Is your company spending more time or money on Quality 4.0 efforts today than in recent years? If so, what impact has this had on your role in the organization?

All participants agreed that there has been an increased spend on Quality 4.0 efforts, but the ways in which this has affected them−and their organization−differed.  

  • Quality 4.0 changed my job by making more important data more accessible, raising quality awareness within all functions in the company.
  • The introduction of new data measurement and telemetry into consumer products has made possible the making of better decisions faster.
  • After the collapse of oil prices in 2015, my company realized they had to automate. Production yields and profits needed to be improved. The quality department was cut, and engineers were brought in to meet the end user’s needs. A cloud-based application was Implemented to collect structured data. We are still looking into next steps.

What drives your company’s move toward a Quality 4.0 implementation?

Participants believed that their company’s driving force was that Quality 4.0 initiatives will lead to more efficient performance.

  • My company’s goal was to improve processes to improve margins.
  • We would like to use data more efficiently and to show clients the benefits of quality in helping growth. Data being collected varies in usefulness. I am at this Summit to collect ideas.
  • Formerly, many of our solutions were operated without an overarching data strategy. This resulted in isolated technologies. Now it is time to bring them together with Quality 4.0 to be more effective.

What role(s) within your company has been identified as vital to ensuring Quality 4.0 success?

The roles identified differed due to industry and organizational goals.  

  • We decided to bring in more data analysts and data scientists to make sense of data for better implementation. Quality Engineers will then make changes based on the data.
  • IT programmers, system validators, data scientists, data base gurus, and UI designers have been identified as vital roles. 
  • The biggest challenge is for management to get people within the organization on the same page. Operations leaders are needed to align and bring consistent QMS that can affect all divisions within an organization.

What prevents or slows your organization’s progress of Quality 4.0 implementation(s)?

Participants cited that many of the hindrances to progress were regarding buy−in, overall understanding of initiatives, and maintaining high levels of engagement across several departments. 

  • Internally, getting people involved and aware of changes. Assigning roles so they are a part of the implementation. These are both roadblocks I’ve faced.
  • Quality 4.0 is a new concept and not fully understood. It is critical to understand the depth that is needed to communicate the need, as well as the benefits of implementation.
  • Building confidence to work with a diverse group of backgrounds, and from companies with very different levels of Quality 4.0 deployment, is challenging. It was necessary to ensure the conversation remained relevant for all participants.



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