“If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” Really? If you only want to maintain the status quo, you might get away with letting sleeping dogs lie. But no one really wants to get hauled off by the dog catcher during a pleasant nap. Unfortunately, it’s happening every day to manufacturers who don’t take quality management seriously.
Quality management is about continuous improvement and product safety. And each time we optimize, we strengthen our preventive measures for avoiding unwanted surprises and disruptions in our operations.
For manufacturers, those surprises don’t just lie behind Door #1, or Door #2. Those surprises can come from regulatory bodies in the way of standards like ISO, cGMP, HACCP, or Lean and Six Sigma Objectives. Equally, if not more frightening, is what lies behind the Consumer Door.
Since consumer activist agencies and public awareness at large—fueled, for example, in the case of recent toy recalls involving lead and cadmium controversies, by clear test results and common sense—tend to be a few steps ahead of legislators and regulatory bodies on public safety concerns, it is imperative manufacturers stay a few steps ahead of the game. This can be achieved with a comprehensive Quality Management System (QMS). By enabling quality management throughout the lifecycle and detecting defects early in the process, companies benefit from improved credibility, and – bonus! – reduced costs.
Sure, a QMS doesn’t ensure perfection. The laws of probability and the inevitabilities of human behavior still come into play. However, implementation of an enterprise-wide QMS (engaging the entire supply chain) does allow the flexibility to identify, contain, and adapt to foreseeable and unforeseeable issues. Proactive, responsible companies that engage a comprehensive process review program and performance tracking system as components of their overall QMS, will be prepared to ensure smooth responses to potentially devastating scenarios.
Consider the cadmium situation: In January of this year, an Associated Press (AP) investigation revealed a number of children’s trinkets and jewelry promoting a Disney’s children’s franchise and sold exclusively at the world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart, contained significant amounts of the highly toxic heavy metal cadmium. A known carcinogen, cadmium can inhibit brain development in young children. Subsequently, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) took only a few weeks to confirm the results of the AP investigation before issuing a recall. However, though, though the CPSC has acted quickly by issuing recalls on a handful of products known to contain cadmium, the organization has indicated it is by no means finished, and that more recalls may be coming down the pipeline.
Regulatory agencies are working continuously to protect the consumer, and consumers have long memories that continuously question the quality of the products they buy. Therefore, being a proactive manufacturer calls for continuously going above and beyond the call of duty. By establishing a QMS built on internal standards that exceed federal regulatory requirements and make sense in terms of consumer health and safety, manufacturers can keep the dog catchers at bay and save millions of dollars in the long term.