What Does A PDCA Cycle Entail and Why Is It Part Of QM?

Do you have a go-to plan to solve problems at work? Let’s look at the PDCA cycle, a no-frill approach to identifying problems, fixing them and monitoring your results.

Add the PDCA cycle to your business intelligence tool belt to seamlessly manage your different business processes and achieve continuous improvement.

What Does PDCA Stand For?

PDCA either stands for Plan Do Check Act or Plan Do Check Adjust. This cycle is ideal for organizations that implement ISO 9001 standards or rely on the Total Quality Management approach.

What Do the Four Steps of The PDCA Cycle Entail?

  1. Plan

Start by answering these three questions:

  • What is the issue?
  • What data is relevant to collect to document the issue?
  • What is causing the issue?
  1.  Do

The second phase of the PDCA cycle consists of developing a solution for the problem identified during the first step. Ideally, you should develop a step-by-step plan to implement your solution and set some precise goals so you can determine whether your solution worked.

  1. Check

Did your solution work as expected? Typically, organizations compare data collected before and after implementing the solution to measure its efficiency. You should also use data to determine if the solution met (and ideally exceed) the goals set during the second phase.

  1. Act or Adjust

There are two courses of action you can take depending on the outcome of the third phase:

  • If the solution didn’t work as expected, go back to the first step. You will have more data available to develop a plan of action this time.
  • If the solution was a success, develop and implement a new set of best practices. Consider going back through the PDCA cycle again to optimize your solution and make sure you can get consistent results.

Why Is PDCA A Part Of QM?

Adopting PDCA means you will have a clearly-defined course of action whenever a quality issue arises. Here is why the PDCA is particularly adapted to address quality issues:

  • It’s a simple 4-step plan. There is no need for an overly complicated system that would slow things down.
  • Everyone knows what their role is thanks to the clearly-defined steps.
  • The PDCA cycle is result-oriented so you can find a solution quickly, reduce costs and prevent more quality issues.
  • This approach is a cycle, which means it allows you to continuously improve the quality of your products and services while drawing on data collected each time you implement a new solution.
  • This simple system makes you more reactive whenever you need to implement new industry standards or whenever you roll out a new product.

The PDCA cycle is a model that you can use to develop your Quality Management process itself. The cycle approach allows you to get a picture of your QM process in relation to your other processes. It also gives you the possibility to use data to continuously improve how you monitor quality and how you fix problems.

The PDCA cycle is a comprehensive four step plan that breaks things down into more manageable tasks. This approach allows you to stay on track, get results and learn from your mistakes. Consider replacing an outdated or overly-complicated system with this cycle or think about adopting the PDCA cycle if you currently don’t have a clearly-defined course of action to address issues.

How Companies Can Get Ahead By Utilizing QM Software

The benefits of relying on QM software include reducing waste and costs, developing more efficient processes and setting a general direction for an entire organization. Companies can also easily implement new standards.

These are the obvious benefits – but there are other ways in which QM software helps companies get ahead.

Traceability in Case of Audit

Going through an external audit means your organization will have to make relevant data available. The data collected by your QM software will speed up the auditing process and making this data available shows you are cooperating with the auditing agency.

Using a QM solution provides additional benefits if the auditor finds a problem:

  • Develop and implement a solution before the deadline set by the auditing agency.
  • Show that you are taking a pro-active attitude towards fixing the problem.
  • Prove that you have taken the necessary steps to address the issue if a follow-up audit takes place.

Catching Eventual Quality Issues Before the Fact

Defective products can endanger your customers. At the very least, distributing a faulty product will damage your brand reputation. It can also lead to costs linked to legal problems, recalls and repairs.

Relying on QM software makes you more reactive. You will be able to take action before a quality issue costs you money and can quickly roll out a solution and automate specific actions to implement your new quality plan.

Reducing Reworks, Scraps, Recalls, And Associated Costs

What are the top causes behind reworks and scraps in your manufacturing process? One of the purposes of QM software is to gather data so you can precisely answer this question and take steps to address the problem.

Here is how QM software helps reduce costs associated with reworks and waste:

  • Red flags go up whenever there is a change of pattern detected with the testing process.
  • Catching problems early means you can address it before it spreads to an entire batch of products.
  • Gathering data on faulty products allows you to improve your processes on the long-term.
  • Determine where the issue is coming from so you can address it without causing any downtime.
  • Follow industry standards or internal best practices to address problems in a compliant manner.

Ability to Identify Issues That Need to Be Reported Back to Design

Some quality issues are more serious than others. QM software can recognize these quality issues and let you know when a product should go back to the drawing board.

Distributing a product with a design flaw can put customers’ safety at risk and have disastrous consequences for your brand image. Because redesigning a product takes time, it is crucial to have a reactive solution you can rely on to detect these major quality problems.

You can automate different responses from your QM system. If a design flaw is detected, your QM software can alert key individuals. Your QM solution can also automatically schedule a check for a machine if testing indicates a potential problem with this part of the assembly line.

Quality Management Software allows you to take full control of your quality process while using less manpower, fewer hours and getting better results. These tools make you more reactive and allow you to address issues before they affect customers. The best part is that you can use data to gradually improve your processes and run into fewer quality issues on the long-term.

The 4 Main Components of Quality Management Explained

What makes a good quality management system? Ideally, a quality management solution should have some basic qualities such as simplicity, efficiency, and flexibility. Here are four building blocks for a strong basis, but your QM system should also meet the unique needs and challenges of your industry.

Establish A General Direction

Link your QM system to the mission and values of your organization. Create an action plan that reflects these values through monthly, weekly and daily tasks to ensure that different processes and teams meet quality goals.

Define what your quality goals are, set some deadlines if you are rolling out a new strategy and plan on reviewing your general direction on a regular basis.

Quality should be a priority and should be part of your company culture. This means you might have some work to do to get management involved and to get every employee to see quality as one of their responsibilities.

Identify Relevant Quality Control Strategies

You need to establish a set of practices to test products and make sure your organization meets quality goals.

Here are a few common ways to make sure products and services meet quality standards:

  • Develop a set of relevant tests and determine how often employees will perform tests.
  • Schedule internal quality audits.
  • Provide additional training to employees.
  • Delegate tasks so everyone has a clear role.
  • Gather data on products returned for quality issues.
  • Set some objectives for supervising the assembly line.
  • Develop a company culture that encourages employees to feel personally responsible for quality at their workstation.

Let Everyone Know About Your QM System

Quality assurance is one of the elements that allow you to develop a positive image for your brand. Customers and shareholders want to know that quality matters to you and which actions you are taking to implement quality standards.

Make your ongoing QM effort a part of the story and values you share with your customers via different marketing campaigns. Talking about your testing process in more details would make sense for a B2B company.

Shareholders and partners will need more information. Document the entire QM process for transparency purposes and talk about how you resolved known issues.

Aim For Continuous Improvement

There is always room for improvement. This applies to your products and services as well as to your different processes.

Improve your QM system by looking at past solutions. Assess how much each quality problem cost your organization to get an idea of how efficient your QM system is.

Gathering data about the quality issues you run into will help you continuously improve your finished products. Schedule regular reviews of your findings and focus on addressing the root cause behind detected quality problems – whether you need to rethink the design of a product, find a new supplier for your materials or make a few adjustments to the assembly line.

You also need a dedicated quality team behind your QM system. The right QM software is another valuable building block for your QM system since it will allow you to implement your plan, gather data and help you make the right decisions for continuous improvement while improving communication.

How Does QM Hardware Differ from QM Software?

Generally speaking, software refers to code while hardware refers to physical equipment. The programs you run on your computer and the apps downloaded to your phone fall in the software category. On the other hand, your Smartphone, computer and Wi-Fi router belong to the hardware category.

The same distinction exists in the world of quality management tools. Quality Management Software allows companies to gather data and to streamline the decision-making process when an issue arises. Quality Management Hardware allows manufacturers to perform physical tests on products and on the assembly line.

What Do Businesses Use QM Software For?

QM software helps businesses implement a quality management system. Features typically include:

  • Gathering data from different processes to get a clear picture.
  • Integration with other systems (such as ERP solutions).
  • Automatically schedule tasks, reminders, and training linked to quality control.
  • Analyzes data to detect trends and issues with quality.
  • Turns QM into a seamless process and allows businesses to achieve continuous improvement.
  • Improves collaboration and communication, especially for companies that manage assembly lines remotely.

What Are the Uses of QM Hardware?

QM hardware mostly encompasses testing equipment. This field is rapidly evolving thanks to the Internet of Things. It is now possible to have connected objects on the plant floor. These smart objects can send data to a cloud-based system and receive instructions.

This is a game-changer for Quality Management. A smart machine can share data about each product in real time. Some businesses are also using portable data collectors to have employees perform checks at different steps of the assembly line.

Smart tools are another noteworthy innovation. ASI DATAMYTE has developed a digital wrench that accurately takes torque measurement and makes this data available in an accessible format.

What Is Industry 4.0?

Industry 4.0 is the missing piece of the puzzle. This approach blurs the lines between QM software and QM hardware by developing integrated solutions for the smart factory of tomorrow.

Industry 4.0 tools allow businesses to collect data on their plant floor thanks to the Internet of Things. An advanced QM software solution can then analyze data from smart machines, connected tools, and portable data collectors.

Combining cloud computing and cognitive computing means that a QM system could make simple decisions on its own based on the data collected on the plant floor.

This approach considerably reduces the need for manpower and makes organizations more reactive, even if a business manages a plant remotely. This type of QM system will become more common as more manufacturing plants upgrade to connected machines and tools.

QM software allows organizations to get a global picture of their quality system and to respond to issues quickly. QM hardware is typically one of the solutions used to monitor quality, mainly through the use of testing equipment. The role of QM hardware will probably change in the near future as the Internet of Things and cognitive computing offer a new way to monitor what is happening on the plant floor.