Integrated Quality Systems

Quality is about profit.  It goes beyond just having a facility output that meets specifications – it is how to meet those specifications at the lowest possible cost.  This has been quality’s purpose for roughly 100 years.  It is based on the simple truth that if everyone involved in an organization does what they are supposed to do, and the organization pays attention and streamlines what employees are supposed to do, it maximizes efficiency and minimizes cost.  Lowering cost by doing things right is the easiest way to generate profit and retain your workforce.

When To Develop An Integrated Quality System

Start at the very beginning – when you are building, upgrading, or maintaining your facility.  All owners should consider a system where they centrally store and manage technical specifications for operations and all types of projects, including maintenance, turnarounds, and capital expansion.  In addition to specifications, the owner’s project management organization should maintain the standard plans and procedures expected to be implemented on relevant projects.

Integrated Quality System Benefits

Operations, turnarounds, and projects all benefit from an integrated quality system where:

  • Quality moves towards a proactive QA focus through audits, supplier qualification, and training.
  • Risk assessment is used to guide the focus of the quality department and ensure it remains on higher-risk activities.
  • Knowledge management captures information from quality activities such as audits, observations, and nonconformances, and either stores it in a database for future reference or forwards it for incorporation into a program, procedure, or training module.
  • Continual improvement works with process owners to upgrade programs, procedures, and training modules with identified new knowledge and ensure that the teams using the procedures are trained in the upgrades.

The result is up to date plans, programs, procedures, and technical specifications that are constantly improved based on project and operating experience.  The quality team leads the overall effort by ensuring they are implemented and being followed as well as providing real-time information so they can be improved when necessary.

Integrated Quality System Development

Owner companies that already have quality, risk, knowledge management, and continual improvement functions in the project teams need to ensure that they are working as a team (instead of in silos) with the other disciplines.  If only some of the functions are engaged in operations and project teams, a creative way to assign the roles on each team is needed.  In cases where owners have no representation of these disciplines on their project teams, we strongly recommend that they be installed.

No initiative can operate without a clear structure.  Quality is the leader for managing the integrated quality system.  A key to success is that quality must work as a matrix, with day to day work organized by the operations and various project teams they are responsible to support.  Quality activities and reports are specific for each team.  The quality team should report to the person having responsibility for all operating or project activity to ensure the individual they report to has a clear understanding of the issues.

The success of the integrated quality system is measured using LCoQ.  The first benefit to be realized will be the four silos working as a team.  Then technical specifications, programs, plans, and procedures will begin to be improved and people will start to talk about how to achieve quality.  As the program gains traction and QA begins to pay off, all participating groups will begin to see the benefits of quality management systems.  In projects and operations, LCoQ will reduce.  An anticipated side benefit is that safety statistics can also be expected to improve through improved work planning and having safe work practices embedded in work procedures.

  1. What is project quality?
    There are several definitions for quality, but they all circle around an output’s ability to meet relevant stated or implied needs and requirements.  However, there is general agreement that it is not a measure of ‘luxury’, ‘goodness’, or ‘fit for purpose’.   Toyota and Lexus both have excellent quality in that they are well designed and built to the design, but Lexus has more ‘luxury’ than Toyota.
  2. What is an example integrated quality system development framework?
    A good framework for integrated quality system development is ISO 9001.  It requires a quality program, a risk-based approach, and continual improvement.  The knowledge management component is not required, but a systems approach is necessary and this leads to managing the quality/risk knowledge for continual improvement purposes.
  3. Not all knowledge gained belongs in a procedure, so where does the ‘good to know’ stuff go?
    The knowledge management team will determine if knowledge is ‘active’ or ‘passive’.  Active knowledge needs to be shared and embedded in specifications, procedures, or similar documents.  Passive knowledge is good to retain in case a similar situation comes up but doesn’t belong in a procedure; this is stored in a database that can be queried by project and operating personnel.  Oftentimes a quick database query can save days of work.
  4. We have quality, risk, knowledge management, and continual improvement all working as silos – how can you get them to work together?
    An integrated quality system example is to have the silos work together to develop a plan and series of procedures that describe how they can achieve integration.  Then they must implement them – and a high level of communication is needed throughout the implementation.  It is best to maintain the high communication levels as projects come and go so that everyone is familiar with the protocols.
  5. Why does this save money when it looks like it will have as many or more staff than the original silo structure?
    The savings come from reducing the costs associated with poor quality – and these will likely have ROIs that are among the largest the organization will ever see.  The target is saving millions, and in some cases, billions, through a relatively small investment.  On smaller projects, it is likely that many of these roles will be filled by members of the quality team that are already part of the project.
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