Building a Culture of Quality, Blog Post
As the age-old saying goes, “You can’t inspect in quality,” meaning you don’t inspect in quality but have to build it in to your products. For more than 66 years, WCCO Belting has been doing just that. In my role as Quality Control Engineer, I’m responsible for the continuous improvement of our quality program and am proud to celebrate World Quality Day and our accomplishments this year, in spite of the challenges that have been presented.
Building a culture of quality does not happen overnight. It cannot be done in one day. On the other hand, everyone knows the quality of a product defines your brand to your audience. One bad experience can ruin a relationship, while a positive experience will bring customers back and refer new ones. Building off that simple fact is what has helped WCCO Belting establish a true culture of quality.
Devising a strong sense of quality starts with developing good connections. The Quality Department may be less than 5% of your workforce, but they can make a huge impact on the success of your business. If company leadership acknowledges the importance of quality from the top down and provides the department with the necessary resources, the change driven from the ground up will be more effective.
Often, the perception of quality departments, regardless of industry, is they are the “bad guys” coming to reject a person’s hard work. The WCCO Belting Quality Department has challenged this belief by discussing how we could make a positive impact, starting at square one, with our machine operators. We’ve increased their willingness to work together and have been continuing to develop their sense of “why” behind quality and its importance to the attention to detail WCCO’s products are known for.
Through a simple strategy in our first impression management, WCCO’s Quality Department has changed opinions about the support we can offer our production workforce. And it all starts with the first phone call. When someone calls the quality office, our team members make sure to smile first before answering the phone. When you answer with a smile, the other person can hear it. It instantly changed the way people felt about working with us.
The second big ticket item our Quality Department wanted to tackle was education. We take advantage of every opportunity we’re given to explain to operators the function of the product they are manufacturing and why certain dimensions are critical. We do our best to describe our decision-making process when working through a nonconformance, and review with them how the issue might affect the customer in the field. Sharing pictures and videos of the machine where their belt will be installed brings the product full circle.
We continue to build a culture of quality by sharing information through our Quality Monthly Metrics Report (QMMR). It’s sent company-wide, including to WCCO’s Board of Directors, and its available for anyone to read outside the Quality Office all month long. With such a diverse range of viewers, it was important to me to make sure the information could be understood by all. The report is filled with graphs, data, and pictures, but also includes written explanations of the data and trends. We received immediate positive feedback. Although it takes a considerable amount of time to put together, when you can teach what you are looking at, it helps others better understand. It’s been a beneficial change for all parties. Our Quality Department has fielded more questions and taught more through the sharing of reports, and the accessibility and readability have made them less daunting to those who may not be as technical.
The last few pages of the QMMR include pictures of our rubber products in the field. We do this not only as a demonstration of great product quality but they also serve as recognition for a job well done. In addition, we have started highlighting big accomplishments of new prototype belts on equipment in field testing, or pictures of our products on equipment from field visits or trade shows.
Through this education and first impression management, we have continued to build focus on “the why” quality is so important to WCCO Belting and our customers. This has brought the feeling and culture of quality to a whole new level.
Everyone wants a purpose; to understand why their job is important. Our Quality Department’s ability to drive more meaning to that purpose has changed the way everyone approaches their work, growing our culture of quality.