We do something quite unique at Intelex. We service both the safety and the quality needs of many organizations. As such I get a window into two critical, but often separate parts of an organization. I’m lucky to have had hundreds of conversations with our clients on the value and challenges of their safety and quality programs and in those discussions I often hear some common themes.
Conversations like this:
“Hi Mrs. Safety Pro, do you know how your company currently manages your product defects and non-conformances?”
“No clue, I was put on this planet to drive down incidents and keep my employees safe”
Fair. Can’t blame her. Here is another one:
“Mr. Quality Pro, how is your company taking a proactive approach to driving down occupational injuries in the work place?”
“To be honest, I have no idea, we simply cannot afford to have a recall on a product. That’s why they brought me on…”
If you haven’t personally experienced a conversation like this, I can assure you that after only two years of working for an environmental, health, safety and quality software vendor, they occur every day. This disconnect between EHS & Quality sparked a thought that has been churning through my brain over the last few months: Could organizations that focus on a safety first culture for their employee’s – ultimately produce a higher quality product?
The relationship between Safety and Quality management
Think for a minute about someone you worked for that you really respected… or at least humor me and try. For that person, would you debate taking on an extra hour of work to help them complete a project or task? Or imagine a situation where a colleague that you admire for the way they respect and treat their co-workers, asking you to help out. Would you hesitate or would you jump on the opportunity to contribute?
Those people are critical to helping build a positive and collaborative culture in any workplace. But culture isn’t shaped exclusively by them, companies themselves play a big part in sharing workplace culture. What if your company implemented a world-class safety management system to ensure that YOU stay safe at work? In many respects this can be a great way for companies to build that concept of helping from the top down. When effective, these programs can help build a culture of caring and ultimately contribute to your organization’s goodwill in a way that extends to daily tasks such as helping ensure you’re giving that extra bit of effort that will lead to an inspection being thoroughly completed, or extra effort is placed in guaranteeing corrective and preventative actions are implemented.
Sure, in fantasy-land it’s a wonderful concept to imagine a world where employee safety is having a direct impact on quality of product an organization is producing. But is anyone doing it? Are there companies out there who have adopted this concept? It was months before I found the first example that inspired me to finally write about this idea.
Sitting at the lunch table with some colleagues a couple days ago I posed the question: Does anyone think there could be a connection between how safe employees feel at work and the quality of products that the organization produces? My co-worker had the answer for me from earlier that morning. He sent me the link to a company called Hearthside Food Solutions. There it was, right from the company website, the quote I had been looking for: “world class manufacturing begins with workplace safety. It is not possible to produce quality products in an unsafe environment.” They go on to say, “safety performance translates into higher quality products, sustainable practices, improved inefficiencies and superior brand protection.” Perfect, it exists, harmony among EHS and Quality. An organization that realizes the value of bringing both functions together is already setting themselves apart from the competition. But this concept doesn’t come to fruition for any size organization – small, medium, or enterprise – overnight, we know that. Building a culture within your organization is a hefty task, unfortunately there’s no secret formula. But, I have an idea of where successful companies get started – and the answer is data.
The National Safety Council suggests that an effective safety management system reduces the risk of workplace incidents, injuries and fatalities through data-driven measurements and improvements – no brainer right? How about every dollar spent on improving your quality management program returns $6 dollars in in revenue, $16 in cost reduction and $3 in profit. Great, so two, three, maybe even four different processes or systems will get us a return? Wrong, the elite organizations of the world strive to manage it all in one integrated system, your entire EHSQ process on one single platform, which:
- Enables employees to capture leading indicators that will help mitigate recordable incidents through a mobile device.
- Give your auditors checklists on their phones or tablets to complete inspections and assign follow up actions.
- Make it as simple and as easy as possible for quality managers to submit a non-conformance or investigate a product defect BEFORE it reaches the consumer.
- Receive an automated notification that an environmental permit is expiring. And why not calculate your air emissions!
And if you’re going to be capturing all of this incredible data, why not capture it on ONE platform, ask your IT team, see what they think of the idea of software consolidation (hint, they love it)!
Close the loop on EHSQ
When it’s all said and done, effective organizations should be able to easily report on their data, push data driven decisions, give upper management the power to make informed decisions. It has to start somewhere. Achieving what Hearthside accomplished when bringing the two worlds of EHS & Quality together generated a world class culture, an excellent product and ultimately, a competitive advantage in their industry that they should be extremely proud of. The tools are out there to enable every organization to do the same. Do not wait for your competitor to come to this realization, work out their plan and beat you to the punch. Act now.
Looking for a good place to start? You can learn more on our website.