The world is full of regular reminders that risk is hiding everywhere and that failure to follow quality principles can produce errors that aggregate into disasters. From vaccine production errors to technology failures during a season of dangerous forest fires, quality management is frequently a factor that determines whether first responders can help people in need using reliable, resilient equipment and resources.
When we think about the cost of poor quality (COPQ), we usually think about things like rework, brand damage, lost sales opportunities or lost customer loyalty. Sometimes, however, the cost is much more severe. In some cases, a grieving family is left to mourn the loss of a loved one, while the team they worked with deals not only with their own grief but with the loss of critical expertise and experience. Very often, the equipment the team relies on is taken out of service for rework and repair because of a simple nonconformance during production.
Quality is about more than checking boxes and maintaining certification with ISO 9001:2015. It’s about creating a center of operational excellence that meets customer requirements and contributes to stronger local and global communities. When people’s lives depend on your quality management program, you become part of a system that extends beyond your organization or your supply chain, and your responsibilities to society become that much greater. Nonconformances that seem minor or isolated can aggregate into catastrophes that cost lives and deplete critical resources.
Events like this should force us to stop and examine our approaches to quality. Are we doing everything we can to ensure precision with our production facilities? Do we design quality into our products instead of fixing them afterwards? Are we normalizing deviation and lowering standards because they seem good enough and nothing catastrophic has happened so far? Do we ensure continuous improvement of our QMS, or do we only think about it when we have audits and certifications?
The answers to these questions might tell you something about your culture of quality and commitment to excellence. As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, complex and dynamic, quality must adapt to help build organizations that are more resilient, more innovative and more aware of their responsibilities to the global community they serve.