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World Quality Week 2021

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November 12, 2021

Happy World Quality Week! This annual campaign is run by the CQI (Chartered Quality Institute) to promote and celebrate the quality management profession. This year’s theme is focussed on quality's role in sustainability and its environmental, social and governance (ESG) impact.

To celebrate World Quality Week, we’ve put together some top tips on how to use quality management techniques to help increase the sustainability of your business.

1. Use Process approach audits to identify waste

Waste isn’t just what you throw in the bin! Waste can be wasted time, effort and money and can occur throughout businesses processes - when we follow the process back from the end result of waste, we often find waste in all kinds of unexpected areas.

Using the process approach to internal auditing can help to identify areas and types of waste which are happening and work out ways to minimise waste and improve performance. You can start an audit by literally opening a bin or looking at the quarantine shelf and following the trail backwards to find out how things got there, or you could start with a known problem such as a customer complaint or product failure. Using the process approach to look at the inputs and outputs of each step is a structured way of making sure you don’t miss anything.

A recent example from a client was a large amount of welding being carried out on a vehicle chassis – increasing time, electricity consumption and potential exposure to welding fumes, this turned out to be rework as the chassis had been designed and made 2” too short! Those missing 2” resulted in a lot of time and money being spent which could have been prevented by a better design review and sign off process at the beginning of the project.

Staying curious and thinking green can help identify waste at various points in a process.

2. Use remote working tools wisely

Remote working has so much potential! Not only can it reduce carbon footprint of travel to sites, it also allows access to a wider range of knowledge and collaboration through meeting people anywhere in the world rather than being restricted by geography and time zones. During the Covid 19 pandemic, remote working was a lifeline for a range of businesses who otherwise would have had to shut completely, we managed to move most auditing and client support on line by using Zooms and Teams. Auditing via Zoom is surprisingly effective, particularly for service based organisations as you can screen share to demonstrate operational processes.

However, there is of course another side to the coin and it is important to maintain quality. Zoom cannot, and never will replace standing on site in a busy workshop or yard watching somebody doing an activity, learning from them and working together to implement improvements. So, to make using remote working tools effective, choose the activity and scope carefully as it can never fully replace the face-to-face experience.

3. Evaluate your suppliers

  • ISO 9001:2015 reference – clause 8.4 Control of externally provided processes, products and services
  • UN Sustainable Development Goals – 8 Decent Work and Economic Growth, 12 Responsible Consumption and Production, 13 Climate Action

Our environmental impact and carbon emissions are not just a result of our direct activities, but in fact spread across the whole supply chain. It has become very apparent during the Covid 19 pandemic both how complex and critical supply chain management is. It is our responsibility as businesses to evaluate both our own activities as well our supplier’s activities to ensure they are making the correct steps to manage and reduce their environmental impact. A good starting point is to see how many of your critical suppliers have certification to ISO 14001 or whether they have calculated their carbon footprint, this works best if you have done these things already!

There is enormous potential to influence the environmental performance of supply chains as a whole as knowledge and expectations are cascaded down the chain.

4. Communication – but no greenwashing!

  • ISO 9001:2015 reference – clause 7.4 Communication
  • UN Sustainable Development Goals – 8 Decent Work and Economic Growth, 12 Responsible Consumption and Production, 13 Climate Action

It is becoming increasingly important to consumers for companies to have information on their websites, social media and packaging about sustainability and environmental management. Words such as sustainable, ethical, natural, organic, green, eco-friendly, carbon neutral are generally sprinkled liberally on marketing materials but it is often very difficult for a consumer to work out whether these claims are ‘true’.

Often this kind of marketing can fall into ‘greenwashing’ which intends to make products more appealing to consumers who care about the environment and are making buying decisions based on environmental impact. Greenwashing can be as simple as choosing green leaves and flowers to decorate the packaging to give the impression of nature, or as complex as announcing a product is carbon neutral but with no supporting evidence as to how that has been worked out.

If you are going to have information about the environmental performance of your business, it is important to be very clear and transparent about what you are doing, how you are working it out, where the supporting evidence is and whether the claim is ‘certified’ or not (i.e. has been independently verified by a recognised certification body).

We are in the process of re-writing and updating the ‘Thinking Green’ section of our website with more information about what we are measuring, how we are doing it and what actions we are taking to reduce / offset our environmental impact.

We hope you have found these top tips on how to use quality management techniques to help increase the sustainability of your business useful!

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