The discussion around the future of quality management is fast-paced. Michael Flunkert, Managing Director at Babtec, and Lutz Krämer, Head of Products, joined us to talk about new challenges and opportunities
Have things gone too far – is quality management turning into a burden?
Lutz Krämer: Of course, things aren’t always perfect. In some industries, putting quality into practice has led to quality management mainly serving to protect the company against third parties. The desire for security therefore often causes subsequent over-regulation. From the point of view of those concerned, traditional quality management does sometimes go too far.
Michael Flunkert: In addition, the fact that product worlds, manufacturing procedures and supply chains are changing disruptively and that the digitalization of factories has entered the mainstream is particularly challenging. Agility and digitalization appear to be at odds with the experiences made with quality management in the past. Some current changes in norms appear to confirm this impression from the point of view of those involved.
Will digitalization change quality management as we know it today?
Michael Flunkert: One thing is certain: Tasks that can be digitalized will be digitalized. Creating data at their source and combining them in real time allows a new control quality. The old silo mentality does not provide solutions – this includes or rather particularly applies to quality management.
Lutz Krämer: The requirements for future quality management systems need to be designed so that we can use digital possibilities and the associated dynamics to avoid remaining in a traditional quality mentality that seeks security. Besides dealing with digital systems, this requires the human ability to coordinate and make decisions.
Michael Flunkert: That’s right, quality is more than the sum of all available digital data and quality demands more than a pronounced understanding of norms. In order to be effective, quality must always be considered within the context of business activities. This includes the network of company relationships to customers and suppliers. Thinking and acting across department and company boundaries is an elemental requirement of quality management. In the end, this will lead to the acceptance of quality management within and outside your own organization.
There are rumors that CAQ is dead. Cross your heart: is that true?
Lutz Krämer: But that’s not the point. The point is rather how we can best implement a commitment to quality. Predictive, sustainable quality is fundamental for a company’s success. Software can support us. So we are looking at software requirements to achieve the best possible quality. These requirements include integrating all quality tasks into one software solution, best connectivity to existing software systems such as ERP or CRM, and successful cooperation – or collaboration – with business partners in the supply chain.
Michael Flunkert: This new awareness for quality means that a discussion on definitions around CAQ does not exactly lead the way; the content is more decisive. This is the only way to recognize whether a system can meet the requirements of the future. In these times of digitalization, we need a digital building stone for quality management and that’s what we are focusing on. We call this the Element Q.
And what does this Element Q do?
Lutz Krämer: For us, the digital Element Q is a market requirement and as such our benchmark for realizing software. The three dimensions of the element, namely integration, connectivity and collaboration, emphasize that quality is not a task for individuals. It is created through teamwork and naturally considers requirements from a normative point of view. Quality is created when all parties involved put it into practice.
Michael Flunkert: By doing so, we contribute to finding suitable answers for many questions on the future of quality management together. Until now, standards may have been met with too much attention to the aspect of formal safeguarding. If we focus on not being vulnerable, we are limited and artificially capped. Questions on how to improve or take trail-blazing steps would then just get ignored. And that would directly influence internal and external cooperations and the resulting work results.
Lutz Krämer: It is important to further develop and strengthen connected cooperation and networking. The strong position within the supply chain that results from cooperative partnerships may then be the decisive competitive advantage for a company in dynamically changing markets.
Michael Flunkert: Quality never dies. It is now more alive than ever and has always been one of the German mid-sized sector’s strong points. In the context of agility, the possibilities of digitalization and cooperative partnerships within the supply chain, quality is more important than ever. Meaning there is only one question we all must ask ourselves: Am I committed to quality or am I just assigning it to an IT system?
Many thanks for talking to us!
The post was first published in 2019 and updated in 2020.