kwol-i-tee: 1. native excellence or superiority.
What We Do
  • Quality Systems - we train and provide auditing services for various quality systems like ISO, TL and Six Sigma, but we also like customized systems made just for you. And we understand that any system should help both your company and customers, not hinder them.
  • Cost Control - as a 3rd party, we often spot unusual or unnecessary activities which add more cost than benefit.
  • Customer Feedback - simple but often overlooked, we will talk to your customers so they feel unrestricted in telling us about their actual expectations and their actual experiences.
  • People - employees, executives, suppliers and even consultants, all have to be onboard with doing the very best job they can, and if for that is not adequate to support quality, we will help show you why.
How We Do It
Our efforts have helped companies obtain their ISO 9001 and TL9000 certification, and in more customized circumstances, provided some with more thorough testing that in one case, resulted in dropping chronic-return-rates from double-digits to low single digit rates. In other cases, we improved quality with accelerated cross training, improved turn-around time from 3 weeks to 4 days, and reduced written-off inventory by approximately 20%, etc. We have also acted as internal auditors, preparing employees with dress-rehearsal audits and advice for their final certification audit.

We assist our clients by talking about the pros and cons of various different quality systems and finding a proper match, and then how to proceed with the roll-out of the new system. This involves the revealing of existing techniques, so that the actual planning and authoring of procedures and policies can take place. An important factor in this process is to involve employees, letting them know why the new system is needed, how it helps everyone, and how it would used. Most well-designed quality systems do not radically change work flows if the quality was already good to begin with, which can ease this process.

Below we describe several major quality systems. AG Advice and Support will help you choose what system is best matched to your operations, and how to implement it. Six Sigma® and TQM are highly institutionalized quality systems that often require significant resources and inside-knowledge, so with these systems we will work with your existing talent to help review and contrast your systems with the best of other techniques, and see how to improve them.
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) tends to emphasize a procedural approach to quality systems. They are often used for existing systems as the companies that use ISO have been operating for years, but ISO quality systems can be adapted to new product development too. The actual processes and procedures used are often defined by existing best practices of a company or industry. Similar to many quality systems, ISO uses a Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) methodology, where after laying out and using a quality system, it is periodically checked for performance, and then modified if needed.

Sometimes improperly referred to as just "ISO 9000", the ISO body actually offers many different quality systems. Two very popular ones are
ISO 9001 Quality Management and ISO 14001 Environmental Management, each of which can be used by a broad range of industries. Based upon these and other non-ISO systems are other more industry-specific standards, for use in more specialized quality systems. Several of the major ones are shown below.
QuEST Forum TL9000
The TL9001 Telecom Quality Management System (QMS) was designed by major telecommunications providers for use in the communications industry. It is based largely upon the ISO 9001:2000 Quality Management system, but also includes components of the ISO/TS 16949 Automotive quality system, and the CMMI® Capability Maturity Model Integrated quality system, a process improvement model used either for large or small scope processes, and typically used for pre-production (new processes) or improvements to existing systems.

The overall TL9000 method is a two-part quality system, which combines both management system and measurement components. Overall, TL9000 is typically considered stronger in assessing existing, post-production systems, though this may be largely due to the significant, legacy networks used by telecom providers. It is increasingly being adapted though for original system design.
Six Sigma®
Six Sigma® was invented by Motorola. It considered many aspects of other quality systems like TQM and Zero Defects, but put a more scientific emphasis on carefully defined steps and measurements, so statistical data can be verified and acted upon. This data-driven approach then plays a significant role in reaching goals. There are two popular ways it is implemented:

Define, Measure, Analyze, Design, Verify (DMADV) - for new processes (aka Design For Six Sigma DFSS).
Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control (DMAIC) - for existing processes.
The name refers to the Greek letter "sigma" or "σ" which is a mathematics symbol used to denote standard deviation. As one moves 1 sigma, 2 sigmas, 3 sigmas, etc. away from the mean (center line) of an output process, they gradually reduce the number of unsatisfactory outputs (specification limits, often noted as upper and lower control limits). If a process can be designed to 6 sigmas, it will theoretically produce only 3.4 rejects out of 1,000,000 defects per million opportunities (DPMO's) over the long term. This is an extremely low number, and even if a Six Sigma process was not functioning to this standard, a company striving toward it would have a significant margin for safety. For example, if the system only operated at 5 sigma, that would still only result in 233 DPMO's, a respectable number for many types of businesses.

Many quality systems typically dedicate full-time personnel, and this includes Six Sigma. Those who continually design and implement Six Sigma are called Champions and Master Black Belts. Others, who work directly with them but who have other roles within their company include Black, Green and Yellow Belts.
Total Quality Management (TQM)
TQM is a long-standing quality system which uses carefully considered systems and processes designed by experts, but also emphasizes the roles of everyone within an organization, and how they are personally responsible for meeting common objectives. Often, every individual within the organization has the power -- and responsibility -- to effect change. This autonomy builds pride and naturally invites attention to detail, a key component to any decent quality system.
Concepts like kanbans (a staging area where items are delivered and, by their presence, trigger work to begin) and andons (which when activated will stop a production line) have helped decrease response times, improve empowerment and, ultimately, quality. Toyota's famous andon cord, which any worker can pull to stop the production line, does not set off red lights and sirens, but rather plays a song like "Happy Birthday" which helps ensure that while workers have done something eventful, they should not fear retaliation or fear for having done so.

Other offshoot or compatible concepts from TQM include
Lean Manufacturing (LM), which advocates eliminating anything that does not directly create value for the end-customer, and its adjunct, Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) where those who use equipment are the same ones who maintain it. A related concept to LM is Just-In-Time (JIT), where unnecessary inventory is considered wasteful, both in terms of material and time, and is reduced to only what's needed, when it's needed. There are risks and benefits to JIT -- some newer concerns over these techniques include the concept of "outsourcing JIT" where a company may now have to pay a premium to the suppliers of JIT materials, as they are ordered in multiple and more-costly small batches, or the waste of time and fuel required to make multiple deliveries rather than one larger one. Even so, JIT and Lean Manufacturing have greatly helped businesses reduce costs and improve margins.
Customized Quality Systems
Quality System Model
Last though hardly least, a customized quality system is a popular and often more-useful method of quality control for medium and small businesses. Most quality systems use some version of the PDCA model:

  • Plan - for new or improved systems.
  • Do - carry out the plans.
  • Check - for success and for unexpected results.
  • Act - correct undesired issues.

PDCA can then be applied as "CONWIP"...a constant work-in-progress, as one returns back through the planning stage and carries out the process over and over again. Though probably some version of PDCA has been understood and used in various societies for hundreds (perhaps thousands) of years, modern day industrialists like Henry Ford or 19th century scientific-manager Frederick Taylor have made careful studies of this methodology in recent times, and then adding significant research or improvements of their own. Quality pioneer Dr. (William) Edwards Deming is attributed to coining the PDCA acronym.

Quality Equation
Deming also created the following definition of quality:

Q = Results of Work Efforts
              Total Costs

He drew two conclusions from his equation:

1. Focusing on increasing quality (Q) will require that costs fall, which occurs because of continual, broad improvements.

2. Focusing on decreasing costs can, over time, actually increase costs because it removes the focus from quality to costs, which typically causes quality to decline as cuts are made. This reduces improvements across the board, which can later require catch-up or loss of market share. This requires an eventual increase in cost.

While cost must obviously be kept under control, they key to balancing cost and quality is to focus on quality first, and then find which costs can be removed. Lean manufacturing (or process) techniques can be used to help remove unnecessary costs while emphasizing quality.

Other methods used in various quality systems include the gathering and reporting of statistical data, and finding ways which that information can be presented to allow conclusions to be easily made. Some of these methods include:

  • Cause-and-effect - allows all factors that influence a problem to be chronologically shown.
  • Check sheet - records basic facts of a system.
  • Control chart - compares a processes' output "zero-line" to its upper and lower control limits.
  • Histogram - shows a statistical chart or arrangement of running data.
  • Pareto chart - breaks down the type and magnitude of various factors within a system.
  • Scatter diagram - plots system output data, often showing clusters or trends in the data.
  • Flow chart - logically arranges the steps of a process, assisting in error detection, efficiency, etc.
If you have not had a chance to see our Logic Primer™, this might be a good time to check out all of the various ways that statistic gathering and other techniques can be used to help with trouble-shooting and process review.

Of course, a key component of a quality system must involve all of the people involved. Curiously, though all quality systems are put in place to best meet a customer's needs for a product or service, and to get a company's employees to focus on quality, many quality systems do not directly or frequently engage these groups enough, particularly during planning or with measurement and feedback.

Some of the methods or people-roles that can assist with this are:

  • Facilitators - technical-quality leads who are directly involved with operations.
  • Quality Circles - group and personal roles are reconciled by those who own them.
  • Customer Feedback - obtain honest and timely feedback on how things are really working.
  • Supplier Certification - accredits and creates competition between suppliers.
  • Personal Recognition - helps motivation and reinforces excellent work practices.