Quality Lifecycle Management: 4 Steps to Success

You’ve secured buy-in that a Quality Lifecycle Management (QLM) process will help you strike the optimal balance between product reliability and design for lower costs over the product lifecycle. But to ensure successful QLM, you need to do more than simply deploy new software. You need to plan a strategy, define roles, provide the right tools, and train your personnel.

Design a QLM Plan. My previous post, Quality Lifecycle Management: Striking a Balance between Product Reliability and Over-Design, outlined the five steps that make up a standardized QLM process. Since QLM spans a product’s lifecycle, the process must be planned carefully and deliberately and should include:

  • Documenting the goals of the QLM process. These need to be clearly defined so that the QLM process satisfies your objectives.
  • Assigning metrics to measure value and improvement at each stage. Choose metrics associated with the product and the goals of QLM. For example, a repairable consumer appliance company may track availability and warranty costs.
  • Defining the specific steps that will be performed. Create a process flow chart that breaks each process step out into the list of actions that should be taken.

Define Roles. An expert reliability engineer or quality engineer should lead the entire QLM process, giving guidance on which tools to use at which point, and integrating all analyses to ensure a smooth process. At the same time, the entire product staff should participate in the process and can do so effectively once they understand the goals of it and their roles in meeting the goals, such as:

  • Field service and return department reps should contribute to the functional Failure Modes & Effect Analysis early in the next design cycle to offer insights on failure modes from the previous generations.
  • Systems Engineering can write design verification plans to test that engineering changes do indeed lower risks.
  • The marketing department can provide customer reliability requirements for new products based on market research.

Implement the Right Tools. Though it’s critical to address people and process-related issues first, companies do need to make sure their software has the right capabilities and can be integrated with other tools for a successful QLM initiative.

An enterprise QLM software tool is the catalyst for sharing data, setting the groundwork for all people involved at all stages of the product lifecycle to continuously improve quality. For example, it could share data with a PLM tool that houses the product configurations, making it possible to take into consideration how configuration changes impact reliability. Plus, this enterprise QLM tool allows information to be tracked and analyses to be conducted in one place so that reliability can be easily tracked and compared throughout a product’s lifecycle.

By connecting the right QLM tools and with the right processes, organizations can feed results from various analyses into an overall lifecycle cost calculation. This allows the company to analyze various product designs or maintenance plan scenarios to determine quality and cost impacts, and thus make the best decisions.

Conduct Role-based Training. It is critical to conduct training so that employees will adopt QLM and correctly perform the process. Role-based training allows each person to understand his or her assigned tasks and how they fit into the overall QLM strategy. When people understand how their contribution impacts the overall goals, they tend to put effort into performing valuable analyses instead of viewing their assignments simply as check-the-box tasks.

How to Succeed with QLM. QLM is more than a process – it requires a change of thinking and interacting across disciplines. And the benefits of doing so are clear – better collaboration and information sharing that improves product lifecycle management. All it takes to reap these benefits is setting the stage for success.

By strategically creating a QLM plan, defining roles, integrating the tools for data sharing, and offering role-based training, companies can perform the in-depth and ongoing analyses that minimize product lifecycle costs. Just as important, they can achieve the level of product reliability they’re after.

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