Quality is much like cleanliness - everyone is in favor of it but not everyone practices more than lip service. And you may define it very differently than the next person. When you consider that you can be sued not only for your own quality issues, but also any errors made by a partner on your behalf, it raises the need to assess your partners' quality programs.
While every company promotes their "outstanding quality assurance program", in such a highly regulated and litigious business environment, responsible organizations audit and assess their partners' quality programs. How can you ensure your partners meet your quality standards? How can you be certain they comply with every regulation, every time? A careful review of your partners' quality assurance methodology, processes and reports will enable you to assess and better manage your risk.
Reputable partners will be able to provide you with information about their quality methodology. While there are several effective methodologies, the best known is Six Sigma. Founded on the principles of Edward Deming, Six Sigma was created at Motorola and made famous by GE.
GE defines the methodology as, "Six Sigma is a highly disciplined process that helps us focus on developing and delivering near-perfect products and services. Why 'Sigma'? The word is a statistical term that measures how far a given process deviates from perfection. The central idea behind Six Sigma is that if you can measure how many 'defects' you have in a process, you can systematically figure out how to eliminate them and get as close to 'zero defects' as possible. To achieve Six Sigma Quality, a process must produce no more than 3.4 defects per million opportunities. An 'opportunity' is defined as a chance for nonconformance, or not meeting the required specifications. This means we need to be nearly flawless in executing our key processes."
In practical terms, this means that if an error occurs, its root cause is determined and processes are implemented to avoid that error in the future. Companies that implement Six Sigma keep detailed records of errors, their root causes and the procedures implemented. Six Sigma also requires organizations to assess potential errors and proactively take steps to prevent them. You should be able to review your partners' error log to better understand what types of defects occur and what steps your partner is taking to improve.
Companies committed to impactful quality programs generally have a dedicated executive leading their efforts. This executive should be trained and certified in the quality methodology being used. As part of your risk mitigation efforts, you should meet with this executive to audit and assess the quality program.
Quality is simply too important in our industry to only pay lip service. Organizations that are succeeding in this stringent business environment include quality among their core competencies to ensure you, and your business reputation, are protected.