Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Realtrac's take on QUALITY

Let me set the scene for you. It's a beautiful Summer day here in Livonia, Michigan, home of the Realtrac development team. Nearing lunchtime, a group of developers get together and decide to go to Qdoba to grab some burritos and talk about our super awesome product. As the developers sit down and eat, one of shares some truly unfortunate bit of news: Their luscious, delicious burrito is filled with pork, not the chicken they ordered.

If you've had a Qdoba burrito, you know how this mistake can set your world spinning out of control (pork is delicious and all, but when you’re expecting chicken, it’s a rude surprise). Does the developer get up and rectify this situation directly? Nah. You see, we've been working so hard on understanding quality processes, this simple pork for chicken mistake sparks a new challenge for the development team: Design a quality process that would make sure no customer ever again gets a pork burrito when they order chicken.

There's a tongue in cheek delivery to the above story, but it is a legitimate one. Once upon a time, the Realtrac development team had no knowledge of manufacturing and production processes. Thankfully we're lucky enough to literally have our development offices attached to a plant floor. So any time we want to learn about something, it's simply a matter of walking out our door and walking over to an expert in whatever field we're studying and trying to implement in our ERP software.

In addition to this amazing resource right outside our door, we’re lucky enough to communicate regularly with our customers. Most of the very successful organizations we’ve talked with believe that quality is something everyone in the organization contributes to. From engineering to purchasing to shop floor production to shipping, every step in the process is completed with an eye on producing a high quality product. They understand that while quality is a process, it is also an ideology. In our interactions with successful organizations, everyone - from the person working a machine on the floor, to the program manager working with customers, to the engineers designing the parts, realizes that quality is something that goes in to every step of the processes they are responsible for.

As I write this, we have shipped our 10.7 Client release, the biggest update in the history of Realtrac, a mere few hours previous. But grass does not grow under our feet. Our next major release will feature improved Quality features. While we’re still working on the details, we have identified our 2 main objectives:

  • ·       Provide a system that guides users to make decisions with quality in mind (a fancy way of saying that we try to build systems that enforce processes that will ensure a high quality product is produced).
  • ·       Allow the user to capture quality data, report on it and help them make conclusions based on that data.

For the past year, we've been talking with our customers, multiple ISO/AS/TS trainers and auditors and even reading good old fashioned books on quality to prepare for our development. In this time period we've tested ideas, scrapping some and improving the others. The cornerstone that Realtrac is built on is ease of use; any features we introduce must be easy to understand and use. The good news is that it's not too late. We're still planning, designing and improving our systems. Please don't hesitate to let your Realtrac account representatives know what systems you need in place in your organization. What systems can we build to help guarantee the quality of your parts? What quality data do you need to easily, reliably need to capture to ensure the quality of your parts?

Alas, we still haven’t solved the problem of how to make sure no one ever gets a mistaken pork burrito, but maybe with enough input from our customers, we can come up with the solution together!

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