Quality and the future of manufacturing

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One of the presidential candidates just brought up a point that I’ve thought many times.  Why are we not focusing on high-skilled manufacturing and OK with outsourcing the rest? We have the intellectual capital and other resources right here to make the stuff that requires the best technology and a workforce of skilled, passionate, quality oriented people.

That’s also what Paul Borawski is talking about in this month’s View from the Q post.  I’m pleased to discover the recent Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition agrees here. I think it’s about time we realize that highly automated and IT-driven manufacturing is the future.  It’s our future, and it’s the only direction advancing the country and strengthening our competitive advantage in a quickly adapting global marketplace.  It’s the quality industry that will drive our success here.

Because of the focus on quality during this event, Paul specifically asks the quality community “how well understood and embraced are the contributions of the quality professional beyond what is traditionally thought of as the quality function?”

Sadly, what I observe the most is that organizations use the word quality, but the specific actions aren’t translated as a result of the critical error that is failure to be consistent with the strategic plan.  Talking about quality and embracing quality throughout an organization are very different things, although I won’t argue that starting the conversation is a step in the right direction.  In this respect, I do think organizations continue to see quality as what we consider a more traditional function.  What I still see very often is quality vs. the rest of the organization.  I suppose that issue even crosses borders… think Foxconn.

While the present may be disappointing in this regard, the future is headed in the right direction.  If groups of interests representing various industries are meeting and talking about the importance of smart manufacturing and acknowledging quality’s role in the success of those efforts, then I feel a little better about the state of things.

How can we increase the value of quality now though?  I think the focus should be on small business.  Larger enterprises are already on the right track.  We need to focus on assisting small business that often lack the resources or do not have the training/knowledge to make quality work for them.  Raising the voice through online communications, content creation, workshops, etc. are all ways in which we can reach small businesses and pass along the tools they need for success.

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