How digital checklists strengthen the quality culture in your organisation.

written on 03.11.2021

In the course of our numerous implemented customer projects, we have been able to determine one thing again and again. Change takes time. Digitalisation projects often give rise to frustration, resignation and a feeling of insecurity among the staff.
However, the implementation of digital checklists is usually only the tip of the iceberg - what lies beneath is the further development of the company into a quality organisation through a living quality culture.

What some sceptics of digitalisation measures fail to consider is that digital checklists in no way replace human work - quite the opposite. Digital checklists attempt to reduce the workload by documenting employees. Efforts that would otherwise be spent on printing, scanning, retrieving, filing and transferring checklists can be used to solve problems or further develop processes. Checklists not only bring standards into an organisation, they are enablers for growing quality awareness and teamwork.

We have already talked in detail about quality culture in our previous blog article. In this post we want to talk more about how checklists help to promote quality culture.

How do checklists contribute to quality culture?

Today’s modern world provides us with an unbelievable amount of know-how that can be accessed regardless of time or place. And yet: every now and then, mistakes happen in communication, in processes or simply in the manufacture of products that could be avoided. The reason is simple: the complexity and scope of today’s knowledge exceeds our ability to transmit information correctly and securely from sender to receiver. As Atul Gawande has already described it very impressively in his book “The Checklist Manifesto”, there is a simple way we can do things right; with checklists.

Formally speaking, checklists serve to control individual processes and describe them, to avoid errors and to increase safety through complete documentation. However, checklists also fulfil a completely different purpose. They promote the quality culture in companies and strengthen the cooperation, awareness and personal responsibility of each individual in an organisation.

Better cooperation.

Whether crane drivers, maintenance staff, field service technicians, quality managers or ordering staff, every job is part of the entire product creation process. Information from upstream process steps is taken over and further processed and passed on to the downstream process step. Documentation probably plays the most important role here. And the more activities we pack into the product creation process, the more precise the documentation should be.

The more time we spend in our job, the more confident and experienced we feel. We have a particularly good command of processes and can call up knowledge very quickly. This often leads us to modify processes individually and to skip process steps in order to increase time or the number of strokes here and there. In short, we become more imprecise, which in turn increases the chance of mistakes.    

Checklists are much more than just a series of queries and standardisation of processes. Rather, they ensure a seamless flow of information by adhering to each step in the process flow and documenting it accordingly, make feedback accessible to all those involved and promote problem-solving competence. Information is immediately available and acts as a central hub for all relevant areas in the company.

Practical example from mechanical engineering.

A global leader in toolmaking uses digital checklists to handle quality controls during production.
 
The company was able to achieve better cooperation within the organisation with the digital checklists. Quality data is recorded in a structured manner on standard smartphones, and documentation and work orders are transmitted to colleagues in real time.
 
The employees on the shop floor particularly appreciate that it is possible to add photos directly on the smartphone. For example, defects can be photographed and marked. The assembly workers create the defect for the design department, which can get to work immediately. Relevant information is thus recorded directly on site and immediately forwarded to the person responsible, who is notified directly in the app (and optionally by e-mail). If further questions arise, they can be written down directly in the app, contextually.
 
With digital checklists, the company has been able to develop into a self-learning organisation in which CI (continuous improvement) is not just an empty phrase, but a living mission.

More awareness for quality.

Quality awareness is another essential added value that comes with the use of checklists. Quality awareness cannot simply be prescribed or imposed from above. Rather, it is the result of a functioning and lived quality management by each individual employee with the common goal – to produce products and services of the highest quality.

How exactly can checklists help to increase quality awareness? With digital checklists, employees have a tool to ensure that products or other services are manufactured with the highest quality standards by the company but also by the client and thus get a feeling for good quality. In addition, checklists help to develop an understanding of the extent of defects and other failures and to better assess the consequences.

Practical example from the automotive sector.

A large company in the automotive industry uses digital checklists and defect recording in the assembly and maintenance area. Thanks to the digital documentation – instead of the paper-based, time-consuming recording of defects – resources could be saved and a faster processing and analysis of defects could be achieved.  

Production employees became quality employees. By empowering all employees with this tool to ensure quality at every step of production and to detect defects at an early stage, they were able to identify much better with product manufacturing.

The data collected directly on site by means of checklists are also available for further evaluations and analyses in the next step. Information about work processes such as throughput times, defect categories, process conformity and much more is transferred in real time and quickly serves as a basis for decision-making for further action.

More personal responsibility.

Each employee has a specific role in the value chain. For the creation of a product, it is important to define responsibilities for different processes.  By giving employees more responsibility in the designated area, they can identify with the tasks, contribute new ideas and make a significant contribution to a constantly evolving organisation. This means that work is no longer just a chore, but a source of motivation and a greater sense of purpose.

In order to be able to contribute to the improvement of processes, employees must have access to all necessary information about their work areas. This is the only way to enable them to improve the supporting and value-adding work processes.

Conclusion.

If we see checklists merely as a collection of to-dos, we miss many opportunities to strengthen the quality culture in the company. Checklists are a gamer-changer in organisations and help us to better cooperation through seamless information flows, increased quality awareness through more understanding of good quality but also shortcomings and mistakes and more ownership through identification with the work itself.

Further links:

Welcome to the world of Quality Excellence.


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