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Businesses worldwide are being tested in a cauldron of quality. Organisations in which quality was already fragile and inefficient have seen their processes go from lacking to completely broken during the COVID-19 crisis. Especially those companies in medical supply and related industries that have been directly involved in responding to the pandemic. As a result, the quality world has learned tkey lessons from COVID-19—although not all the lessons are cautionary tales.

There are also some exceptional cases that provide hope for quality resilience, agility, and success in the face of adversity.

Advancing quality amidst a pandemic

As companies attempt to normalise or adapt to the new environments and obstacles that will inevitably arise, there are several “next steps” that will enable them to confidently contend with the kinds of quality predicaments that have come to light during the pandemic:

Ensure quality data connectivity.

As a company’s business network and/or operating sites stress or flex to alternative sources during a crisis, quality must remain consistent and be pervasive. Companies that rely on disconnected or paper-based systems lack real-time visibility into current and accurate quality data and related activities across their operating and compliance systems and therefore have no way of sustaining “pandemic proof” quality.

 

Having a digital, cloud-based quality management system (QMS) in place that fosters quality alignment between sites and remote working is essential to maintaining quality extensibility as systems and conditions shift in the coronavirus era.

All affected parties can stay on the same page and there are fewer missed opportunities when quality data is completely connected. What I have learned during this Covid era is to take steps to move beyond reactive and even proactive quality management and towards predictive quality management.

Every day at PolyBlend we recognise the importance of consistent procedures that increase efficiency at each of our sites that ensure we are operating consistently to the right information. We must be ready to move fast, adapt quickly and do the things our team needs, our customers need, and adapt to provide a new level of service in support.

Continually maintain high quality standards for supply chain partners.

When supply chains face challenges, the organisations that can establish effective communication, collaboration and transparency with supply chain partners are more likely to have greater visibility into their sources of materials, facilitate better quality processes, receive higher-quality materials, and produce higher-quality products. An integrated, cloud based QMS certainly helped PolyBlend to ensure quality consistency and greater visibility into all quality activities throughout the entire operation.

Flexible quality processes, systems and teams are critical in a crisis.

The ability to fill in gaps when new opportunities, barriers or material shortages occur makes all the difference in a company’s capacity to react quickly and stay ahead of competitors.

When a crisis causes supplies to dwindle or forces companies to turn to alternative suppliers, the supply organisations that continually maintain flexible quality processes and systems are already positioned to thrive. One thing for sure, the COVID-19 pandemic has proved that communication and collaboration are essential to adaptability.

Supply shortages have required our quality team to work with the production shortages and manage the changes effectively with operational leaders by working closer than ever and communicating often, by developing and approving deviations so we can adjust to supplies. Certainly a new level to the meaning of ”the survival of the fittest.”

And we can bank on the fact that new and different trials are waiting for us on the other side of the current pandemic. By learning from the COVID-19 crisis, quality professionals can be better prepared for the next set of inevitable challenges.

 

Published by

Neil Platt

Quality & Systems Manager
POLYBLEND UK LIMITED

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