PCB Norsemen: The Importance of Quality Management

Didrik_Bech.jpgWhy Your Company Should Focus on Quality Management
Most companies have a quality management system (QMS), but the important factor is not if you have one; it’s about how that system is implemented in your company’s values, strategies, and goals. How can you use your QMS as a competitive advantage to support your core business and not be just a document collecting dust?

Over the last 18 months, we have worked diligently in the board and officer group on our strategies and QMS. This work has been done to facilitate adjustment in market trends, updating it for potential future challenges and opportunities, risk analysis, and ensuring that we are internally aligned. Most importantly, we have included the manager group in this development to further enhance and improve our strategic implementation and execution strength.

Having the full team aboard has resulted in a more agile, responsive, and coherent organizational structure, which has proven invaluable during the COVID-19 outbreak. We are able to detect, respond, and implement global measurements with speed and efficiency relative to prior times.

The Must-Haves in Quality Management
To ensure that a QMS functions optimally, it needs to represent the core aspects of the company, known by heart by every employee, and linked to every department’s procedure and methodology. It’s like building a house or producing a faulty printed circuit; if the design is wrong, then the end-product will not be as planned.

Implementing a QMS is all about ensuring that it is designed to support the organization and its procedures and not something irritating, representing bureaucracy and extra work. It should be well-written and documented, but often it is hidden away in a dusty drawer and only read when there are major challenges. Quite often, that’s too late.

What factors should you consider when implementing a QMS? First, start with the basics: Why, how, and when? 

Why Is It Smart and Necessary to Implement a QMS?
Unquestionably, a QMS will improve the effectiveness of your organization. It is needless to say that with clear goals, mandates, and responsibilities, life becomes easier for everyone. With clearly defined goals and measurements, one will be able to determine the efficiency of one’s strategies. The consequences of improving your performance and introducing innovative processes are as endless as the pursuit of outstanding quality performance. 

Firstly, by understanding and keeping track of your actions and your external environment, you will be able to implement changes before an emerging market condition, environmental circumstance, or government regulation is in full effect. This ability will improve your competitive position and strengthen your shareholders’ values. 

Secondly, by eliminating defects and waste, you will benefit from higher profitability as a result of reduced costs by having a better cost management system. This will result in increased job security for the employees and allow them to focus on other value-generating aspects for your customers. The end result of this chain reaction will be an increase in customer loyalty, retention, and improved market value. 

How Should You Build Your QMS?
As we all know, there are as many paths as there are masters, but only one destination. For example, our quality methodologies are based on Six Sigma, Lean, Kaizen, and good old common sense, but these must be adapted to customer and company requirements to be optimal.  

A good starting point is quality performance toward customers and what creates value for them. Set your goals based on this. Once the goals are defined, determine where you can support our customers and create value in your systems, procedures, and decision processes. Accordingly, once you determine and define where you can create value in your systems, procedures, and decision processes, create an internal log system and methodology to document and measure this value-creating process.  

When Is Your Attention Required?
As important as defining strategies, goals, and measurements is, the method and routine for continuously analyzing the situation are just as critical. Hence, a sturdy organizational routine in your management structure to ensure that one is monitoring the situation frequently and consistently. 

Establish a regular analysis meeting with one responsible person from each department, let them make decisions, and implement corrective actions and measurements to improve the company’s excellence. This will be one vital step during a long journey in your company path towards continuous working with your QMS.

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Five Reason Why a QMS Is a Smart Investment
If you are still in doubt about implementing a QMS, here are the top five reasons why you should. Having a QMS improves:

1. Organizational Effectiveness
It’s all about goals. We need a goal to stretch toward, no matter if you work in sales, customer service, technical, or procurement. No goals = no gains. With no parameters to measure improvements, or a lack of them, how can you expect the teams to keep the spirit up? Set clear goals and measure and review the organization’s ability to reach them. When an organization can present clear and reachable goals, increased improvement and effectiveness can happen. 

2. Customer Satisfaction
Satisfied customers mean returning customers, which is what we all work hard to achieve. A well-integrated QMS should focus on customer satisfaction and be designed to document customer feedback on performance and further use this information to improve customer satisfaction. Then, the “circle of improvements” in your company will avoid any disruptions.  

3. Compliance
Compliance is a high priority. Developing and following multiple standards and regulations for an industry allows no room for slack when documenting, auditing, and reporting internally to governments and customers. There is no room for mistakes. By integrating these processes into your QMS and tailoring your IT systems to handle this data, you can obtain full control of your customers’ data, access control, audits, and certificates.  

4. Company Culture
Humans have different purposes and goals, but working in a company where there is no goal or strategy can potentially drain your energy and make the job and role unfulfilling. By establishing clear goals and priorities in the QMS, communicating it internally, and aligning the departments, your colleagues will know where the company is heading and feel more secure and confident in how to support the goals.

5. Documentation
The need for documentation, review control, escalation levels, and process control is as important in small as large organizations. Including this in the QMS will ease the review situation and secure that correct information is shared at the right level. Implementing routines and documenting all processes in the QMS provides predictability and ensures that all activities and documents are aligned and fulfilled. This makes life easier for all colleagues with clear mandates and objectives and complete control for the manager and officer group.

All On Board, or Else the Ship Goes Down
I stumbled across this quote the other day by John Ruskin: “Quality is never an accident. It is always the result of intelligent effort.” I absolutely agree. Quality is not something you will naturally obtain overnight; it’s an ongoing expense that needs to be constantly developed and nurtured.  

The world, as we know it today, offers endless opportunities and challenges in all industries and on all levels. However, by implementing a QMS, it’s easier to stay on track, avoid costly deviations on the road, and make sure the entire team is on the same path. Success does not come because of one group of leaders with good ideas. Success can only be achieved when all are on board, contributing at every level of the organization toward common goals. Seek to be aligned with your customers’ processes, support their value-creating process, and strengthen their competitive advantage, ensuring quality process control. 

This column originally appeared in the June 2020 issue of PCB007 Magazine.

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2020

PCB Norsemen: The Importance of Quality Management

06-19-2020

Most companies have a quality management system, but the important factor is not if you have one; it's about how that system is implemented in your company's values, strategies, and goals. Didrik Bech explains how you can use your QMS as a competitive advantage and shares five top reasons for having one.

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The PCB Norsemen: Can Better Guidelines on Cosmetic Failures ‘Save’ Functioning PCBs?

05-05-2020

Every year, fully functional PCBs are scrapped due to cosmetic “failures” that are not approved. Is this right, or do we need to make an even more precise set of rules on how to handle this? Jan Pedersen shares his thoughts on the issue.

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The PCB Norsemen: What Are the True Benefits of Going Digital?

04-06-2020

2019 might have been the year when the trend word digitalization really kicked off and transitioned from being a buzzword to aligning with keywords and concepts as AI and IoT. Didrick Bech explores the future of digitization, which is already here.

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The PCB Norsemen: New Trends in the PCB Industry at productronica 2019

01-02-2020

Working with PCB technology and standardization as I do, it is always interesting to see the new trends and where the PCB industry is moving. Changes tend to happen at a slow pace; still, I visited productronica this year for dedicated meetings and expected to learn about new processes and production equipment. What hit me was the different manufacturing focus between Asia and Europe. 5G applications and smartphones—both making an impact in the news as a high focus in Asia, where most of the production is placed—were hardly mentioned at productronica 2019. However, I picked up on other new trends in the PCB industry.

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2019

The Laminate Market: What Will the Future Bring?

11-04-2019

PCBs have been manufactured more or less the same way since we entered the industry in 1972, but the circumstances surrounding the boards have changed. The PCB Norsemen have addressed the copper situation several times in our columns as well as the component crisis affecting the PCB industry. Now, we’re experiencing external factors—such as Brexit and the trade restrictions between China and the U.S.—that are affecting the industry and causing delays due to raw material demand and prioritization by huge market players.

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The PCB Norsemen: Avoid Failures in PCB Production With Compliance Control

08-08-2019

Failures and reliability in the printed circuit industry are usually considered in the context of quality claims and non-conformity. This is a logical approach; however, there is a new context where these aspects are under close scrutiny, namely compliance—especially in the defense industry. Failing to understand import and export compliance for every country you deliver to and from will, at some point, result in challenges in your supply chain with potentially severe ramifications.

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The PCB Norsemen: From Wooden Huts to Homemade Go-karts—It All Starts With Design!

07-08-2019

Whether building the coolest go-kart or the most sophisticated electronic hardware, the story is the same: It starts with design. And for designers and manufacturers, early involvement and commitment between all the involved parties in a product development process diminish the risk for mistakes and misunderstandings.

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What Is Reliability Without Traceability?

06-27-2019

High reliability and compliance are hot topics at conferences all over the world. If you are a supplier to industries like defense, automotive, medical, and aerospace/space, high-reliability and regulatory compliance are strict demands for electronic device manufacturers. This column discusses how high-reliability demands enforce the need for traceability, and at what level the traceability should be.

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The PCB Norsemen: Merging the Best of Both Worlds—Young Superheroes and Knowledgeable Wizards!

05-29-2019

Companies that dare be true to themselves, trust their employees, and provide direction, freedom, and responsibility to their most important asset—namely, their employees—are more likely to succeed. However, we can all rattle behind these positive words and agree with these statements. The real question is, “How do you actually create and sustain an environment that motivates and attracts people—especially millennials—in the wave of Industry 4.0?"

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The PCB Norsemen: My Flexible Story—Flex Circuit Development Through the Decades

04-30-2019

Senior Technical Advisor Jan Pedersen is celebrating 26 years at Elmatica. In this column, he shares his thoughts from his long experience in this exciting industry, and talks about those things that have changed a lot in the past few decades, and the others that haven't.

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A PCB Broker’s Guide Through the Galaxy of Automation

04-05-2019

A smart factory is defined by its ability to harness manufacturing data flowing throughout the enterprise and then convert that data into intelligent information that can be used to create improvements in productivity, efficiency, savings, yields, automation, enabled traceability, compliance, and reduced risk of errors and rework. All of these items are crucial factors when manufacturing printed circuits.

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The PCB Norsemen: Technology’s Future Comes Together—A Great Slogan for Us All!

02-13-2019

“Technology’s Future Comes Together” was the theme of this year's IPC APEX EXPO, which is quite suitable during these changing times. I guess we all need to come together, especially the automotive industry.

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The PCB Norsemen: PCB Standards for Medical Device Applications—A Hard Nut to Crack!

02-04-2019

With digitalization, AI, and IoT, the traceability and transparency to how a PCB is produced will be even more important. We must rule out the PCBs that follow the standards to the ones that do not. The day will come when you or someone you know might need a medical device, and you want to make sure it does its job correctly.

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2018

Digital Specs for Automated Manufacturing: Find the Missing Link!

11-29-2018

Automation and connected smart factories are the new manufacturing trend. Industry 4.0 and the Internet of things (IoT) continue to enter PCB manufacturing. However, if we continue down the same path with specifications and requirements written on electronic papers and unintelligent production files, human interpretation is still crucial to avoid mistakes. CircuitData could solve this problem because having one language for automated smart factories is the future!

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PCB Norsemen: The Solution to the UL Challenge—Industrial Awareness

08-28-2018

Writes Jan Pedersen: The solder-limit subject has been a "hot potato" for a quite some time, with many discussions around the new requirement from Underwriters Laboratories (UL) that UL’s Emma Hudson brought to attention in early 2018.

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The PCB Norsemen: Lean Challenges—Standard vs. Non-Standard Products

08-06-2018

Writes Didrick Bech: People tend to treat standard and non-standard products in the same way; however, they represent two parallel product segments and consequently different challenges for your Lean manufacturing process, especially in relation to production and logistical operations. When you fail to differentiate the processing of standard and non-standard products, not only is the Lean manufacturing process disrupted, but you also introduce a variety of production, financial and logistical challenges.

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The Velocity of Technology— What Does It Really Mean?

07-02-2018

PCB Norseman, Jan Pedersen: Driving a car is probably one of the areas where the user comes in direct touch with the technology development. And we understand the speed when we see how fast we get new versions of smartphones and other gadgets. But in what direction are we going?

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2017

Industry 4.0, AI and CircuitData

11-14-2017

PCB Norseman, Andreas Lydersen: As automation works its way onto the shop floors, it still struggles to replace humans in the supporting roles, such as designers, purchasers, brokers, and back-office staff. Where automation on the shop floor replaces humans in doing repetitive manual tasks, the supporting roles (at least some of them) require intelligence to understand and utilise information.

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