In-process quality control and continuous improvement

In-process quality control and continuous improvement

                                                                                                                                    Version française →

In the present economically challenging environment, most of companies are looking for new solutions to strongly reduce their production costs or operating costs. Who has not had often requests from his customers to reduce its selling prices ? Additionally, Company has the obligation to offer customized products, with good quality level, with a short delivery time and with  more and more competitive prices.

Then, it becomes essential to rethink the traditional organizations, choosing among different strategies.


The In-process quality management is still an open valuable way for continuous improvement. Furthermore, it is one of the strongest components of the « Shingo prize » journey to Operational Excellence. In the Shingo Guiding Principles***, it is strongly recommended to:

  « Ensure quality at the source »

  « Focus the process »

The effects of non-quality :

It important to know that production costs and delivery times, and more generally, the performances of the company are insidiously relating to the achieved in-process quality level.

But Care ! : In-process quality management does not mean to add an overflow of additional inspections or checks-in during process running, in order to sort defective products. Nor does it consist in creating innumerable records of deviation justifications, to convince the customer that the product is still acceptable even if it is not matching the original specifications.

Contrariwise, it is a question of implementing sets of tools and methodologies in order to not create nonconformities, and thus “non-value adding”.

Not the quality, but the non-quality is very costly! non-quality costs are often difficult to measure, and they are generally very underestimated and poorly considered, being not visible or uncertain. According to the « Juran Institute », they would be estimated between 15 and 30% of turnover value.

Maitrise_qual_schema2_V3 Anglais

Would not our current work organization seriously affected by the in-process non-quality ? Frequent and long-lasting manufacturing lines shutdowns, unexpected production plan changes, failures in supply chain, urgently modified operating procedures, reworks, management of non-conformities, Delivery mistakes, too long delivery times, lost goods, faults in invoicing, error on payrolls, missed sales … These are examples of non-quality !

How does the in-process quality management match to the ISO9001 standard?

May be a surprise, but I consider that the Total Quality Management, splits into two parts:

-1) Quality System Management (ISO 9001, EN 9100, …..):

It is restricted to the management of a quality system. Nowadays, it is well mastered by the ISO9001 standard. However, it unfortunately does not ensure, on its own, the guarantee of a faultless production or a service without mistake.

-2) In-process quality management:

 In-process quality is intended to take and keep control of the processes (manufacturing, services…) in order to not generate errors or nonconformities. Its final goal is the « good at first ». It is mainly powered by Process Control (SPC, Poka Yoke, FMEA….).

Why give such a place to In-process Quality Control?

  It is a very successful way to cancel the non-value added **. Additionally, it is also activated by the use of problem solving methods. This can be extended by the implementation of the « QRQC » (Quick Response Quality Control). Finally, it gives an effective set of tools to reach operational excellence. It is more efficient to cancel the problem causes than to try to fight the problem consequences.

Compared to ambitious methods such as 6 Sigma or Lean Manufacturing, which are relating to big and complex process management, solving and control methods can be applied to simple processes (or part of process). It is a way to get results in a shorter time at a very reasonable cost.

Additionally, this is a good opportunity for managers to achieve even more tangible performance in the very short time. Inspections, repairs, management of nonconformities and non-conform products will be strongly reduced.

Also, highlighted by a daily follow-up, a set of simple and relevant indicators will be appreciated by the top management who will visualize, in real time, the internal quality level improvement. It will be more efficient than learning it a longtime later, or sometimes by the claims of customers.

Conclusion :

The in-process quality management is truly an adding to the management of the quality system described in the ISO9001 standard. It uses a structured approach and tools to improve manufacturing or transactional processes in order to eliminate the harmful effects. Significantly reducing the share of non-value adding on the final product, it involves production or service activities. Experience has shown that it must be set up gradually, methodically and patiently, to be successful. But not be decreed! there is a risk of low or irrelevant results in this case !


* Juran Institute: A very famous consulting and training organization in the USA, created by Dr. Juran who, together with Deming, was one of the most important pillars of continuous improvement.

** No value adding: additional costs that do not relate with the product use but are integrated into the price paid by the customer.

***  Shingo Prize principles