Bring Agility to Quality Management Processes with Low-Code

Bring Agility to Quality Management Processes

Quality management (QM) is a mission-critical business process. Without it, a company cannot consistently produce a quality product that meets customer expectations. As businesses transform and customers demand more configurability in the products they purchase, it’s more important than ever to have agile QM processes.

Here’s a look at why QM matters, why organizations struggle to make their QM processes agile, and how low-code app development can help.

What is quality management, and why does it matter?

QM is the process an organization deploys to ensure that the quality of its output meets customers’ expectations as well as designed specifications and regulatory requirements. While this process might have traditionally meant creating checks and running inspections on the production side, it now starts much earlier—in the engineering phase. QM begins with the requirements management process, where the organization confirms that the requirements for a specific product can be met with the current design of the product and the production process and that the quality of the company’s output is stable and consistent.

QM also includes running risk and failure mode analysis in the design stages. This is intended to verify that the product and the manufacturing process associated with it are stable enough to create the required consistency. An organization must also follow up on defects discovered during or after production. This should always be supplemented and integrated with a cost analysis so that the ROI and suggested outcomes of the issue analysis is clear and an issue report can lead to an informed decision.

In almost all industries manufactured smaller batch sizes are going down, and customers expect companies to listen and respond to user input. As a result, QM needs to be nimble and agile in how it controls potential issues, plans inspections and guides production. It cannot be hard-wired to a particular set of processes, quality gates, or inspection engineers in the factory.

Why do organizations struggle with agile quality management?

Organizations usually purchase off-the-shelf quality management systems (QMS) that cover roughly 80% of their requirements. This approach gets the job done, but it does not account for a company’s specific adaptations to a process that sets it apart. Yet customizing a QMS is offered less often, because the market for it is smaller than for a manufacturing execution system or product lifecycle management, and it therefore typically involves a considerable investment. The key here is that as a business if you make the decision to pay for that customization, you should only have to do it once, most often at the point of purchase and installation.

Although initially providing a good return on investment, this customization rapidly depreciates in value. For example, if a company buys new plants during a reorganization and shifts its business model to a different line of products, the customization may no longer fit. Or, the business might have an off-the-shelf QMS in place for three to five years before a couple of major new software releases arrive. Then, the company can’t use all the new functionalities to which it would otherwise be entitled because the customization locks them into the current version, making the annual 20% maintenance fee for the off-the-shelf QMS virtually worthless.

Until recently, businesses faced a difficult choice when confronting the technical debt that accumulated as a result of customized QMS: overhaul previous customization work or build a bespoke QMS according to new specifications. Each of these options involved its own risks.

How can low-code help make quality management agile?

Low-code is a technology that allows almost anyone to build applications with little to no coding experience. Options like Java development require knowledge of a specific programming language, but low-code does not rely on this subject matter expertise. Low-code application development works on three key layers: an intuitive and templatized way to build the user interface, a method to graphically design business logic, and a way to map the database into which application information flows.

Low-code application development enables the citizen developer—somebody who doesn’t work in IT or has a computer science background but can still build the application they need. With low-code, a company can empower its quality managers to build applications that cover processes they were previously unable to cover. For example, when an organization runs process audits or layered audits on Excel spreadsheets, it has to figure out how to distribute the findings and confirm that the underlying actions are actually being taken care of. Or, a business may need to cover a process their off-the-shelf QMS can’t handle, like the integration of their model-based systems engineering approach into the risk assessment of their production process.

These processes are often relatively clear theoretically, but organizations tend to overlook them during digital transformation initiatives because of the cost, time, and complexity involved with building an application. In a low-code scenario, however, a citizen developer with the right toolset can build a working prototype of the application that they need in a few days. Direct involvement in creating the application also fosters a much higher level of engagement and willingness to use it, a key step in any change management process.

Low-code supports modern quality management

QM is a critical business process, and it’s increasingly important to infuse QM processes with as much agility as possible. Especially because the investment required to do so was cost-prohibitive until recently, low-code app development now gives companies and their employees the right toolkit and capabilities to accomplish this goal in far less time and with far fewer layers of approval.

With a low-code approach, businesses can bring agility to their QM processes and consistently produce quality products that drive continued growth, no matter how often the business model or the product needs to change to get there.