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People, Processes, Product: The Three P’s Approach

Make a big two-dimensional matrix–people on one axis and process on another. That’s a map of your company, with a product arrow popping out of the output window. When Six Sigma looks at organization, they see the three elements of a company’s quality system, people, process and product. They call it, “The 3P Approach to Quality.” Quality efforts should cast a cold, detached eye on each of these three elements to gain an overall performance improvement.

People–The Skills Matrix:

Looking at the people side, in an objective, analytic way, people have to be assessed and trained on the latest requirements that the process dictates. People have to be aligned to the process. Skills have to be evaluated, gaps corrected. A skills matrix lists the competencies required by the process, against the status of each employee. The requirement will vary according to the role of the employee. The skill set and competencies of each employee to fill each required competency of the process has to be evaluated. Areas where improvement is needed have to be noted and upgrading provided. Then people have to appropriately empowered to use their eyes and ears to continuously identify ways to improve the process.

Process–The Process Audit:

Process audits and the statistical controls that go along with them have to be instituted to find deficiencies that can be corrected. The ISO9001 quality management audit and the ISO 2200 food safety audits are worthwhile, but functional audits have to be done to provide the necessary sampling depth for close monitoring.

Process monitoring involves the rate or speed of a process, unevenness in the distribution of effort over the course of the process that cause bottlenecks and errors due to timing irregularities. Finding ways to manage workflow to minimize congestion is a common problem in the delivery of services as a product, especially when the services involve scheduling various team members. A triage model can be used to smooth the workflow of service delivery. A specified team member decides which parts of the service activity can take precedent, scheduling the most important functions first.

The crux of triage in business is sorting job functions into categories that reflect different levels of required effort. Once the categories are identified, the triage can develop different routings, strategies, or resources to deal with each category. Process categories may include

  • Fast, medium, or slow service times.
  • Small easy problems, serious problems, catastrophic problems.
  • Customer-contact issues, non-customer-contact issues.

The functional process audit includes examination of raw materials, including quality of raw materials, packing materials, and finished goods testing, micro-testing and room conditions. Repeated testing allows for the assessment of variation in the condition of the product at different stages in the process. These variations should be within specified tolerances to maintain process quality. Quantitative measurements can be graphed over time to see times when the tolerances were exceeded.

Product–Inspection Mechanisms:

A robust system of product quality inspection is fundamental for quality control, especially when the product is consumed. Product evaluation, customer feedback and correction has to be part of quality maintenance no matter what the product, be it a service or a manufactured good.

The evaluation has to  completed based on standards set by the customer and international standards. Customer requirements have to be constantly monitored and standards for product acceptability adjusted to meet changing customer standards. Any customer complaints and nonconformance have to be addresses in a systematic manner. Describe the problem completely. Ask why the problem happened (ask that question and explore causes until the root cause is identified through a consensus of the inspection team). Apply the Fishbone (Ishikawa) diagram to identify the root cause of a product flaw.

Where possible experimentally duplicate product flaws and look for corrective possibilities.

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