The cooperative togetherness in the forest exemplifies a functioning ecosystem for us: each member contributes to the overall benefit of this ecosystem and benefits from the added value created by the cooperation of the members. The question remains what an “ecosystem for quality” actually means in concrete terms in the world of quality management. For you, your colleagues and all those involved. In this interview: Lutz Krämer, part of the company management and Head of Products at Babtec.
Lutz Krämer: At Babtec, we have always been of the opinion that quality concerns everyone and cannot end at the company boundary. If we now think specifically about who “everyone” is, then one thing quickly becomes apparent: it’s not just me, nor is it just the organization I work for – it’s actually the entire supply network or even the entire environment. In business, the terms micro, meso, macro and meta levels are common for these different perspectives. Quality must be thought of across all levels, and for this the idea of an ecosystem for quality is very useful. The essential added value of this is namely the relationship structure of all its participants.
Lutz Krämer: We can put ourselves in the perspective of the respective level – i.e. the employees, the organization, the entire supply network or even the environment – but in the end all levels are mutually dependent. And that is exactly the idea of an ecosystem: everyone gives and shares something in order to have more of it in the end. In terms of their effect, the levels cannot be separated from one another, but must be viewed in terms of their interaction.
Lutz Krämer: I like to think of the example of the fire department. A fire starts in a company building. The emergency call is dialed. The firefighters have the work order to extinguish the fire. The emergency vehicle arrives – the fire is extinguished. Finished? Yes and no at the same time. The fire is extinguished, but there may have been a worst-case recurring cause. So while the firefighters have done their job, the next step should be to examine why there was a fire. How can it be avoided that it burns again?
The owners of the building will have to do their thinking here. But there is much more at stake: it is not just a matter of putting out the fire and finding the cause, but also of looking at the consequences of the fire. Perhaps the fire has just turned goods that they had promised their customer into ashes. The customer will also have an interest in ensuring that such incidents are avoided if possible. Likewise, the environment benefits from not having so much smoke drifting through the city again. We quickly realize: everyone in the vicinity is affected or benefits from thinking far-sightedly.
Lutz Krämer: Here, of course, each person will discover his or her own situations in his or her very individual day-to-day work in which interactions with the levels I have just mentioned arise. What sounds very theoretical at first, of course, can quickly be brought to life with practical examples. Let’s take the complaints management: many quality management representatives use Excel for processing and documenting complaints processes. If he or she switches to QM software instead – which basically digitizes common process flows and thus forms the framework for the quality ecosystem – added value can quickly be seen.
Lutz Krämer: By using the QM software, the employee first of all simplifies the cumbersome data entry and the high error rate when entering the data. The integration of QM methods in the software ensures that data is made available across all modules and therefore does not have to be entered again. In addition, he or she has the possibility to work in parallel with colleagues on the same issue. Redundancies can be avoided, transparency increased and knowledge built up. In the end, the work is simpler.
Lutz Krämer: By making the employee’s work easier, he or she can complete tasks more quickly. The employee’s working time is used more efficiently from a business perspective. The mistakes that might have occurred without the QM software could have harmed customer relationships or even hindered company growth. By using the QM software, this point is prevented, which benefits the company and ultimately reduces its costs. In addition, duplicate entries within the team are avoided, employees benefit from the preliminary work of their colleagues and the team works in a common process. The organization records less error-prone and more resource-saving workflows.
Lutz Krämer: The correct handling of complaints or errors that have arisen is conducive to cooperation in the supply network – after all, transparent documentation is the prerequisite for reliable cooperation. Transparency is also indispensable in auditing suppliers, because they should share the quality standards of their own organization. With this common understanding, organizations can act in a more customer-oriented, innovative and economical manner in an industry sector and thus stand out from the (international) competition, which perhaps views quality with a different cultural understanding.
Lutz Krämer: Complaints processes generate “waste”. By optimizing complaint management in the ecosystem for quality, the waste of resources and energy is counteracted, CO2 emissions are reduced and extra work is also avoided. If everyone worked like the organizations on the third level, we would be fairer overall and act for the benefit of the environment as well as humanity.
The “ecosystem for quality” is ultimately nothing more than a space in which companies network to work together on quality. The necessary framework for this is provided by QM software that digitally maps joint processes. The resulting structure of relationships and transparency in dealing with each other results in added value for everyone involved – be it individual employees, an organization, the entire supply network or the environment. To be able to act for the benefit of all, foresight is required. However, only those who are part of a larger whole and align their work processes with it can see that far.