When starting out in quality, many quickly learn to use modern quality tools such as control plans, FMEA, capability studies and MSA. I also learned these tools but had little understanding early on of how they function together. Feeling naive, I hesitantly shared my experience. Comforting to my ego, yet still disconcerting, my conversation confirmed that many new quality professionals do not know, and are not taught, how the tools function together as a powerful system.
The problem is that each tool often is studied and applied in isolation. Only slowly do people piece together that the tools can make up a system. For me, it took working with automotive quality systems to realize how all the tools fit the system. Here are some of the relationships I wish I knew sooner:
The elements of a flow diagram are the process steps of a process FMEA (PFMEA). Special characteristics designated in a PFMEA make prime targets for capability studies. Measurement systems used for a capability study should be validated with an MSA. The control plan’s controls correspond to controls listed in the PFMEA, and the control needs can vary based on the process capability.
None of these examples are difficult to put into practice, but they—and others—often are not explicitly taught. I encourage everyone who wants to understand how all the parts work together to study the IATF core tools. Even if your organization chooses not to deploy all the tools, or chooses not to use the tools with the full rigor of IATF requirements, knowing the relationships can help you build a more effective system.
Article originally published in Quality Progress July 2021