The Smart Choice for Your Quality Management Needs: A COTS Solution

Craftsmanship—the ways in which people who make things show their expertise, skill, and artistry. So many products from the manufacturing world show craftsmanship: jewelry, timepieces, furniture, just to name a few. But craftsmanship can be found in the software world, too.
 
We at InfinityQS have found that many of our clients—at one time or another—had their own home-grown quality management software solutions, were in the process of developing one, or were planning on building one (why not? it’s less expensive than buying one, but more about that later). But they didn’t finish the projects.
 
Instead, they selected a configurable off-the-shelf (COTS—also referred to as commercial off-the-shelf—the point being that the software is "ready-made" and available for purchase) solution from InfinityQS. The reasons are varied and numerous. Let’s take a few moments and walk through them, and you’ll see that when it comes to quality management, craftsmanship—expertise, skill, and artistry—is prevalent throughout InfinityQS’ solutions.
InfinityQS Quality Management Solutions

DIY? Not Always

If you’re not familiar with the intricacies of the internal combustion engine, you certainly wouldn’t try to identify and correct a problem all on your own—you’d consult a mechanic, right? And if you’re uncomfortable with electricity and the impending lethal charge you can get from a mistake, you wouldn’t attempt some ill-fated major electrical work either, would you? No! You’d hire a qualified electrician. You get the point. Hire experts to do what they do best. Therefore, you should also push aside the challenges of cultivating and trying to produce your own quality system—and focus on what you do best, where your expertise is put to its best use: making your products.

Ownership

Ownership is a tricky concept. It’s more than just possessing something. In terms of software solutions, it has more to do with responsibility. And oftentimes what happens in business is the key personnel who designed and “owned” a particular software system changed roles, or worse, departed from the company—leaving the company somewhat “stranded” to manage, maintain, and enhance something they may not know much about.
 
While they may be responsible, those key personnel who design and “own” a system usually have other key responsibilities (many times that means some input into creating the products that the company sells) and find it difficult to spare the time to work on the home-grown system—for any user-requested enhancements, and more importantly, for any critical fixes.
 
If the “owner” is a member of the Quality team, it’s pretty easy to see why this could be an issue. In our experience, Quality Professionals (like operators) are time-starved operational experts. Most of the tasks we add to their daily responsibilities tend to bog them down, when they should be concentrating on making high-quality products. For more on the importance of freeing up time-starved quality professionals, see this blog by my colleague, Doug Fair, InfinityQS COO.
 

Needs Change

Enterprise VisibilityAt the time of initial development, the home-grown system may meet your needs, or some of your needs, but certainly not all of them (and the owners will always promise to deliver the rest real soon, won’t they?). But think about it—will they really be able to keep up with any new functional capabilities you request? 
 
As your company grows, the needs you once had for a quality software system change. You started out just needing to get serious about data collection. Then you wanted to compare production lines to see where you might be able to improve. Eventually, you might want to go enterprise-wide—and get a chance to see the big picture of your quality data, a bird’s eye view that generates operational insight, which in turn leads to strategic decision making. All leading to transformation of your operations by leveraging what your data is telling you (are you listening?), which all leads to improved product quality, lower production costs, and most importantly, fewer customer complaints.
 

Adapting the System is Difficult

Adding new functionality to your home-grown system is a challenge. It’s a slow process, and in the meantime the lack of new functionality makes the system less useful than it once was, or less useful than initially anticipated or promised.
 
With anything new, expectations are high at the onset. Implementing a software solution is no different. With home-grown solutions, often the promises are big. Unfortunately,  the results are not—unless owners keep up with new functionality requirements, which they seldom can or do.
 

Our Team is Here to Help

It’s important to note that the entire InfinityQS team is dedicated to developing and enhancing our solutions—for you. That’s all we do! How dedicated to your project and needs will your owner or IT/IS team be? (Hint: they will always have other responsibilities, priorities, or issues to deal with on a regular basis.)
 
How many people will your IT/IS team have assigned to the project? InfinityQS has a development team, technical support team, engineering team, Client Solution Engineers, Industrial Statisticians, training team, and Account Managers all dedicated to the common goal of your success—all focused on ensuring our solutions meet your ever-changing needs…and your satisfaction with InfinityQS. Will an internal IT/IS team provide you with the same level of support? Highly doubtful (and I’m sure you will agree).
InfinityQS Quality Management Systems 
InfinityQS has been developing and enhancing our solutions for over 30 years—your IT/IS department would have a lot of work to do in order to deliver something comparable, in a short period of time. Ask yourselves this important question: Do you (and they) really think you can catch up in a short period of time?
 
One of my favorite examples is from the Executive Director, Quality NA, at one of our clients. He was looking to expand our solution (in use at one plant) across their 40+ manufacturing locations in North America, and after many meetings and discussions, spanning almost four years, he sent an email highlighting his frustration:
 
Hey Brad — sorry for the radio silence.
I have pretty much given the plants the approval to go under the radar as our corporate IT group continues their decade-long project to finally arrive at the point where they say, "You know, maybe it makes more sense to bring in a 3rd party group like InfinityQS to provide this functionality."
 

Meeting Requirements

Will an internally written program meet your requirements, especially when it comes to audit requirements? In the Food & Beverage industry, that includes HACCP, SSOP, Net Content Control, and other food safety/legal requirements. In the Life Sciences industry, that probably also includes FDA regulations such as 21 CFR Part 11.
Manufacturing Success

You Aren’t Busy Enough Already?

What other projects will become a higher priority within your organization—and push your real-time SPC or QA project to the back burner? Every company has a raft of projects they discuss time after time. Sometimes it’s difficult, even overwhelming, to come to a decision when the projects being discussed are big…and costly. Building a new plant, expanding a current plant, adding a new production line, hiring a new shift, overhauling Human Resources, changing healthcare providers—these are all significant time- and money-consuming projects. Maybe it’s not even a new company project—maybe it’s a world-wide health pandemic causing major disruptions to everything in our lives, and further limiting your already tight personnel staffing, forcing you to not only do your job, but also asking you to put on your “company hat” and fill in for some of the missing employees.

Whatever it may be…can you afford to wait on quality? Can you keep shoving it to the back burner?
 
There are a few questions you should honestly ask yourself when considering and  making your decision regarding a quality software program. Questions that strike at the heart of a home-grown effort:
  • How much time and effort do you anticipate your IT/IS team will spend on this project? — If it’s significant by anyone’s standards, then your team will have endless trouble not just implementing, but keeping up with functionality changes, budgeting, and more.
  • How quickly do you anticipate your IT/IS department will develop something that really meets your needs? This is crucial. Your team will need to meet with many other employees to truly determine needs, and your valuable resources must be dedicated to the development efforts (not their regular responsibilities) for long periods of time to get the job done.
  • Can your IT/IS team commit to the long haul? User communities at every organization consistently request enhancements, which are very slow to get added by your IT/IS team due to other issues taking priority over the SPC system. (Will your project take priority over a recent hack or breach of the company’s network security? — I don’t think so). 
 

And Then There are the Time and Costs Involved

InfinityQS Quality Management SoftwareThe cost and time to manage a home-grown system can easily become excessive and many companies we’ve met and dealt with over the years have found that moving to a COTS solution was actually much more cost-effective in comparison. (Similar to my recent blog series comparing the cost of a SaaS solution vs hosting one within your own IT infrastructure—what’s more efficient, both for the short and long terms?)
 
It’s not touted as “cost-effective,” but that’s exactly what a COTS solution is. When describing a home-grown solution, often Finance does not create a “line-item” in the financial statements for the project, and unfortunately, many people in your organization might believe it’s free, or “much less expensive”—but is it really?  We all know there is a cost associated with programmers writing a program, and typically the true cost of internal development—interviews to understand and develop the requirements, writing the initial program, testing, revisions, re-testing, maintenance, etc.—will be far greater than purchasing an off-the-shelf solution. 
 
Is your IT/IS team using their fully loaded labor rates to calculate their costs as they try to “win” your business? (Remember, their hourly salaries do not comprise the true cost to the company. Be sure to factor their costs correctly—what they actually cost the company to employ.)
 
Your organization can spend a significant amount of time and money on a quality or SPC project, and then (as many of our clients have learned) it’s not worthwhile, or it’s not working as anticipated. That’s when the real costs start to rear their ugly little heads. They pull the plug and move to a COTS solution—and in their wake all the incurred costs sunk into the project are now unrecoverable…really sunk.
 
And how much time have you then lost? How much money is lost because you did not have the proper system in place to control production costs? How many issues (customer complaints, recalls, scrapped product, re-worked product) have happened because the right controls were not yet in place?  How many heads have rolled (hopefully, yours was not one of them) because of persistent, unresolved quality issues and problems?  What are the potential lost opportunity costs? And it will only be worse if the problem made it to any of the social media platforms! 
 
And how much of your time is needed to help the IT/IS team first understand your needs, so they can actually build (and then test) a system which might meet your needs? Is it truly worth your time, or would your time be better utilized managing, supporting, and enhancing the QC initiatives you’ve talked about for years? It’s exhausting and it’s a big waste of time, effort, and money, and it’s probably not what you signed up for.
Software as a Service

Make the Smart Choice: A COTS Solution

An out-of-the-box solution is continuously enhanced and upgraded by the vendor, like us—because that’s what we do. It’s all we do. And we are experts at our craft. We create incredibly effective and robust quality management software solutions, and constantly upgrade (or update, in the case of our Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions). And our solutions will undoubtedly provide significantly more robust functionality than any internal home-grown system. And you can start utilizing it almost immediately (no more waiting for a decade as noted above).
 
It’s time to throw away the hassles and costs of cultivating and producing your own software solution and focus on what you do best: making high-quality products.
 
 
Take advantage of the technology at your fingertips today: contact one of our account managers (1.800.772.7978 or via our website) for more information.
 
 
Brad Forrest
By Brad Forrest
Account Manager
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