Interview: Daniel Schwendener
TeleAlarm SA, Quality Manager
>> TeleAlarm is offering to its customers “Swiss design – Made in Germany”. What does this mean?
We are creating a synergy in combining the advantages and expertize of two long term market leaders in their domain of competence. So, our customers get the benefit from the long term experience of the Swiss company “TeleAlarm” in creation and marketing of Social Alarm and Nurse Call systems and the reliability and sustainability of the German production site of “Leesys” by getting high quality products.
>> How can TeleAlarm guarantee this quality approach?
Our guarantee is given from the implementation of our Quality Management System QMS. The basic principles and requirements of our Quality Management System are defined by an international standard, the so-called ISO9001 (Quality Management System – Requirements). The conformity of our application of the requirements is verified and certified by an external organization. Both companies, “TeleAlarm” and “Leesys” follow the same approach and are certified by the German Certification Organization “TUV Sud”.
>> What are the PRINCIPLES of the Quality Management System at TeleAlarm?
The basic principle of our Quality Management System is given by the definition of quality: “The satisfaction of our customers”.
The aim of the whole Quality Management System is to understand what our customers are expecting from us and to make sure that we are delivering the adequate products and services. To achieve this goal, the activities of the organization need to be performed in a systematic way. For this reason, our activities are defined as a set of correlated processes combined as a “Process Landscape” which is the basis of our Quality Management System. These processes are constantly monitored and improved to ensure the adequacy and efficiency of our activities. Our Quality Management System is accessible to the whole organization as it is documented in our internal IT system. The essential information is available in our Quality Manual.
>> What are the TASKS of the Quality Management System at TeleAlarm?
All activities of our organization are covered by our Quality Management System. The specific tasks and related responsibilities are included in the related processes. This covers the whole chain from “understanding the expectations of our customers” to “make sure that we deliver the adequate product or service”. So, let me describe this chain in more details:
It all starts with the “Determination of the Requirements”:
Within this process, the expectations of our customers are converted into requirements. These requirements will be the basis for the development of new products and services and will be used during the whole chain to verify that the result of our activities is still in conformity with the initial expectation.
Once we have agreed on the requirements, we enter the “Design and Development” process.
That’s where the new products come into life. The development of new products is controlled in the frame of projects. The status of the activities within a project is reviewed on a regular basis. At the end of a project, we verify that all requirements have been fulfilled. The achievement of all verification and approval activities is assessed as a formal documented milestone.
To make sure that we will be able to manufacture the new developed products efficiently, our projects also include the “Industrialization” activities. This process includes the realization of all equipment and tools that will be needed for production and includes the definition of all tests that will ensure that the delivered product meets the requirements.
Once we are so far, the new product can be assembled following the process that has been determined during the project.
The “Assembly” as well as the associated support activities such as “Purchasing”, “Planning” and “Warehouse and Shipping” are grouped in the “Manufacturing” process that is outsourced as a key competence to “Leesys”.
Our “Process Landscape” also includes all activities related to the processing of the purchase orders, including quotations, invoicingand marketing. These are grouped in our “Customer Communication” process, mainly driven by our sales teams and the order desk.
>> Thank you for the explanation. This gives a comprehensive view of the operational activities of TeleAlarm. What about Quality Management?
Once we have determined the requirements, the related Quality Management activities consist of ensuring that the delivered product is in conformity with these requirements. This is embedded in our processes and our employees are responsible for the application, in other words, the quality of their activities.
>> This means that quality shall be in focus of all employees, how do you achieve that?
The awareness to quality of our employees is part of their initial training and reviewed periodically (as their general competences) during yearly interview and assessed during internal audits. Management has also an important role and includes the awareness to quality in their communications.
>> It looks perfect as, with your explanation, your customers shall always get the right product and therefore, be satisfied. So, there is little left to do for you as Quality Manager?
LOL… Your statement would be correct if we would be in a perfect world but the reality is a bit different. Perfection is to be seen as “the true north”. We are getting as close as possible to it but it would be too expensive (if not impossible) to reach. What we are looking for is to provide the best products and services within acceptable conditions.
The main task of the Quality Manager is to establish and maintain the Quality Management System. A large part of it is to make sure that it is correctly implemented and understood by the organization. Among that, there is still work for a Quality Manager:
I said previously that we constantly monitor the efficiency of our processes to improve them. This is one of my tasks as Quality Manager.
>> How does that work?
We have defined several performance indicators based on measurements of the performance of our processes. These indicators are reviewed periodically with our management and together, we determine the appropriate activities. The improvement activities are within the responsibility of the process owners but, as Quality Manager, I also monitor the status and the efficiency of these activities.
>> And what are your other tasks?
As our world is not perfect, there is always the potential to get into situations where our customers would not be very happy with our performance. Another of my tasks is to identify such cases and prevent their occurrence in the frame of preventive actions or manage the resolution of non-conformities as corrective actions.
>> How do you manage that?
We use the “8D” method. This method ensures that we have understood the root cause of the non-conformities, that we have resolved them and implemented actions to avoid any recurrence. This is a key factor of continuous improvement.
How are you aware of the perception of quality of your customers?
Our sales forces do practice constant proximity with our customers, so we are permanently aware of their perception. Issues that cannot be solved locally are reported to me in the frame of our “Customer Feedback” procedure. All feedbacks are consigned in a tracking list. This list and the activities to ensure appropriate answer to our customers is also periodically reviewed by the management in the frame of our Corrective Action Board CAB meetings.
Mr Schwendener, thank you very much for your time….!