The recipient is usually the best of class in one of the numerous categories that have emerged over time in the movie trade. The judges, professionals in the industry, have watched every film entered. They’ve examining each carefully and arrived at a judgment which culminates in a spectacular evening of prizes and celebrations.
What would happen to this wonderful evening if someone broke the news that all or some of the judgments rendered their verdict based on still pictures plucked from each film, say, every fifteen minutes, instead of watching each film in its entirety?
What if the Oscar for best score was awarded on the basis of, say, five notes being played during the beginning, middle, and end of the movie?
There may be some push-back from all the participants, stars and audience alike! How can they form an opinion about the quality of a film with this kind of oversight? What if the still was taken at the wrong moment, and something either much better or much worse made its appearance the moment before or the moment after the still was taken?
Since this article is about supply quality management, you may have guessed that this is all about the difference between deploying a method that monitors material variability the way a judge reviews a film and a method confined to periodic audits combined with trust in sources of supply.
The Nominees Are …
One of the criteria used to determine the recipients in the “Best Actor” category is how well-developed and multi-dimensional their acting is. Is it appropriate to the moment; does it fit the reality being portrayed, and does it reference the entire story or narrative, taking into account the history and the trend (expected future) the audience has a right to expect? The acting needs to account for, and respond to, the twists and turns of the narrative. While audits are an appropriate approach as part of an array of tools, they unfortunately, do not measure up to these criteria, any more than viewing stills measures up to viewing an entire film.
A report* recently published by the University of Sheffield in the UK entitled “Ethical Audits and the Supply Chains of Global Corporations” addresses the role of audits in the fast-growing domain of concern for corporations all over the world, the human factor in supply quality management, although it also applies to the management of material variability.
In recent years, incidents such as the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh in April 2013 and the exposé by The Guardian of slavery and human trafficking in the Thai shrimp industry in 2014 have focused attention on the supply chains of global corporations. What has been reported less is that both of these incidents, and many others, took place within ‘certified’ and audited supply chains. The Thai shrimp in British supermarkets had been ‘ethically’ certified by a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) that sets voluntary standards for the certification of agricultural products and encourages producers to adopt ‘safe and sustainable practices’. Similarly, in Bangladesh, the Rana Plaza factory, which made clothes for Matalan, Primark, and Walmart amongst many others, passed a compliance audit just months before it collapsed.
The message this report sends is that selective audits are simply not enough to safeguard the supply-chain, and relying on them as the centerpiece of a system puts companies in the cross-hairs of scandals which could be avoided.
If the goal is simply to pass muster in the eyes of an audience (customers, authorities), the supply chain quality management system will be relatively simple: pass recognized audits and implement the minimum number of audits necessary to communicate concern and stay within the law.
If the goal is to manage supply chain quality, then a company must think in terms of being able to track every critical material moving through its supply chain, in the same way, an Oscar judge watches the films.
Will It Stand The Test Of Time?
Great films persist by having an impact on the culture. They are a powerful learning experience because something happens during the film either to a protagonist or a community that changes them in some significant way. Again, from the fore-mentioned article:
Our interviews highlight how deception in the audit regime is widespread and known to corporations. As Nike stated in a 2012 sustainability report, “we have learned that monitoring does not bring about sustainable change. Often, it only reinforces a pattern of hiding problems.”
Clearly, audits don’t provide the kind of feedback loop capable of affecting the culture of an organization that a full array of quality management tools could provide.
Our interviewees explained how decisions on audit scheduling, such as the time of year, frequency, and whether it is an announced or surprise audit, significantly affect findings. Pre-announced audits enable producers to falsify records and rid facilities of unauthorized agency contractors or exploited workers during audits. As one informant noted, “there could always be another group of people” not on the books.
What would we say if an actor or production company could determine which stills the Oscar voters could or could not see? The notion is absurd, of course, yet apparently acceptable in quality management.
This incomplete picture is not only a result of deception but is structurally embedded within the audit regime. Corporations control how deep within the supply chain audits are conducted; one auditor told us: “We will audit as far down as the brand wants to go”.
Given the limitations of the “Nominee,” what does a comprehensive approach to supply quality management look like?
And The Winner Is … The Supplier Quality Dashboard
At the very least, an effective, multi-dimensional approach is a dashboard which allows for viewing the entire “film.” It has the following characteristics:
- MEANINGFUL DATA, and a lot of it
- MEANINGFUL FREQUENCY OF DATA GATHERING (at intervals that allow for real-time intervention)
- SPC (Statistical Process Control) capability that displays material aberrations, and any attempts at falsification of test data, by analyzing the data using statistical methods
- DEEPEST PENETRATION (supply chain visibility of the most critical links and materials)
- EFFICIENCY (low diversion of resources from production)
- COST EFFECTIVENESS (against calculations of Cost of Quality)
A Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution can provide a company with this kind of dashboard. As an example, GSQA® collects and distributes an array of data. This includes audits, self-audits, certifications of all kinds, specifications, certificates of analysis, certificates of conformance, material movement in advance ship notices (ASN), P.O.s, nonconformances, scorecards, master data updates, approvals, and alerts.
All these tools provide the fullest view of supply chain quality assurance. They also take the guess-work out of the process of deciding on areas needing improvement.
The ease with which this QA data can be turned into knowledge and action creates a wide range of benefits, from an improvement in enterprise operations to company financial performance all the way to strategic and competitive advantage.
In summary, audits are valuable, and all attempts to improve their effectiveness and standardization are important, as part of a robust, responsive dashboard. This is the inevitable conclusion of managing QA in the supply chain as in watching the whole film.