Our Solution Engineering Team explains how identifying points of risk represents a key stage of any success planning.

Retaining clients is more critical than ever as our industry flexes to meet the commercial challenges presented by Covid-19. The pandemic has underlined the fact that uncertainty and challenge can be just around the corner. It’s critical to know where your business might be vulnerable and to prepare accordingly. Only then will you have the necessary baseline from which to plan success.

The current business climate may feel unfamiliar; however some rules of practice will never change. When it comes to client retention, delivering service excellence – including optimum quality and robust compliance – is key. Certainly, losing a client through quality or compliance issues can be devastating for a business. However, even when consequences are not so stark, any performance drop-off will result in tied up capacity, added cost and reduced efficiency.

In fact, for a number of industries, failure to maintain levels of quality and compliance simply cannot be permitted. Consider airlines or food production companies or pharmaceutical firms. For these businesses, getting issues of quality and compliance right every time can literally be a matter of life or death. Failure is not an option.

Undoubtedly, print and mail operations can learn from the standards set by such sectors. Understanding where the operation is exposed to risk is one such learning - and a critical element of any success planning.  Put simply, by managing risk, businesses reduce the likelihood of error or delay and are better able to consistently meet - and then exceed - quality and compliance targets.

Where risk resides

There are several steps to identifying operational risk. A sensible entry point is to pinpoint critical assets and look for points of risk associated with each. The temptation is to look only at systems and technology, but it is important to understand that risk can also reside in people in terms of relevant knowledge and skills. Understand the competencies of your people and their relative exposure.

Even if you think risk is unlikely, consider the consequences of what could happen in that particular circumstance. Equally, identify risk that would be potentially difficult to detect if something went wrong. See every scenario.

As ever, very useful tools exist to help you with the process. One such tool for establishing and measuring the current risk is Process Failure Mode Effective Analysis (PFMEA).

This tool, developed by a supplier to Toyota, uses a cross-functional team to map the current process in order to identify potential failure modes. Failure modes are then scored based on how likely they are to occur, detectability and how significant the impact of failure would be.

The PFMEA process provides a risk rating for the operation and can then be used to prioritize the areas with the highest severity score. Severity cannot be easily reduced so the resulting focus should be on reducing the likelihood of occurrence and increasing the possibility of detection.  

Ensuring an effective PFMEA process

There are a number of steps that your organization can take to ensure an effective PFMEA process:

  • Have a truly cross-functional team made up of operations, engineering, quality and client-facing professionals
  • Be open and honest; the objective is to identify risk and improve it, not to have a "good score"
  • Break up the end-to-end process into manageable chunks
  • Allow your quality and client-facing representatives to own the severity score, not operations
  • Document the process, establish a baseline and reassess on an ongoing basis, e.g. every 6 months
  • Involve all the team in the work in order to maintain perspective and transparency

Identifying risk is just one element of planning for success. In the next bulletin we will take a more detailed look at the related topic of change management and its importance to quality and compliance assurance. 

If you need more advice or support around risk management or related quality or compliance issues, please reach out to the BlueCrest Solution Engineering Team via your Account Manager.

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