How does quality management relate to LEAN?

By Claudia Basso

Often companies have separate teams driving LEAN initiatives and Quality initiatives. These teams are often at odds, debating what the higher priorities are among what can seem like competing goals – adding steps to ensure manufacturing compliance, and reducing steps to gain efficiencies. The reality is that the intent of the two initiatives do not have to conflict. In fact, if we look at the philosophy of LEAN and of Quality, they are both rooted in continuous improvement. Quality management functions actually have a lot to contribute to the LEAN journey.

Let’s look at the common enablers bringing LEAN and Quality together – the systems that support the quality and operational teams. When these systems are seamlessly integrated and collaborative, the teams become aligned in their work. The two main enabling systems typically at the center of LEAN and Quality initiatives are the manufacturing execution system (MES) and the quality management system (QMS), respectively.

Let’s look at how these systems work together to support the intent of both LEAN and Quality initiatives.

    • Identification of all information relevant to the production process in support of continuous improvement – required for the understating of value stream mapping and of quality control requirements
    • Full use of machine capacities and resources as well as control of variants – for reduction in downtime and reduction in defects
    • Control and enforcement of defined processes to lower rework costs and ensure adherence to specifications
    • Efficient management of resources to reduce inventory levels – key to LEAN principles
    • Feedback on non-conformances to optimize product development – key for preventative actions
    • Complete traceability of products, components, and batches – key for performing root cause analysis.

If you are part of a LEAN or a Quality team, you can see how having these capabilities contribute to your goals. Simply digitalizing the processes and eliminating paperwork are significant steps towards reduction in manual, non-value-added processes, and reducing the probably of errors. The use of these integrated systems reduces production times, improve quality, and lower costs. Machine and plant transparency enable faster reactions and support decision making.

Getting the teams collaborating on strategic goals that they both support is key. Executive leadership in this area is important to create a culture that supports both a LEAN philosophy with exceptional quality standards. Learn more about the nexus of LEAN and Quality Management, and how the enabling systems bring these initiatives together, download our white paper, “Facilitating quality management with Siemens PLM Software: Quality, production, traceability and compliance control for productivity advantage.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at