I recently gave a talk to a local chapter of the American Society for Quality entitled “The Future of Quality Management Systems - Using Technology to Your Advantage”. If attendees were expecting to hear about all of the advancements we have made with CIS software (and there are many), they would have left disappointed. Instead, what I shared with them was how technology is changing the workplace.
The more you know about the future, the better equipped you can be to deal with it. Just like catching errors, the earlier you can understand the situation, the easier (cheaper) it is to solve.
Many people feel insecure about their employment. They see change on the horizon, don’t know how (or if) it will affect them and hope that by keeping their heads down and staying out of trouble, they will escape unscathed. Nothing could be further from the truth.
With the latest industrial revolution upon us, it is not a question of if your role will be affected but rather when it will happen. In order to frame this properly we need to ask 3 simple questions:
What’s it mean?
What do I do next?
it is not a question of if my role will be affected but rather when it will happen
Firstly let me confess that, like many modern day marketers (“marketer” being an ancient word roughly translated as “bad researcher”), I have formed an opinion and then have gone out into the literature to find articles that back-up my beliefs. There are probably contrary views, but you won’t find them here. One of these sources is McKinsey Global Institute (https://www.mckinsey.com/) who are a great source of studies on almost any management topic you can think of. The other is the World Economic Forum (https://www.weforum.org/) who study world trends and advise governments on policy.
I think I am in good company. So let’s jump right in…
1. What’s happening today?
The meaning of work is changing:
- Technology (Automation, AI, Big Data, IoT, mobile) will result in a possible net loss of over 5 million jobs by 2020 according to the WEF.
- Jobs are disappearing faster than they are being created.
- Companies are struggling to attract people with the right skills. There is a massive skills gap; education systems fallen behind.
- Millennials are replacing Baby Boomers: digitally savvy, different values, want purpose, flexibility, work-life balance, gig economy.
This first chart from the WEF breaks the situation down by country.
Even though this looks like there is a rough balance between jobs lost and gained, the folks on the left-hand side do not become the folks on the right-hand side. The skills are totally different, the job types are totally different and the age of the workers are probably different.
What’s it mean?
- People worry that technology will threaten their livelihood.
- The disruption of our work world is as dramatic as industrialization & urbanization.
- These are forces we cannot alter.
Let’s take a look at how skills need to adapt. In 2015 the WEF determined the following top 10 skills were needed in the workplace:
Looking good in 2015. We’re number 6 on the list! But what happened to Quality in 2020? Why didn’t we make the list?
Our customers still want quality products. How are they supposed to get them? Yes, that is true. However quality will be built into manufacturing systems and those systems will not need people with QC skills to operate them.
What’s it mean for you and me?
The bad news is automation of the quality function may threaten your livelihood. This disruption of our work world is as dramatic as industrialization & urbanization. It will require new skills and new work methods.
These are forces we cannot alter. Why can’t we alter this? In order for technology to be accepted, there are 5 factors that come into play and here is how they are being answered:
- Technical feasibility: We have proven technology to automate any QMS.
- Cost of developing and deploying solutions (hardware and software costs): No new hardware is needed. The software is very inexpensive.
- Labor market dynamics: Labor costs are rising, driving the need for cost savings through software.
- Economic benefits: Higher throughput; increased quality; labor costs savings. ROI is measured in months, not years.
- Regulatory/social acceptance: Software actually facilitates regulatory compliance; this technology appeals to Millennials.
Let’s not give up quite yet.
For one thing, I don’t believe that quality jobs will be lost outright. I believe, as the following McKinsey charts show, that a large portion of the quality role will be automated, but the role will not be eliminated. More will be done with less. The same number of employees can handle any expansion of business.
In big picture shown on the left-side chart shows that 100% of jobs can be automated at least to some extent. On the other hand, there are less than 5% of jobs that can be totally automated.
So where do you fit? Why did quality control not make the 2020 skills list? The right-side chart chart shows that the activities with the highest potential to be automated are those that occupy a lot of the quality control function: collecting data and processing data. It is interesting to note that ½ of the roles are highly susceptible to being automated and ½ are not. This gives us a glimpse of the answer to the 3rd question.
What do we do next… how do we stay ahead of the competition?
If we agree that these are forces we cannot alter, then we need to transform our roles to ones that are less susceptible to automation disruption. Don’t cling to data collection and processing. Use software like CIS to automate these tasks and free up you time.
Use that “found” time to provide the expertise you have been trained for: applying expertise to decision making, planning, and creative tasks; interfacing with stakeholders – other managers who need your problem solving skills.
Let me give you an example of where CIS software can help you by looking at various quality functions applied to Stephen Covey’s time management matrix.
I confess the allocations of activities in Quadrants I and III can be debated, but most would agree that the activities of Quadrant IV is where the real quality progress is made. How does CIS software help?
- Quadrant III – eliminated - all these activities are either eliminated or entirely automated without the need for management involvement.
- Quadrant I – automated – reporting is instantaneous as events are recorded. Notifications are automated across all departments and stakeholders. Breaks down departmental silos. Generates individual action items, records costs and time spent, tracks progress on all projects.
- Quadrant II – simplified – management time is freed up. Visibility into all things quality.
- Quadrant IV – nobody spends their time here, right…
The McKinsey charts tell a story from a big picture view. When we dig a little deeper, more opportunities can be found. Even though most certifications have gone through or are going through updates, most companies have NOT taken advantage of automation though technology:
- 77% of the market does not have a culture of quality;
- 37% of the market struggles to meet objectives due to ineffective quality metrics; and
- The median manufacturer has only harmonized 8% of its quality management processes
If yours is one of these companies, you can add tremendous value to your organization by demonstrating how automation through technology can make you more competitive by increasing efficiencies and reducing costs.
3 things you need to be doing to stay ahead:
- Embrace the new technologies to stay competitive. Find out what CIS has to offer.
- Look for opportunities at the industry sector and company level. Quality management skills are highly transferable.
- By adaptable in terms of skills, activities, companies, and even the sectors you work in (the US has captured only 18% of its potential – EU only 12%)
Companies that embrace new technologies see their profits and margins increase three times as fast as companies who do not. Companies that are digital leaders in their sectors have faster revenue growth and higher productivity than their less-digitized peers. Better still, employees within these companies enjoy double the wage growth.
The latest changes in many of the certifications require the top management team be responsible for quality (as opposed to 1 quality representative). This presents a prime opportunity to re-position your quality management skills with top management as a value provider versus a cost center.
Industry data that shows the clear correlation between mature quality management – those companies that are using technology to optimize the quality function - and performance. Companies gain better financial performance (up to a 2% net gain in operating income) and are more competitive.
The race is on. The market will become more competitive as others seize this opportunity to improve. The sooner you take action, the sooner you can use automation tools to secure your career and use technology to your advantage.