5 Lessons from Our 2018 Champions for Quality Winners


By Eric Stoop
February 5, 2019

One of the highlights from last year’s Beacon User Summit was our first annual Champions for Quality Awards. Before jumping into what we learned from our champions, we’d like to introduce the 2018 award winners:

Catalyst Award: Tom Sholty, Girtz Industries

Sholty is a quality manager who led Girtz’s ISO 9001:2015 certification, also helping lead the company to the Quality Magazine 2018 Quality Leadership 100. His efforts helped reduce Girtz’s warranty rate to 0.26% of sales dollars and nonconformance rate to 0.89% of sales dollars, both record lows for the company.

Ambassador Award: Deb Klafter, Okamoto Sandusky Manufacturing

Klafter is a quality manager known for developing her team’s quality awareness. She’s been instrumental in implementing new quality management system (QMS) tools, also improving corrective actions and continuous improvement processes.

Influencer Award: Sheronda Jeffries, Cisco

Jeffries is a technical leader for Cisco nominated for her quality leadership and advocacy on global quality committees. Jeffries is director of the International Accreditation Forum (IAF) representing end-users and industry, as well as IAF User Advisory Committee (UAC) Chair. Karen Rawson represented Jeffries at the User Summit.

1. Layered Process Audits Bring Quality to the Entire Organization

We asked our Champions for Quality about how they transformed quality in their organizations. Klafter was quick to point out that layered process audits (LPAs) were a critical tool in building quality culture.

“When we started, nobody had any understanding of LPAs, and since then I’ve gotten every department on board, from accounting to production to quality to engineering,” Klafter says.

She adds that working with people one-on-one and accompanying them on audits has helped ensure LPA success. Incorporating findings into the fast response system means faster improvement—and operators actively help when auditors are unfamiliar with a process.

“Now that people see things are getting fixed, they’re much more cooperative, involved and enthusiastic,” she says.

>>Learn more about layered process audit (LPA) basics with our free webinar, Layered Process Audits 101

2. To Get Management Buy-In, Demonstrate Value

Our champions all said getting buy-in from upper management for new initiatives can be difficult, but focusing on value—and celebrating each win—can overcome opposition.

“It’s been a struggle to show that LPAs and other processes I’ve implemented aren’t just an added cost or extra work,” Klafter says. “Once we were doing LPAs and I could show scrap rates and cost of quality falling, leadership really got behind it. Now they’re pushing it and asking me about action items when they visit.”

Sholty took a similar approach to building leadership support for his facility’s ISO 9001:2015 certification.

“When we got the go-ahead after our first presentation, it was a soft commitment,” he says. “We worked hard driving at nonconformance issues, tying results back to meeting the standard. Now they want to know what else it can do for us.”

3. Persistence and Engagement Matter

Award winners emphasized that persistence and engagement were key to overcoming roadblocks. Rawson points to an initiative by Jeffries to create an open database of companies certified to ISO 9001 and the registrar associated with the each certificate.

“If your company is certified to ISO, there’s no way for customers to know whether you have an accredited certification,” says Rawson. “You can’t always count on certification bodies for a rigorous audit, and this is a way to show it’s a reputable and valid certification.”

Registered bodies have generally opposed this approach over concerns of client poaching, but Jeffries is convinced it’s in the best interest of customers. Rawson says getting the database going has faced stiff opposition, but Jeffries’s persistence continues to move it forward.

“It’s been a challenge, but hopefully it will pass in the next year or so,” Rawson says.

4. Fresh Perspectives Can Drive Improvements

Another insight from the Champions for Quality panel was how effective an outside perspective can be at driving change. Sholty is a prime example, recruited four years ago after working in jail and security settings—not the typical background for a quality manager.

Sholty was tasked with fixing a broken quality system, facing an uphill battle in reworking processes, implementing quality tools and reducing nonconformances. He says that his outsider status was what let him challenge the status quo.

“Being the new guy gave me the freedom to ask ‘why’ over and over until we got to a real answer, making it clear that ‘because we’ve always done it that way’ is no longer acceptable,” he says.

5. The Quality Department Shouldn’t Own Quality Objectives

The final lesson from our panel of award winners is that if you want to build a culture of quality, the quality department shouldn’t have sole responsibility over quality objectives.

For instance, Rawson points to how Jeffries has worked to bridge the gap between different stakeholders from industry, users, certification and accreditation bodies to build consensus.

“If the IT department doesn’t have a goal for quality that impacts customers and instead have different financial objectives, they won’t be hot on implementing a new app,” Rawson says.

Sholty says that getting other departments to value quality comes down to showing them exactly how their work affects customers.

“When you ask finance, for instance, about on-time invoicing, light bulbs start going off that they actually do have an influence on service. That’s what really starts changing the overall mindset.”

Needless to say, our inaugural winners of the Champions for Quality Awards were more than deserving! Each winner brought a significant chunk of knowledge to the table, and we all learned a lot from them. We were so excited to exceed our nominations goal and to have thousands of votes on our very first run. The bar has been set high, and we’re looking forward to this upcoming year’s competition.

For 2019, we are shifting our focus to shed a spotlight on how Quality professionals use layered process audits to positively impact their organization’s culture of quality. Details for this year’s Champions for Quality Awards will be announced on Wednesday, February 6th, and nominations will run until February 28th. Click here to learn more about this year’s contest, the prizes, and more!

Eric Stoop
Eric Stoop