Q&A: Norix Quality Manager says Quality is a Mindset Throughout Organization
Jim Sanders is the Quality Manager for Norix Furniture. In this Q&A, he describes in detail how the company puts its products through extensive inspection, ensuring that the customer does not receive defective products.
So you lead the Norix Furniture quality control efforts. If your department had to write an official mission statement, what would it be?
The Norix Quality Department is committed to ensuring that the quality of products going to our customers meets or exceeds our customer’s expectations through continuous improvement, communication, supplier partnerships and proactive quality management.
So specifically, can you give me some examples of the kind of testing and inspections you do on Norix furniture?
A large part of our inspections is visual. Making sure the aesthetics of our furniture meet our customer’s expectations is important. We also perform many dimensional measurements using standard inspection tools, such as tape measures, calipers and micrometers. For our products that are plated or painted, we test the adhesion, proper coating thickness and finish. Where color control is important, we have an in-house spectrophotometer which allows us to monitor product color match within set parameters.
We also have, in-house, an ADMET eXpert 2600 which allows us to test compression and pull strength of various materials with up to 2,000 pounds of force. For our sealed seam mattresses we use the 2600 to routinely test our sealed seam strengths.
So what happens if you see damaged or defective furniture come into the warehouse?
Once any product is identified as not meeting our quality criteria, it is marked with a defect identification label, segregated from good product and then addressed through our nonconformance process, which includes corrective/preventative action and root cause analysis.
What is your relationship with suppliers? Do you communicate with them? If so, in what capacity?
I feel we have a very strong relationship with our supply base. Open and honest communications with our suppliers is a critical strength to our quality process. A strong relationship ensures continued success in meeting/exceeding and understanding our goals and expectations. I take pride in being involved with our suppliers on a personal level. I feel it is a very important part in building the relationship, providing a better understanding of both sides of our businesses. Communications range from e-mails, phone conversations, facility visits and the use of reporting tools. Some of those reporting tools are sharing monthly, quarterly and yearly performance monitoring and strategic planning initiatives.
So aside from the inspections you mention above, what other kind of efforts is your department involved in?
Another side of the Quality Department involves managing testing and record keeping, supporting our GREENGUARD Certification initiative, along with product fire testing to TB133, UL1056, ASTM1537, NFPA 261, TB129, 1633, 1632 where applicable, just to mention a few tests. We also perform first article inspections to support new product introductions, modifications, first time partnerships with new suppliers and tooling/process changes.
Norix is constantly moving forward and launching new products. What is the Quality Department’s role in ensuring the launches go smoothly?
We have two main roles in support of new product launch and they involve ensuring that QC specifications are developed and released in support of the launch and that any required support testing, such as fire testing, etc., is completed upon schedule. We also work with our Engineering Department on any other support documentation, such as new material/processes as needed and provide input on drawings that support the Quality Department function once we go into production.
What is the Quality Department’s promise to the customer?
We promise that we will keep the customer’s expectations in the forefront of our visions, working to assure continuous improvement, and always keeping quality as part of our DNA.
What is your philosophy on quality in general? Does it stop and start with your department?
There are many debatable sides to the philosophy of quality. All you need to do is to talk to quality professionals and you will get an array of responses. But for me quality is a combination of discipline, commitment, responsibility, fitness of use and meeting expectations.
Keeping all this in mind, in the end, the final judge of quality is the customer. Providing our customers with a satisfied business experience is a win, win for both of us. Quality does not start and end with the Quality Department. Quality needs to be a mindset throughout an organization, with strong support from the top down. Without this kind of commitment you are just going through the motions.