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Even Bakers Use Process Indicators

At a recent trade show, explaining the benefits of a quality management system to students, I described a QMS as similar to baking. When we bake a cake, we know if we did it right by the results: texture, flavor, and appearance, compared to the ideal cake. If any of these Process Indicators is negative, it shows either the recipe, our equipment, or our process needs revising. Likewise, in daily company operations, the Key Process Indicators are as important as the products themselves – and in measuring the performance of our processes (ISO 9001:2015, 9.3.2.c.3), KPIs help us find strengths and weaknesses.


Results are the proof – Each process should have one or more KPIs to show us whether we’re following the recipe (and you thought licking the bowl was only for kids!). When a breakdown in a process is not monitored, then the next process no longer meshes, impacting the whole system.


There are many KPIs available to help management verify the ‘recipe’ is accurate and effective:

  • Immediate in-process monitoring (peer review, inspections, rework data, traveler data)

  • Output (cycle-time, throughput, flow, Takt time, first pass yield)

  • Quality (In-process and final inspection, returns, reject #/causes, rework types)

  • Timeliness (On-time delivery vs. company-caused expedite delivery costs).

  • Internal audits: not only to verify compliance to a Standard, but that the specifics in the process are followed consistently

  • External feedback from customers and external bodies (returns) can show gaps in in-process monitoring – and compliments can show effectiveness!

Administrative – while often ignored, administrative delays can be a prime contributor to achieving overall objectives and customer satisfaction. Common measurable indicators include:

  • number of follow-ups needed to get additional specifications or paperwork;

  • programming accuracy/rework rates,

  • response time on quotes or questions,

  • win/loss ratios on sales (by sector, cause)

  • on-time material availability,

  • delivery cost containment;

  • communication on errors/delays,

  • data accuracy on production processes

  • Record accuracy/completeness (risk, certifications, maintenance, maintenance, training, corrective actions, internal audit evidence)


Improving the Recipe: One way to ‘continually improve’ is once a month to ask the team about a process they think needs improvement, then create a workgroup to review and rewrite it. As you do, make sure it has KPI’s that reflect it's nature and place in your system.

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