Kenda James, quality manager for General Composites Inc. (GCi), has more than 10 years of experience in manufacturing and 30 years of marketing, research, new product development, technology and logistics experience. She is a Lean Six Sigma black belt and has implemented programs for Just in Time and lean manufacturing. James has quickly immersed herself in key quality initiatives at GCi, including lean manufacturing, Design for Six Sigma, ISO 9001:2008 Design and CFR/ISO 13485 Medical Devices accreditation.

Kenda James, quality manager for General Composites Inc. (GCi)

Kenda James, quality manager for General Composites Inc. (GCi)

The Best of COMPOSITES 2013 Webinar Series launches on Wednesday, May 29, 2013, with James’ webinar, Transition to Sustainable Quality: Better and Better Every Day.

Implementing a quality program may seem daunting to companies, especially small ones. Do you have any advice for getting started?

Get started! You probably have heard of the “80 percent rule” in lean manufacturing. What it means is, don’t wait until it can be perfect, just get it going. It’s not worth it to wait until it is perfect. Better to just get started and then start the CONTINUAL improvement process. That’s the whole underlying tenet of quality to begin with. The approach should be to start with what you know, where there is confidence and experience. From there, you can leverage that base of experience to move into expanded programs and initiatives. Start. People often underestimate themselves. There’s no ABSOLUTE expert out there and there’s no RIGHT answer – so better to just take the plunge.

An issue that often interferes with introducing a quality program is the concern that it will be too much work to support, especially for small companies who may have limited staff, and typically don’t have a dedicated quality staff. This is the philosophical hurdle you have to jump – you have to believe! The payback is there, even at the lowest levels.

In addition, there are some basic foundations for quality that are easy to implement and can have a major impact by quickly eliminating waste and value stream mapping. Early victories give momentum to a program and can often change the minds of any “holdouts” in the organization.

Your webinar focuses on transitioning to sustainability: How did you influence change within your own company?

Change is an everyday thing at GCi. Almost every day brings opportunities – trainable moments, if you will. Quality is not a “check the box” item. It’s all about improving – making things a little better every day. Sometimes, you can’t help but be a little reactive, to address emerging issues. But, you also want to take time to be proactive, to put longer-term programs into play. You need to leave a little time and effort free to address these longer-term efforts.