In the first post of our new Pursuit of Perfection blog series, we introduced the concept of Six Sigma and described how it’s used at Wholesale Screening Solutions to improve our business processes and – by extension – our service to Consumer Reporting Agencies (CRAs).
Six Sigma uses data and statistical analysis rather than guesswork to identify and correct defects in a process. In the case of our work in public records research for employment screening, a “defect” refers to any type of error associated with such research.
Considering the nature of our work, any type of defect is unacceptable to us, which is why we have been using the Six Sigma model for years. Our goal is to drive process improvement by reducing variations and enhancing controls so that we provide the most accurate research possible every time, to every customer, with the fastest possible turnaround.
In this blog, we lift the covers on our continuous improvement methods so that you can understand how we strive to provide the best possible customer service.
1. Identify the Defect
We have multiple channels at Wholesale Screening for identifying defects: our researchers, internal audits, and our customers, to name a few. All defects are reported to our internal quality analyst using a Defect Correction Form (DCF). The DCF describes the nature of the defect, when and where it occurred, how it may have impacted the client, and any other relevant information.
2. Gather Data
Next, we log the information into our quality data tracking system, giving us a set of quantifiable data points. By documenting defects in this way, we remove the subjective (e.g., Customer A was unhappy with a result) and translate into an objective statement that can be acted upon (e.g., Customer A informed us of Defect X in a result and was, therefore, unhappy). Since we have pinpointed Defect X, we can do something about it.
3. Engage the Quality Board of Review
With hard data in-hand, we task our Quality Board of Review (QBOR) with analyzing the data and recommending a possible course of action. The Board uses quality improvement tools to diagnose the root causes of the defect. For example, an error on a criminal record could stem from many places: the original record from the Public Access Terminal (PAT) was incorrect or not updated by the courts or clerk of record; the record was omitted due to an incomplete search; an administrative error while transferring the record to the result; or, even a mistake by the customer in interpreting the record.
The Board frequently employs a pareto analysis among other data analytic tools to assess what’s at the heart of a defect because it provides a constructive way of looking at the causes of problems and organizing thoughts.
4. Report Results to Executive Team
Once the Quality Board has determined the root cause(s) of a defect, they recommend corrective action to the executive leadership team. The executive team assigns a “Defect Elimination Squad” to tackle the top three highest priority defects the Board have identified.
5. Fix the Problem and Prevent Future Defects
Following the executive team’s directive, the Defect Elimination Squad Subject Matter Experts (SME)s go to work on the defects. They start by doing further investigation of the possible root causes of the defect utilizing Lean Six Sigma DMAIC tools. Once they have confidence they’re focused on the right issues, they recommend and help implement corrective actions across the organization.
The Defect Elimination Squad works with relevant team members to modify their daily work processes. If the defect stemmed from an administrative error, for example, they will put steps in place to prevent it from happening again. This might include upgrading software, having a second review of a result before it is released to the CRA, or tweaking employee training to prevent this type of error in the future.
Once the Defect Elimination Squad has worked through a defect, it moves to the next highest priority defect or waits until another defect has been identified. The cycle continues on this way.
6. Evaluate and Communicate the Results
Since all defects are captured in a data tracking system, we can assess from month-to-month whether the corrective actions put in place by the Defect Elimination Squad have taken hold. When the process works as it should, the defect is greatly reduced or eliminated, and we can validate this by looking at the new data analytics documented in the Control Phase of the DMAIC method. In this case, the team moves on to other process improvements. If our corrective actions have not solved the problem, we go back to the drawing board to assess which strategies will help prevent future defects of this kind. Because we hold quality improvement in such a high regard, our Defect Elimination Squad reports its activities and the results at a monthly “State of Quality” meeting.
It’s never fun to realize that something in your work processes isn’t working optimally, but this is the very reason we use the Six Sigma framework. As of the date of this post, we’ve processed roughly 10 million search records with 99.9778 percent accuracy. Each day, we make every effort to do even better.