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9 Consumer Goods Insights from the 2021 Quality Management Trends Report

"We have moved toward an electronic document management system, but our sites still rely 90% of the time on paper because our production is not significantly automated. You spend a lot of time checking what somebody else has entered."

Sound familiar? 

For many consumer goods organizations, this describes where quality management professionals still find themselves even in 2021. However, after a seismic year, achieving Quality 4.0 and realizing the potential of quality automation are poised to make significant progress. 

This dynamic is just one of the many conclusions of the new 2021 Quality Management Trends Report. This complimentary research report reveals what opportunities global quality leaders are pursuing this year, and what new and emerging challenges they face in their work and organizations.

The Report analyzes the survey responses of 250 Quality Management leaders from industries including consumer goods, cosmetics, food & beverage and more. Additionally, it contains direct insights from 12 in-depth interviews with quality leaders in North America and Europe to provide a more nuanced representation of quality in 2021. 

To give you a sample of consumer goods industry takeaways contained in the Report, here are 9 new industry-specific insights for quality management leaders in 2021:

  1. Data Management key to Quality 4.0 Survey results showed that the top quality management challenge for consumer goods companies is “using data to be proactive and make data-driven decisions”. At many CPGs, this challenge stems from the lack of a comprehensive enterprise level strategy for data management, or achieving Quality 4.0. One study interviewee shared this perspective from their organization.
    “I don't think there's a crystal-clear definition of Quality 4.0. We are relatively well-advanced in the abundance of data we collect online from our production lines. However, I still don't think we fully understand how to best do it and what the real challenges are.”
  2. Product Specification Compliance Consumer goods survey respondents ranked “compliance with product specifications” as their top supplier challenge. This is front of mind for quality professionals as they know the consequences of poor supplier quality. 
    “We’re hoping to better understand what drives the risk of producing something that causes a marketplace incident. Because amongst all the things that quality is driving, a marketplace incident - which in the worst case can result in a recall - are probably one of the most disruptive and most costly events that can occur.”
  3. Training Effectiveness & Compliance The report concluded that consumer goods companies top training challenges were training effectiveness for onsite employees and ensuring training compliance. This was echoed in the interviews, where an individual shared, “
    EHSQ training is not managed by HR; it’s very siloed. To follow up on the effectiveness is very difficult, because it’s very manual. As of today, we are not able to have a process, a system that makes sure that we train all workers."
  4. Convergence of QMS and EHS This study found that the Quality & EHS functions are converging - 76% report having a dual quality and EHS role. Quality professionals are often responsible for EHS, as well as quality. Consumer products companies typically have separate tools for quality and EHS, but surveyed professionals want a single solution that handles both.

  5. Quality Management Maturity 86% of Consumer Goods companies report they are at one of the top 2 quality management maturity levels. Survey data showed these companies are taking a hybrid approach, primarily using a cloud QMS to manage quality but still relying on business tools such as spreadsheets and shared drives. As one consumer goods quality assurance professional noted in their interview,
    “For us, organizational quality management maturity means ‘Automation of Quality Processes.’ Getting to the next level of maturity would be defined as ‘Automatic Quality.’”
  6. Cloud Software Tools Dominant 72% use 3rd party cloud-based software tools as a part of Quality and EHS management. However, the authors found during the interviews a significant difference in having a cloud-based system, and building a culture of quality that integrates the usage and maximizing the value potential of that system.
    “People think about documentations, records and SOPs but that’s maybe 20-30% of managing quality. The rest is the quality culture, the quality mindset that you deploy in the organization so people actually follow the SOPs, understand them and internalize them. The strength of good systems is that they achieve the objective with the right user experience. This drives adoption and builds a stronger quality culture. We have a new system that takes three clicks and you're done. Using this system, people say, ‘I actually want to work with the system’ and ‘I actually want to do the job right because the system allows me to.”
  7. Need for a Global System The top QMS requirements for consumer goods companies are integration with other enterprise tools and being cloud-based. As one consumer goods quality management professional put it,
    “The objective is to come to one global system of truth. We record quality data across various systems, so we don't have a perfect picture. Bringing it to a global platform allows us to do more analytics and generate more insights, more understanding of what drives our quality performance.”
  8. Quality: A Key Component of Digital Transformation The most common area of financial investment in the last 12 months among consumer goods companies was digital transformation initiatives. The lingering impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the urgency to use technology to better manage risk and progress more urgently with digital transformation. As one interviewee shared,
    “I would’ve never been able to have my quality team fully remote had I not had Veeva. Everybody picked up a computer, went home. Had we not had that, we would’ve not been able to maintain stock and inventory 100% efficiency the way we have."
    Additionally, the pandemic has made adding headcount less important. The report identified there may be opportunities for companies to move funds budgeted for headcount toward digital transformation and QMS.

  9. One Word Sums It Up ....Transformation “Transformation” was the prevailing theme of the 2021 outlook on quality. Between heightened and shifting consumer expectations for transparency, the move towards automation, Quality 4.0, and the possibilities of modern, globally unified eQMS systems, quality management is poised to change faster than ever before. This is great news for the quality professionals being asked to do more with less resources while ensuring product quality and compliance.

    As one quality management professional stated to the study authors,
    “To switch to existing, known ways of managing quality processes that are not internally-approved takes a bit of massaging. It requires saying to the organization, ‘we had a way of doing things in the past that was very specific, fit our business needs, and we were the best in the world at doing, but given we want to do in the future, we need to adjust. Others have already gone through the pain of getting better processes and better approaches. Why don't we just copy and paste versus trying to customize, to replicate what we used to do, but which is no longer applicable in our new environment?’”

If you want to see the full picture of Quality Management in 2021, and how you compare to your peers and industry leaders, please download a complimentary copy of the full report. We also encourage you to learn more about Veeva’s cloud applications tailored for the consumer goods industry here