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Problem solving processes in digital quality management – methods and advantages


Digital audits and supplier evaluation, digital first article inspection report and manufacturability analysis as well as digital complaint management – the digitalization of quality management and the establishment of a Supply Chain 4.0 offers faster, more efficient processes as well as increased safety in compliance with quality requirements.

Accordingly, the optimization of software-based quality management also includes digital problem-solving processes that solve problems in a sustainable manner. But how does this work?

In the following, we will show you which basic methods and digital tools are available for this and which advantages digital problem-solving processes bring you.

What is a "problem" in quality management?

First of all, a problem is the difference between your target and actual state, a deviation from a specification or a previously defined standard. The resolution process is the step-by-step and systematic elimination or a sequence of several actions to systematically eliminate the problem.

To effectively eliminate a problem, one must first identify the problem and determine its cause, i.e., accurate and clear problem identification is the first and most important step in the problem-solving process. All subsequent
steps are based on this:

The Generic Problem Solving Process

Graphic problem-solving process shows the path from problem definition to proposed solution

What are the quality assurance methods for problem solving?

Whether using the well-known Ishikawa diagram to identify the problem and its causes or determining the solution path to eliminate these problem causes with the help of the 5-Why method: There are several theoretical models for exemplary problem-solving processes - for quality management, but also for business administration and logistics.

The problem-solving methods always run in a certain control loop or cycle, which is supposed to ensure continuous and ongoing problem solving. The best known is the PDCA cycle:

PDCA as a problem solving process

Plan - Planning for the entire problem-solving process: the problem must first be identified and its cause analyzed. This is followed by planning appropriate actions to solve the problem.

Do - Implementation of the planned measures: The measures and their effect are observed and data is collected. Does the problem continue to occur after the measures have been implemented?

Check - Verification and validation of the implemented measures: Based on the previously collected data, the effectiveness of the measures is checked and evaluated.

Act - Targeted action: If, after the check, the measures are found to be ineffective, a recursion loop with corrections takes place. Reasons for ineffectiveness can be that the cause and/or the problem were not identified precisely enough, which is why the measures planned afterwards were wrong or insufficient.

Accordingly, new planning must take place and the PDCA cycle begins again.

8-step problem solving process

The 8-step problem-solving process is similar to the PDCA cycle - but it is more detailed:

1. Identify the Problem:

  • What is the problem to be solved?
  • How can the problem be narrowed down, more narrowly defined, or made more precise?

2. Collect Data:

  • NDF - Collect numbers-data-facts around the problem.
  • What are the possible causes?
  • Which cause has what impact? Is it one cause or a combination of causes?
  • Is it a repeat error? If so, when or where did it occur before?

3. Analyze Data:

  • Analyze the results from steps 1 and 2.
  • Evaluate the causes found.
  • What is the root cause of the problem?

4. Work Out Possible Solutions

  • Have there been similar problems in the past? If so, what measures were selected to solve the problem and how did they work?
  • Use brainstorming to come up with many alternative solutions!

5. Select Solution:

  • From alternative solutions found, select the one path that is best and/or most promising, i.e., reduce complexity and increase clarity.

6. Plan Implementation:

  • What is to be done?
  • When will the implementation take place?How will the implementation take place?
  • What about existing or needed resources and associated costs?
  • Who is responsible?
  • Where are the potential risks?

7. Carry Out Implementation:

  • Implement and validate the selected measures.
  • Verify the effectiveness of the selected measures.

8. Continue to Improve:

  • If the measures are ineffective, a recursion loop is performed according to the CIP principle (Continuous Improvement Process).

No matter what the method looks like, it always starts with problem identification: Without knowing the problem, every further step is potentially faulty. This raises the question: What is the best way to methodically and systematically identify and avoid a problem and subsequent errors?

Problem solving process through problem identification: The 6W method

The 6W method is a good orientation and guideline for a meaningful problem identification, especially with regard to mechanical or electronic, but above all with regard to software components. Ask the questions about the six Ws - What? Who? Where? When? Why? How? - preferably always with a view to your target state in order to find more meaningful answers:

  • What is the problem? What is not the problem? What should the target state accomplish?
  • Who is affected? Who is reporting the problem? Who might also need the target state?
  • Where does the problem occur? Where might the target state also be affected?
  • When does the problem occur? When should the target state be implemented?
  • Why is it a problem? Why is the target state needed at all?
  • How does the problem manifest itself? What should the target state look like?

So much for the theories of general problem solving processes. But what are the digital implementation options for problem-solving processes and what advantages do they offer?

Implementation options and advantages of digital problem-solving processes in quality management.

Digital problem-solving processes help to systematically identify the causes of problems and to sustainably avoid repeat errors when solving problems. This is achieved, for example, by using CAQ solutions to gain valuable quality knowledge from your defects, which is then available for the further problem-solving process of your quality management. At the same time, digital processes can be used to initiate immediate measures so that your customers remain capable of acting despite the problem, while the problem-solving process begins in parallel. This is how you effectively reduce the costs of your quality management with digital problem-solving processes!

And this is how digital problem-solving processes work:

8D problem-solving process in digital quality management

The 8D report is a standardized, professional and sustainable tool for systematic problem solving. Using a central form, eight disciplines (8D) are carried out step-by-step, with short-term measures for immediate damage containment while continuing to guarantee the ability to act! In particular, however, the avoidance of repeat errors is an essential benefit of digital problem-solving processes using the 8D report:

D1 – Assemble Team: Who is responsible?
D2 – Problem description: Identify the problem.
D3 – Immediate Action: Mitigate damage by minimizing the impact of the error or problem. This process contributes less to the actual problem resolution, but allows the customer to continue working with the given resources until a problem resolution is achieved.
D4 – Root cause analysis: What are the possible causes of the problem and what are the main causes?
D5 – Define remedial actions: The team from D1 develops proposed solutions (including verification of suitability as an appropriate measure) and selects an appropriate remedial measure for implementation.
D6 – Implement remedial actions: Measures and their effectiveness are implemented as well as verified.
D7 – Avoid error recurrence: Where else can the cause of the error or problem occur?
D8 – Conclusion.

Especially in complaint management, the 8D report is an excellent tool of digital problem solving, but can be applied wherever immediate action is needed.

Digital error management: FMEA software and systematic knowledge generation

The primary goal in problem solving is to eliminate the difference between the target and actual state.However, in order to really avoid problems and errors in the long term with a problem-solving process, knowledge must be systematically built up and made usable: This can be achieved with the help of FMEA software.

Based on the existing knowledge in the FMEA, the 8D process checks actual and target and accesses the FMEA error catalogs for this purpose. Here, everything is already available that must be included in the planning for problem elimination. The processed problems and defects provide new knowledge back to the FMEA, which initiates a continuous improvement process for problem solving: A systematically as well as methodically clean defect management that converts defects into quality knowledge.


Digital problem solving processes belong to a sustainable and software-based quality management! Digital tools such as the 8D report and the FMEA software are methodically based on known, generic problem-solving processes and models that form a digital quality control loop: Immediate actions with guaranteed ability to act, avoidance of repeat errors and systematic knowledge generation from errors and problems optimize your quality management. Faster action, increased efficiency, and reduced costs are the benefits that digital problem-solving processes bring you!

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