Testing and QC programs are a useful and necessary part of the manufacturing sector, but PMs need to be ready to address the significant impacts these activities can have on projects that are already in progress. Once the results of a testing or QC program are released, the effects on the project can range from delays in downstream activities to changes in the project’s scope. Successfully executing tasks in spite of these impacts—sticking to the target completion date and approved budget—can be tricky. But while juggling mid-project changes is often challenging, there are strategies organizations can use to ensure that testing and QC efforts don’t put the project’s success in jeopardy.
Conduct a thorough analysis of the variables during the initial planning phase. Activities such as testing and QC introduce a lot of unknowns into the mix, and the team can benefit tremendously from the input of a broader group of experts than might normally be involved in planning the project and defining its scope and timeframe.
The professionals who will be conducting the testing or QC activities should be part of the process. They will have valuable insight into where variables commonly exist given the type of manufacturing activities that will be scrutinized as part of the effort. They may also be able to tell the group when and how the testing results will be made available, if interim data can be released (regulatory or other restrictions may limit how much information can be divulged prior to the formal release of results), and where additional QC or testing efforts might be required once the initial round is complete.
Manufacturing staff—not only supervisors and floor managers but also front-line workers—may have insight into how the testing and QC programs are likely to impact operations down to a very granular level. If they have been through similar initiatives previously, their tribal knowledge can provide the project team with useful guidance going forward. They will not only be able to weigh in on the way earlier situations progressed, but also how the current project may differ from previous efforts. As the Project Team explores potential impacts, the manufacturing team’s familiarity with the nuances of day-to-day operations will be tremendously useful in identifying where unexpected roadblocks might exist.
Industry experts can help provide perspective about where organizations in the sector typically encounter challenges during the testing and QC process. They may have insight on predicting test results based on historical data and on spotting trends that commonly signal trouble down the road. These outside partners are often very helpful in giving the team an early sense of what types of impacts they should be prepared to address.
Leverage a work breakdown structure (WBS) to determine the tasks, and their dependencies, that are most likely to require modification. This helps to eliminate the unknowns and it also clearly identifies the entire list of activities that may be impacted by testing and QC efforts. PMs will then have the right amount of granularity to resequence tasks if necessary, while also effectively managing the labor requirements associated with them.
Develop contingency plans to keep the project moving forward. With the WBS complete, scenario planning is a useful exercise to prepare for the obstacles that may be introduced by testing and QC activities. This gives the center of excellence the ability to quickly shift gears by implementing a pre-formed alternate plan. The team can then reflow activities and shift timeframes to accommodate the results of testing and QC efforts without losing sight of the project’s primary goals and target completion date.