A personal conversation with Andrew Hopton – Corporate Quality Director
Andrew Hopton, the Corporate Quality Director for HYDAC USA reflects on quality management, ISO 9001:2015 and offers advice on how to be successful as a manager in today’s business environment. Also, we will discuss how the digital transformation will change our way of working.
About: Andrew Hopton have been working in manufacturing for almost 20 years. I had the opportunity working with him at Bosch Rexroth USA. Andrew is a great mentor with passion for Quality and Operations Management. In the following conversation he will share valuable insight on leadership, quality management and digital transformation.
“Spending time traveling North America and visiting suppliers of all different sizes and manufacturing capabilities really opened my eyes to how different organizations approached operations management; for better and worse”
Danar: Hello Andrew, Thank you for taking the time for this interview. Can you tell us about yourself?
Andrew: I have been working in manufacturing for almost 20 years now. I started out of college as a Production Engineer in assembly and testing of hydraulic motors for Bosch Rexroth in Scotland. After a couple of years I moved into warranty which gave me much more opportunity to interact with the customer and various internal departments. Dealing with many of the global OEMs for Mobile Construction and Agriculture equipment, I was traveling to Northern Europe and the US on a regular basis. At that time I was interested in another challenge and a move to the US with Bosch was a natural progression. After two years of working as a Quality Engineer, I was promoted to the QE Supervisor or Group Lead position. Bosch has an excellent internal training and development program for all levels of the organization and I was really fortunate to take advantage of that. In addition, I worked externally on achieving my 6 Sigma Black Belt certification which gave me an excellent basis for applied statistics, hypothesis testing and problem solving. After a few years of being a Group Lead (internal and customer facing), an opportunity came up to join the Central Purchasing group as the site Lead for the Purchasing Quality (Supplier Quality) group. In this role I was a partner to the Commodity and Project Purchasing teams. Spending time traveling North America and visiting suppliers of all different sizes and manufacturing capabilities really opened my eyes to how different organizations approached operations management; for better and worse… During the same time, I joined the Bosch NA Internal System Auditor pool and was part of the team of auditors who would audit each site for compliance to both the ISO standard and the Bosch QMS. Spending time as a Systems Auditor really forced me to become better acquainted with the standard and being open-minded to how it can be interpreted and applied. In 2016 I was starting to look for a new challenge outside of Bosch and the opportunity to join HYDAC came up. It was the perfect position at the perfect time and I jumped aboard.
Danar: Can you tell us about your current role?
Andrew: I am currently the Corporate Quality Director for HYDAC USA. We have 14 manufacturing sites in the USA and a diverse product mix with each business unit acting autonomously but with a centralized Quality System on a matrix certification
“Market volatility has certainly meant that people need to be more agile”
Danar: There are different defintion of the term “Quality”. What does it mean to you?
Andrew: Quality has become synonymous with how customer expectations are understood and managed.
Danar: In today’s business context, there is a short-term focus on financial performance. How does working with Quality Management fit into this picture?
Andrew: Market volatility has certainly meant that people need to be more agile. From things like inventories on hand, to length of supply chain, managing production capacity, to having the ability to flex and onboard new associates in a short period of time; all of these things align perfectly with the model of the ISO 9001:2015 standard. The business management system needs to take all of these things into account and make sure appropriate plans and resources are being made to support it.
Danar:A recent topic discussed is Quality Culture. How can organizations build awareness of quality principles on a strategic and operational level?
Andrew: When it comes to employee engagement, nothing is more important than being able to make the organizational objectives (I intentionally steer clear of saying “strategy” as it is a rabbit hole) linked to the work that people do on a daily basis. People need to connect the work they do with the goals and direction of the company or they will become disenfranchised. Policy deployment helps to cascade these things throughout the levels of the organization.
Danar: Can you tell us about ISO 9001:2015 and how it is being applied?
Andrew: When the standard first came out, the initial reaction was that the changes were not positive and too many topics had been watered down. However, as people have spent more time with it, they begin to realize that it is much more mature of a standard than previous revisions. It allows for a lot more interpretation of how to apply it across a variety of industries. However, it forces organizations to have a QMS that is much more integrated with the business and to have systems for compliance and improvement which were not as well emphasized in previous revisions. I think there are still some things that are perhaps a little too prescriptive, but it is moving in the right direction and if organizations partner with a good certifying body who can provide high quality auditors and engage in meaningful dialogue about how they can help your organization, it can really move the needle in a positive direction.
Danar: Can Lean Management be combined with ISO 9001: What is your opinion?
Andrew: The short answer is, “of course”, but let me qualify that. “Lean”, similar to “Quality” can be interpreted any number of ways. Depending on how organizations are structured and how their management system is deployed will determine how much synergy there is between the quality and lean management systems. In principle, customer value and operational effectiveness are at the core of both systems.
“Focus on developing your people and understand that as a leader you have limited ability to motivate people, but infinite ability to demotivate them”
Danar: You have worked in different managerial roles- can you share some lessons learned? What skills are needed to be successful as a manager?
Andrew: Firstly, in the words of my old mentor, “management would be a science if it weren’t for people”. So understanding personal and team dynamics are where I would start. Focus on developing your people and understand that as a leader you have limited ability to motivate people, but infinite ability to demotivate them. Secondly, “what gave you the success to get you there, is not what you need to be successful when you get there”. Making the transition from high performing individual contributor to a leader of people or teams is challenging. In many ways it is a journey of personal development and maturity that happens only as fast as it happens. Lastly; you need to understand where you want to take your team, make that visible and get them to buy into it.
Danar: Many organizations may already in some degree be working accordingly to different quality programs. Yet few are fully successful in getting attention, build momentum and change the behaviors and get everyone on-board . What is your advice for organizations failing to fully implement quality programs?
Andrew: If I understand the question correctly, you are asking why some initiatives are not successfully deployed. I think the most basic answer to that is that it comes down to Leadership.
Danar: Is there a big difference working with Quality Management in production/logistics compared within a service context such as in R&D?
Andrew: As my German colleagues would say “jein” – yes and no. At the working level, of course it is different. Different tools and methodologies have to be applied. However, at the core, the main processes and interactions need to be understood in terms of inputs, processes and outputs; what the records of compliance are, and how they can be measured for effectiveness and improved upon with a view to increased customer and stakeholder satisfaction.
“Circling back to the market volatility, it is important to really work closely with suppliers to make sure you have agility in the supply chain”
Danar: I worked in your team in 2015 with improving the quality in inbound logistics processes. Today we see a massive shift in companies creating digital connections within and across their supply chain operations. What is your view on quality management within the supply chain operations?
Andrew: Very few organizations are vertically integrated in the modern world. Supply chain management and integration is a huge part of many businesses. Circling back to the market volatility, it is important to really work closely with suppliers to make sure you have agility in the supply chain. Digital tools such as EDI and forecasting tools speed up the transfer of information. Looking to the future, companies are starting to look at electronic exchange of quality information to reduce the amount of resources needed to manage the supply chain. In Europe this is being pushed through the VDA QDX standard. In the US, this is going through the NIST QIF (quality information framework). They are both build using XML code to exchange various file-types and the metrology equipment builders are working to get on board.
Danar: Are there any differences working with quality management in different cultures?
Andrew: Yes. Macro level influences like regulatory requirements, working with workers unions or local employment laws, and what the influences of the various industries that you work in all need to be considered and accounted for within the Quality Management System. Again, this is something that the latest revision of the standard did correctly.
“Business Intelligence is one of the most important frontiers today, but at the end of the day, the work still needs to get done”
Danar: You have a long experience in several industries and been part of several transformations. Today, the focus is on the digital transformation with new digital business models emerging. What is your view on this?
Andrew: Business Intelligence is one of the most important frontiers today, but at the end of the day, the work still needs to get done. You can have the most sophisticated CMMS tool to manage your asset maintenance, but you still need to follow through and perform accordingly. No digital solution will fix a broken system. Additionally, with all of the digital solutions out there, the challenge is trying to pick the best solutions and ones which will integrate with one another. There is no doubt that ERP systems are the core of many organizations and how they work. Integrating BI or AI into the workplace has to complement the ERP system and not become a second system that needs to be maintained. Finally, with all of the cloud based solutions coming on board, small to mid-sized companies are (rightly) nervous about how to manage cyber security as they try to step into these new platforms.
Danar: One Quality tool you would like to recommend and why?
Andrew: I’m not sure if I would call it a “tool” per se, but I feel that a daily cross-functional stand-up meeting (when performed well) is a very powerful way of getting everyone aligned and engaged, and creates a cornerstone for building robust business processes.
Danar:Do you want to recommend a book/article/reference for learning more about quality management?
Andrew: It sounds really dry, but most people would gain a lot just from spending some time trying to better understand the ISO 9001 standard.
Danar: Thank you once again. How can people get in touch with you if they want to contact you?
Andrew: I can be reached via LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/andrew-hopton-30ba0228/