The Five Commandments of Quality Control
Quality Control can be tricky. It should be the utmost important aspect to deliver for any business. It is also one of the first to go when other priorities are placed above it. When quality belongs to everyone the following commandments cascade.
Is your team aligned? Individuals working on their own agenda will not sustainably improve quality. To make a lasting and meaningful change in the manufacturing process, it will take an aligned team. There must be alignment in how the team talks and discusses quality control. How they have decided to define it, and what processes they have implemented to achieve it.
Establish a standard manufacturing process. Standardization creates an understanding throughout the whole organization. Empower those who do not know, or spot conflicting information, to stop and ask.
Ask yourself, are we aligned in the following areas…
- interpretation of work instructions
- use of tools
Similarly, include multiple disciplines in your search for improved quality control to achieve a variety of perspectives. Pay special attention to process history. Why is the process this way? There must be a reason or cause, and that reason or cause should ultimately improve quality. If not, it must be changed. By considering history, group perspective, and establishing alignment, solid improvements will be obtained.
The most effective means of delivering a quality product to your customer is to ensure detection and corrective measures are in place at the instance in which mistakes often occur. This is to say that the sooner the discovery of an error in the overall production process, the less likely it is to result in a defect that causes discrepant material or time. Simply put, errors will happen, but it is imperative not to complicate errors further by down the line processing. This alone will make the largest impact by saving materials, time, money, and loss to the customer’s confidence in your ability to perform the work.
Use these tools to perform work
- Validate – Confirm through measurements and inspection that the work performed by the prior operator meets the intended objective.
- Perform – Perform your tasks with deliberate action to in accordance with the documented requirements.
- Verification – The confirmation of work performed by the operator prior to moving the product to the next operation.
- Touch for Quality – The act of physically touching the part to verify certain physical features are present.
Solve Problems Completely
Imagine you are fishing and notice dead fish floating in the river. As you pull them out one by one, you realize you cannot keep up as more and more arrive. Instead of tiring yourself by pulling dead fish out of the river, you decide to go upstream to find out what is causing the fish to die in the first place.
This may be common sense while fishing, but far too often in manufacturing, we focus on solving the symptoms of a problem and do not identify the root cause. Examples of addressing symptoms and not the root cause include adding new, unneeded quality inspection steps, or rework stations to rework found defects. Instead, teams will need to work out a true understanding of root cause to address quality issues properly. Running a root cause report with each known failure causing the problem equates to going upstream and fixing the problem completely. Implementation of root cause analysis, through either Ishikawa, fault tree or the five why analysis (part of the six sigma) in the manufacturing process establishes true solutions are steps to ensure the root cause is fixed and the problems will not persist.
Employ Strong Process Discipline
Maintaining a strong process discipline throughout the quality control improvement process is essential for success. Removing as many alternate, and therefore false, choices an operator can make during a process strengthens the correct process. Hence, deviations without the full support of the team will result in dire consequences. The difficulties lay in correctly balancing the level of flexibility and performance the shop can perform within while not inadvertently creating an inhibitive and cumbersome bureaucratic environment.
Develop Organizational Understanding of the Cost of Quality
Finally, make sure your organization has an acute awareness of the actual cost of poor quality. The further in the process a mistake is found the exponentially higher the costs if the mistakes increase. You have to take into consideration the following multiplying factors of poor quality.
- Added inspection time and personnel finding the errors
- Material costs of scrapped goods
- Time spent in rework
- Opportunity costs lost due to schedule disruption
- Added shipment of product to and from customer/end user
- Loss of confidence in your customers’ perception of your organization’s ability to perform the work
Furthermore, the costs associated with your customers’ losing faith in your product or service. This alone will have long-lasting impacts on future revenue opportunity.
Even more, to garner a full understanding of the true costs of reworks, train your manufacturing staff on the multiplying effect on cost as it relates to poor quality. Importantly, educate your team on the tools used to monitor quality control, the costs associated with poor quality, and the channels to add their own CPI (continual process improvements) and watch the desire for finding root causes inherently develop.
By following these five steps, good management teams can develop great quality control programs within their organizations.