Quality Control Roles in Manufacturing
It happens more often than you think. The last of the orders are produced and ready to deliver and just as things are almost out the door, a manufacturing defect surfaces. There goes the entire allotted time for the project and all of your energy and costs of production with it. Now comes the difficult part – letting the customer know.
Quality control at every step of the process is a vital part of manufacturing. Not just to avoid an embarrassing conversation with the customer, but to ensuring accountability and your business’s integrity. Ensuring you have the right tools and roles in place is integral to maintaining accountable quality. At the end of the day, who do you hold responsible for a job well done, or one that’s been very poorly conducted? The truth to the matter is that quality control is as much an individual responsibility as it is a group effort. It is important to have check points and key figures in place to conduct the checks, but it also important to ensure that controls are happening within different levels of the manufacturing process. A well-oiled system with open lines of communication are essential to high-end production.
A Team of Engineers
Your engineers are the brains behind the products. They have the right training and knowledge to review production for faults and make corrections as necessary. They are also good sources for accountability because usually, product design happens with your engineers. If things aren’t quite looking as they should, these are the people to turn to for answers. For these reasons, keeping your engineers in close proximity can save you time and costs in the long run. They may seem like quite an investment into your business, but having a reputed team of engineers can be vital to your company’s growth and reputation.
Once you have the right team, create a process for your team that requires check-in-balances and reviews of products not just individually, but also with each other. Having at least two sets of eyes is almost always better than having one. Since they are the folks who will also have a solution to the problem, give them a chance to get creative and have the ideas flowing. Even a good product can be made better, so the product reviews will almost never go in vein.
If your engineers are the brains, then your operators are surely the pedals of production. These are the people with hands-on experience in the production line and will probably be the first to notice issues. It is important to keep regular lines of communication open with your operators. This will allow you insight into what they see and notice. Operations is a great place for checkpoints, so assign people within your operators with quality check duties.
Statistical Process Control (SPC)
Statistics are great. Numbers aren’t just useful to tell us how wonderful our bottom line is doing. They can be a key tool for understanding the quality of your products as well. There are tons of tools available in the market to check for production metrics. These measurements and metrics should tell you almost everything you can know on screen about your production. Keeping a close eye on these can save you lots of work and increase efficiency down the line. Lean production is the key to manufacturing success. Surprisingly, it is also the right line of thought for high-quality products. Consider appointing someone to your team whose role involves analysing, understanding, and communicating their statistical findings with the rest of your team. In this regard, a data analyst may be a very good asset to your organization.
Follow Proven Manufacturing Methods
Along with human vigilance, there are plenty of existing and effective methods and tools that you can use/implement to aid in the process of quality control. Everything from smart surveillance cameras to some of the methods mentioned below can be strategically used to make your organization more lean and efficient. The right combination of oversight and human control can lead to high-yielding and low-cost solutions to some of the biggest quality control hurdles. Best of all, these methods are proven effective by successful organizations that have been using them for years.
The 5S Methodology: This method is based on the five Japanese words, “seiri”, “seiton”, “seiso”, “sieketsu”, “shitsuke”. In English, they translate to “sort”, “set-in-order”, “shine”, “standardize” and “sustain”. Following these principles can lead to better structure, efficiency, and cost-control.
The Kaizen Approach: 1. Brainstorm/standardize, 2. Measure, 3. Compare, 4. Innovate, 5. Standardize (again), 6. Repeat.
The TPM Pillars: TPM, standing for Total Productive Maintenance has the 5S methodology at its base. Central to its methodology are its eight pillars: Autonomous maintenance, Focused Improvement, Planned Maintenance, Quality, Early Equipment Management, Training and Education, Manufacturing Support, and Safety, Health and Environment. Together with the 5S methodology, TPM promises to yield world class manufacturing, if followed properly.
In all, top quality production isn’t just the output of a single measure, but a very well-oiled system. Each piece of the puzzle is important to your end goal. Putting the pieces together, as the owner or manager of the system, ensures that you set your organization up for its highest achievable level of success. As with many lines of business, keep in mind that the manufacturing wheel doesn’t necessarily need to be reinvented. If the methods mentioned above are telling at all, then it’s evident that pioneers of the trade have been successful for many years following these basics lines of thought. Innovation is great, but creating a solid system is the real key to success. So invest in your team, find the mantra that best suits your business, and bring everything together like a well-oiled train engine running on a solid track.