Razor thin margins leave little room for production errors. Because product recalls and customer refunds are so expensive, you want to be able to consistently deliver quality products, but without adding to your production costs.
1. Define what product quality means.
How are your customers using this product? How do they measure the quality of your product? You can avoid over-engineering your product by understanding the quality standards of your customers. They may be willing to pay less for lower quality – or you may be able to charge more by increasing quality.
2. Create, document and follow established processes.
Create discipline around your business processes. Consistent routines deliver consistent results. One of the reasons most manufacturers have MRP and ERP systems is to enforce standardization. However, these manufacturing systems must be flexible enough to change as your business processes change. If people start working around the system, the software will not reflect the reality of the shop floor.
3. Hire good people and train them.
With your processes established, you need people who will follow the guidelines you set. You also need competent people to manage others and perform skilled labor jobs. If you can’t find people with enough experience, find people with a good attitude and give them opportunities to learn from your more seasoned employees.
4. Maintain your equipment.
Equipment problems can degrade the quality of your output. Preventative maintenance is the key to avoiding down time and lowered production quality. Conduct regular checks and replace worn components before they break down. Many manufacturers are starting to use IoT sensors to detect issues early, by monitoring usage, heat variations and other deviations from baseline settings. Part of your maintenance plans should include having critical and frequently replaced spare component parts on hand. You’ll also want to make sure you have multiple people who know how to fix your equipment.
5. Create a clean, organized work environment.
Many manufacturing processes create residue – paint, oil, sawdust, metal filings, etc. This production “dust” can clog machines and get stuck to finished product. Maintaining a clean production line can improve quality with little effort. Product can also get damaged by mishandling, being stored improperly, and in the shipping process. Having an organized work environment can lower your risk of delivering damaged product.
What else would you add to this list? Have you found ways to increase production quality without adding to your production costs?
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Author: Phil Coy, Managing Director – Manufacturing Excellence