Real World Engineering

This is a blog from the trenches—written by engineers at Maverick Technologies who are implementing and upgrading control systems every day across every industry. This isn’t what they teach you in engineering school. These are lessons learned from years on the job, encountering the obstacles and issues that are part of the real world of control and process engineering.

Real World Engineering

New ideas for quality management: Part 3

Improve quality management by recognizing the system operators. Providing them with the proper training and more responsibility over the testing process can be a win-win situation.

March 25, 2014


In the last couple of posts (see Part 1 and Part 2) I’ve talked about some new ideas for quality management in the manufacturing industries. These ideas can have a huge impact on the shop floor and make things a whole lot better when it comes to managing quality.

I took a compare-and-contrast approach, looking at the current paradigm for many companies and then taking a look at these new ideas. All in all, I think that should give you a pretty good picture and what these new ideas are all about.

What I thought I would do now is get into some of the underlying principles behind these new ideas. These principles should be pretty straight-forward, in fact, you probably already know these principles from thinking about the new ideas I’ve mentioned. But, let’s take a close look at some of these guiding principles to see if we can’t understand the reasoning behind all this.

One of the basic principles is to educate and empower the operators. In the old paradigm, it seems like the operators were not really in charge, despite the fact that they were responsible for actually running the manufacturing processes and making the products.

The new idea here is to educate and empower the operators. That means providing them with training both in the manufacturing processes and in the quality processes. It means putting them in charge of the testing processes so that the lab works for them.

It also means figuring out ways to get the lab completely out of the picture so that the testing is performed on the shop floor. Now, I know that may be easier said than done, but it’s one of the main ideas here. Get the testing out of the lab and as close to the shop floor as possible so that the operators are in charge of it. That means that the operators are in charge of the testing and they are in charge of their own processes. They are responsible for making the product.

It also means that the operators have to expand their knowledge of the manufacturing processes. They’ll need to know a lot more about the process and break the paradigm that has them just running one process or one piece of equipment. They’ll need to know a lot more about making the product from end to end. It turns them into real manufacturing craftsmen and not just people that push buttons or push paper.

Yeah, moving testing processes out onto the shop floor may be easier said than done, but it puts the operators in charge. You’ll need some technology solutions that are hardened for the product floor and are very user friendly. Not a necessarily easy combination but technology is getting better and better and there’s lot of cool technology out there.

You’ll also want to look at different kinds of sensors and instrumentation to support in-line testing. And, you’ll want to look at all the options for at-line or near-line testing as well. Again, there’s lots of cool technology here and if you haven’t looked at some of these options in a while I think you’ll be very pleasantly surprised with what’s out there.

So, that’s it for now. Let’s keep this technology discussion going and talk some more next time on some of the other aspects of technology that makes this all work. Until then, good luck and have fun!

This post was written by John Clemons. John is the Director of Manufacturing IT at MAVERICK Technologies, a leading automation solutions provider offering industrial automation, strategic manufacturing, and enterprise integration services for the process industries. MAVERICK delivers expertise and consulting in a wide variety of areas including industrial automation controls, distributed control systems, manufacturing execution systems, operational strategy, business process optimization and more.