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 5

By implementing a process of testing rationalization whereby only a minimal number of tests are actually run and more tests are run only when problems occur, a process of management by exception may be implemented.

April 15, 2014


Well, I thought I was wrapping up these posts on the new ideas for quality management, but I’ve thought of a few more things that I’d like to talk about.

The last couple of posts we talked about technology and all the cool technology that’s out there to support the management of manufacturing quality. But I think I would be remiss here if I didn’t mention a few things about business processes that are needed to support manufacturing quality management. And, some of these processes are pretty new as well.

First is adopting the concept or business process of multi-level testing. The idea is that the initial level of testing is to monitor the process and make sure that everything is working correctly. This is where the initial level of feedback to the manufacturing process comes.

The next level’s purpose is to verify that the testing procedures are being followed and the test results are in fact accurate. This level is usually performed by different people and is performed on a less periodic basis.

The final level of testing an audit and is also usually performed by different people. The idea here is to do a periodic audit of the entire testing regimen to make sure that all procedures are being followed and all test results coming in are accurate and timely.

By implementing a process of testing rationalization whereby only a minimal number of tests are actually run and more tests are run only when problems occur, a process of management by exception may be implemented. Management by exception says that we’re going to focus on the exceptions to the process. We’re not going to look at lots and lots of data that tell us that everything is okay. We’re only going to look for the exceptions and then drill down into those exceptions as we need to determine the proper course of action.

This obviously also supports the concept of root cause analysis and supports a wide variety of continuous improvement initiatives. These initiatives can take the form of Six Sigma, Lean Manufacturing, etc., but they all include the concept of root cause analysis—the idea of drilling down into a problem to get past the symptoms of the problem to the ultimate root cause and then attacking and correcting that root cause.

Getting the processes under control and implementing business processes, such as management by exception, supports other new processes like distant early warning and trip wires. The idea here is exactly what it says. You need to know that there’s a problem long before it really becomes a problem. Having the process under control and having the data you need means that you can set up the proper trip wires so that when something happens you can know about it and deal with it then, long before it’s really a problem.

This also fits hand-in-hand with the idea of notifications and escalations. When something goes wrong on the shop floor the ultimate cost of that problem is directly proportional to how long it takes to respond to the problem and deal with it properly. The right set of notifications and escalations means that when a problem occurs the right people know about it immediately and if it’s not dealt with in a timely fashion it can be escalated and escalated as necessary until it is successfully resolved.

So, regardless of the underlying technology these are all business processes that fit into this new paradigm on the management of manufacturing quality.

Until next time, 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.