New ideas for quality management: Part 2

Performing test results with the lab in control can be expensive, so how can we cut the budget and still get valued results?

03/04/2014


Last time we started talking about some new ideas for manufacturing quality management. OK, not really new idea, just some good practical common sense. But, common sense that can have a huge impact on the shop floor making things a whole lot better when it comes to managing quality.

The old paradigm was lab-centric so that testing takes a long time. That means that getting feedback takes a long time and adjustments to the manufacturing process take a long time. The new idea is to put the operator in control and get the test results fast and get the feedback fast so that the proper adjustments can be made very quickly. It really is turning the old paradigm on its head.

I’d like to keep this compare-and-contrast discussion going and explore more of these new ideas for managing manufacturing quality.

As it turns out with the lab in control, things are actually pretty expensive. Not only is it expensive because of the delays in getting the test results back, but just doing the tests themselves with the lab in control is pretty expensive. The new idea is to figure out how to get the lab out of the middle of this and make these tests a lot quicker and a lot cheaper.

Another problem that occurs with the lab in control is that a lot of the adjustments to the manufacturing process are not really quality control or process control but just trying to make adjustments to a number. They have a number like a specification that they’re trying to hit, but instead of making sure the process is in control they just make adjustments trying to hit the number. It’s typically fraught with over-correcting the process and the time delays just make it that much worse.

The new idea says to get the process in control and then keep it in control. Make small adjustments and often frequent adjustments but make them before the process gets out of control and make sure the process stays in control. There’s lots of ways to do this using statistical methods and a variety of other techniques but the idea is the same—make small adjustments and keep the process in control all the way.

Another aspect of the lab being in control is that there seems to be lots and lots of tests that are run. In fact, the testing seems to be frequent and numerous. The new idea is testing rationalization. That is, run just the tests that make sense. Run the tests that are the true indicators of what’s happening on the shop floor and that tell you specifically what adjustments to run. Don’t run tests just to run tests, or only run more tests if you need to once you’ve found a problem. Focus on just the tests that are needed to actually manage the quality for the finished product.

And, finally, there’s one more aspect of this that I want to mention. With the old paradigm and the lab in control, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of emphasis on manufacturing knowledge on the shop floor. The tendency is for the people in the lab to have the smarts and the people on the shop floor to not know as much about the manufacturing processes as they should. Breaking this paradigm means expanding the knowledge about the manufacturing processes and getting the smarts out of the lab and on to the shop floor. It means giving the operators a lot more knowledge about the manufacturing processes.

Let’s keep this discussion going next time. 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. 



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