OK – that title sounds a little grandiose like I’ve come up with some brilliant new ideas that no one has ever thought of before. These ideas aren’t necessarily new (or even that brilliant); they’re really more like practical common sense. But, they can have a huge impact on manufacturing quality management and can really make things on the shop floor a whole lot better when it comes to managing quality.
What I’m talking about here is the way that manufacturing quality tests and checks are performed and the way that the results of those tests are then fed back into the manufacturing processes.
Let me start with some compare and contrast ideas to get this discussion going.
For lots of companies, the lab controls the testing process. They typically have some type of lab and samples are taken from the shop floor and then the lab runs the tests and eventually provides the test results back to the shop floor. The whole process is controlled totally by the lab.
The new idea changes all that. The new idea turns this on its head and puts the operator in charge of the quality management process. The reasoning for this is simple. The operator is in charge of making the product. The operator is the one that’s closest to the manufacturing process and really knows what’s going on. The operator, and not the lab, should be in charge of the quality tests. After all, it’s the operator that needs the information and it’s the operator that’s going to make the changes in the process based on the information.
With the lab in charge, test results are often very slow. It just seems to take a lot of time for the samples to be taken, processed in the lab, and then the results to get back to the shop floor. In some cases this processes takes a lot of time.
The new idea is to completely change this paradigm and have rapid testing. Get the tests performed quickly and get the results back as quickly as possible. Delay is time and time is money. The tests need to be performed as quickly as possible so the operators can have the results as quickly as possible.
So, with the lab, because of the length of time to get the test results back, there’s a long delay in getting feedback to the manufacturing processes. If something needs to be adjusted, it’s a long time before those adjustments are made and potentially a long time that product is being made that doesn’t meet specifications.
With the new idea of rapid testing, you can get very fast feedback to the manufacturing processes so that if things need to be adjusted you can make the adjustments. Instead of waiting for a long time to make the necessary adjustments you and make the adjustments very quickly because you have the test results quickly.
So, you should be seeing part of the picture here. With the old paradigm, testing take a long time, getting feedback takes a long time, and the lab controls everything. With the new paradigm we put the operator in control so the lab works for the operator not the other way around. We then get fast test results and get the feedback to the manufacturing process fast so that the proper adjustments can be made.
That’s a pretty good start to understanding these new ideas about manufacturing quality. We’ll 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.