Even if you think your operation couldn't get better, there's always room for improvement. With a few tweaks to your process, you can see distinct improvements in quality while maintaining a lean manufacturing process.
1. Define Quality Standards
How will you define quality at your facility? The answer to this question will help you establish and implement control methods on the floor. Other important questions to ask yourself include how many defects you are willing to allow and which steps in the process you want to optimize oversight. Target your goals to help you reduce costs and time during implementation.
Additionally, you'll want to determine which steps in the process you want to improve. Many lean manufacturing plants opt for end-product evaluations. But you may want to consider improving efficiency in many areas. Butler Automatic increased on-time deliveries from 77% to 97% through a lean manufacturing process, a vendor-managed inventory system, and implementing cross-trained employees ideas.
2. Train Employees
Ensuring quality throughout your process requires specific training for your employees. Not just the quality control officer will need education. This helps employees watch for signs of abnormalities. Additionally, cross-trained employees can look at the entire process and help develop ideas for increasing efficiency and quality control. They will feel more empowered and valuable to your business, which may improve their work and reduce errors.
Though change can help improve your shop's efficiency, it can also open the door to problems. Quality control can suffer during times of change according to the Toyota manual outlining change point management. With trained employees, your shop can have more eyes on the floor to spot problems before the issues turn into faulty products.
During the training process, train employees to accept nothing less than quality. Committing to Total Quality Control, TQC, and just-in-time production, JIT, allowed Houston Downhole Sensors to decrease defects in its machine shops from 20% to 2% in three months. This shows the importance of having all employees focus on quality.
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3. Let Technology Help the Process
Don't ignore how technology can make your shop more efficient and better at quality control. The hallmark of quality control is data gathering. You have multiple options, depending on your operations. You may want to install real-time sensors to track products. These sensors connect to software that can alert you as soon as it detects an abnormality. This will let you stop the product before it progresses through the line or gets shipped.
Automating the process by integrating the Internet of Things (IoT) into your facility, lets the process learn when quality control problems arise and fix them without human intervention. Though a big investment of a process to implement, using technology or improving your employee's work efficiency and quality is worth it.
4. Upgrade Equipment Where Needed
You may need to upgrade production equipment to enhance quality. This does not necessarily mean purchasing the newest computer-enhanced equipment. You may just need to replace outdated equipment that constantly breaks or produces defective products. Changing material may also require further employee training. Your workers will also need to be aware of the increased chance for errors with change.
Improving your shop's equipment can also increase your efficiency and on-time deliveries. Some businesses, such as Houston Downhole Sensors, took such a strict view of quality, that late deliveries were considered quality defects. More efficient equipment can help you avoid late deliveries, which detracts from your company's overall reputation for quality.
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5. Create a Response Plan
In addition to knowing how to spot quality errors, you'll need to devise a response plan. One way to do this is by creating the position of a quality control officer. A rework specialist can make the task of fixing quality errors less daunting.
Even if the quality of your products suffered from defects in your incoming inventory, a quality correction specialist can fix the problem and conduct 100% of inspections and AQL audits. This step can serve as an extension of your shop's process. If you choose to fix the problems on your own, select an employee who will remedy the problems while finding the cause. Fixing the original cause can improve quality over time.
6. Keep Your Shop Floor Clean
Shop floor maintenance should be high priority when trying to provide a safe work environment for your employees. Ensuring a clean facility is an often overlooked task that everyone on the shop floor should take part in to keep things running smoothly and efficiently.
Consider documenting some cleaning procedures for your facility because if you don't, your expectations may not be met. Who is going to do a job that they don't know exists? Set clear guidelines and processes of how often housekeeping needs to be done and keep a record of when each activity has been completed. Keep in mind that some machines are going to require more upkeep than others.
The "Pick Up As You Go" method is a great way to ensure that employees are keeping the shop floor in top shape. Cleaning up expected and unexpected messes like chemical spills or a fallen bucket of wood chips right away can decrease workplace injury and prevent accidents, which is not only good for the well being of your employees, but also good for the company dollar.
Don't Wait To Improve Manufacturing Quality Control
Quality control on your shop floor should not be an afterthought. The caliber of your products reflects on your brand and can make or break your reputation. Don't delay in making changes to your shop floor for enhancing your products' quality. Even if you change your company's culture, it can go a long way toward implementing better quality on your shop floor.
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