By Randy Nemetz
In most industries, quality has never mattered more. Our customers are raising the bar on specifications and quality expectations. To satisfy their needs, we must continually improve our processes. This requires a culture change where all workers expect that our methods and processes can always be better.
Here are some of the changes we’ve made at C.A. Lawton to drive continuous improvement in accordance with the transition to the ISO 9001:2015 standard.
NCR’s and concessions
During the last several months, we have expanded our NCR (Non-Conformance Report) system to include more detail. It now enables us to document corrective actions with photos, available data, actions and responsibilities. We have built a history file that defines the issues we have discovered; it will help us identify our greatest improvement opportunities.
Sometimes, performing root cause analyses can be difficult with our manual manufacturing methods and limited process data. But our concession documents show where the process or part is abnormal and if it may be acceptable by our customer on a temporary basis.
When quality is improving, we see the number of NCR’s increase and the number of concessions decrease. This is a good indicator that we are protecting the customer from abnormal product and correcting internal problems.
Mid-line inspection audits
Recently, we began mid-line inspection audits, which are designed to focus on defect prevention. They ensure that we are following standard work procedures that have been established as best practices. This audit process revealed that our documents don’t always show how we want to run our processes.
When these inconsistencies are found, our standard work procedures are adjusted to document our best practices. Our standard work documents are continually evolving as our processes improve. These audits will help us focus on our internal supplier and customer requirements between departments.
Do it right the first time
In any business, success is measured by producing quality products that are delivered on time for a profit. So does that mean that accelerating manufacturing will grow the profit of the business? Not necessarily. Sometimes, the volume or speed of a manufacturing process can have a negative effect on your profitability. The cost of quality is directly affected by any abnormal process, from receipt of purchase order to shipping the part on a truck. If you think about it in this way, this quality slogan makes a lot of sense to me:
“If you don’t have time to do it right the first time, how will you find time to do it over?”
Here are ten things that are quicker done right the first time:
- Putting things away: Most items take only a few moments to put away. Yet, we leave them out. If you do that a few times, suddenly you have a much bigger mess to clean up. Take the few seconds and put things away when you are done with them.
- Finishing a task to done: You almost complete a task. You take it to 99% done. But, then you leave it undone. Why? Take the few extra steps to finish it to done.
- Cleaning up: There is a big difference in doing the dishes right after dinner, and doing them the next morning. This simple analogy applies to most clean-up jobs. Don’t create more work for yourself by putting off the clean up.
- Throwing things away: When in doubt, throw it out. That is a good motto to help prevent clutter buildup. Don’t keep things just because you think you may need them again. If they don’t serve a definite purpose, then you’re better off disposing of them.
- Preparing for a meeting: How many meetings have you gone to, only to discover that the organizer isn’t ready for them? Before a meeting is held, make sure that all preparations are done. This includes the basics like booking a room, distributing materials (in advance!), and setting an agenda. Too many meetings end up creating secondary meetings because the first one wasn’t done right.
- Filing paperwork: Paperwork continues to be one of the biggest disorganization issues most people face. It piles up so fast it seems like it is multiplying. Yet, if you file that piece of paper when you get it, you won’t end up with piles on your desk. It could be as simple as putting it in a file, or scanning it, or throwing it away (see #4).
- Addressing bad behavior: Don’t let misbehavior go unchecked. Whether it’s sub-par performance or simply bad conduct, the longer it continues, the more damage it does. Address bad behavior the first time it happens, and you can prevent a pattern from developing.
- Responding to email: How many times do you open an email only to close it and leave it in your inbox? Don’t fall into this half-done trap. Answer it, file it or delete it. Otherwise, don’t bother reading your email.
- Saying no: If you clearly say no, you won’t be forced to continue making up excuses later. Instead of saying you can’t because of so-and-so, just directly say “no” at the start.
- Fixing something that’s broken: How often do you put up with something that doesn’t work? Not only do broken items waste time, they can be dangerous when safety is involved. When something is broken, fix it – now.
Our focus is to be more proactive rather than reactive. With a proactive approach, we can identify quality issues earlier in the process. This drives down the cost of quality and helps us reduce our rework and scrap. Ultimately, it helps us deliver better castings to our valued customers.