While the importance of quality management in manufacturing is rarely lost on plant leaders, investments in bolstering quality processes can sometimes be viewed as diametrically opposed to meeting production goals. However, despite the costs, studies have shown that installing some best practices in quality management consistently pays off in overall productivity. Below we will discuss three specific areas of quality where plant leaders can realize a significant return on investment.
Quality manufacturing and safety are linked hand in hand for most organizations. It is typically impossible to sacrifice one without the other being adversely affected. New technologies are enabling manufacturers to gather and quickly analyze more contextual safety data through real-time monitoring devices. These sensors can provide early warnings for either potential safety hazards for employees or anomalies in product quality, enabling manufacturers to proactively schedule maintenance which prevents quality issues and/or eliminate safety risks with the same hardware.
Not all safety investments require significant capital expenditures. An analysis of work-cell ergonomics can have significant benefits. In some instances, an ergonomic study can result in rearrangement of workstations or a specific process improvement that decreases fatigue and injury risk. With an ergonomically improved workstation, employees can feel safer and spend more of their energy focused on their responsibilities resulting in higher productivity and improved quality outcomes.
Documentation, Documentation, Documentation
It is paramount that manufacturers have their quality standards explicitly defined in writing. Minimum quality standards may already be defined through regulatory bodies and industry groups but organizations should also have documentation on how local procedures will meet those standards in addition to any site-specific expectations. Clearly documented and defined “local” standards remove any ambiguity for employees and reinforce employee confidence that they can perform their roles to the highest expectation of the organization. Organizations must also establish how local quality documentation will be maintained and when it should be updated and determining when to make changes is critical. One approach may be establishing an inclusive, Corrective Action review team which is tasked with meeting regularly to review consistent issues and determine if it warrants a change to quality procedures.
Training and Education
Internal failure costs can make up a large portion of the cost of poor quality. The good news is that proper training can limit these costs for your plant. Without adequate training, employees may spend more time seeking help from others (lowering overall productivity) or might perform their job only to their level of understanding (resulting in potentially more rework costs or scrap). Organizations must ensure that they have the proper job-specific training available to their employees prior to them working independently and set consistent standards for validating their level of qualification.
Good quality management requires continuous improvement and certainly a level of continuous investment. However, by taking a systematic approach to core principles (like safety, documentation, and training), manufacturers can attain higher quality outcomes without sacrificing productivity.