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Archery is a game of skill and strength. Just looking at the size of those bow strings and the length they must shoot makes the equipment required, rather than optional, including a bracer and finger tab. Every archer wants to hit the center of the target every time. That target, however, is larger than the device that will pierce it. There’s a little give there.  In this series, we've been talking about the Power of One, and today, we're looking at the reverse; there's not just one way to look at your issues and determine what's wrong.  

Even if you are in the highest strata of regulated manufacturing, where zero tolerance is a must, you still have a little wiggle room. Without a completely automated plant and process, using only the most calibrated robots and regular reviews of their work, your team will always be off by just a little. Measuring something may allow for a thousandth or a tenth of a millimeter variance. (Note: I did choose that one randomly. The human eye can see a 1/10th of a millimeter line, crazy as that seems.)

You deal with the differences. You have some work that’s more forgiving as well. Certain jobs will need a lower level of compliance than others. You may choose to have the same high standards for all, but customers may pay more for higher compliance. So how do you ensure it?

PRODUCTION OPERATIONS

The first step is setting a series of thresholds that you believe lay out the target (that glorious small red circle in the middle of the sheet). You determine how wide or narrow that window is. For certain things, it may be smaller than for others. For example, if you are cutting with scissors, you’re going to expect (or you should) a lot of variability versus laser cutting, where you eliminate the variability altogether.

Once you set the target, you must let your team know what it is. Set it out in clear language and charts that they can read. They should be inputting this information as they work, not at the end of the day. (Note that you can only mandate compliance on a system that doesn’t allow them to progress without completion of the information.)

QUALITY CONTROL

You want your team to report all the work, but especially the non-conforming work they do. Ideally, we want you to track every instance of something not going “according to plan” and what the team did to fix it. We want to know that you’re not scrapping work that can be reworked and that you’re reducing the number of instances of this happening.

You want your team to spot things going wrong and work to eliminate the issue before it becomes a real problem. This is a training thing, to a certain extent, but only if you agree to have the problems reoccur. If you train your team to spot trouble, you’re giving in to the trouble happening in the first place. What if you could work to eliminate the instance altogether?

SOFTWARE FOR QUALITY MANAGEMENT

We believe you can do that with the right set of tools. Digital tools can track your progress on key issues, count the number of times each happened and what was going on at the time. Let’s look at an example. We have a customer that, as part of the production process, must drill holes in their product. The holes have different configurations, depending on the product that they are making. If their team is set on one configuration for a while, they may not make the right transition to the next configuration.

While that could be the role of a supervisor or quality person to double-check that the team knows what they’re doing, it could also be something you do in planning. How so?

In an analysis of your shop, we will look over the last 30 to 60 days. We want to know a couple of things. First, we want to know what issues you track. Each issue will have its own set of circumstances, and we will dig into each. We want your issues list to be discrete; each issue should have a particular set of activities that cause it that are unique to that issue. For instance, we prefer “lateral dent” and “puncture” to the generic “defect”. That said, it is better for you to count defects as a whole group than not at all. You just won’t be able to easily track it back and start to eliminate it and that’s our goal here. Once we have a discrete list of issues (or the ones you want to track), we will count the number of times your team reported that issue. While that might be the start of a lean initiative (count and reduce), we want you to dig further. What work was your team doing at the time that they reported each and is there a pattern there? Perhaps one particular job or type of job shows the greatest number of that issue. That’s where we would start digging into the tools, materials, instructions and work that you give your team on that job to understand where things are going wrong.

While you can do this work and analysis by yourself, using plain Google docs and Excel, it’s far easier and more reliable to track it in a system that’s built for that. It will alert you as the issues are happening and you can move to a “front window” versus “rear mirror” view. Once you understand the layout of your issues, you can start to truly set thresholds of the number of times you feel you could accept these before declaring something broken.

These are the very challenges that we see shops deal with every day.  Give your team the tools they need to track your numbers, report on them, analyze and archive them.  Push the Connect button to learn about how we help teams with this.  Or, if you have a question, reach out to info@cimx.com.  We are here to help you save money, time and get your Production under Control

Contact CIMx Software to see how a Manufacturing Execution System can improve production control for you.

 

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