When you manufacture anything, certain factors cause the most worry. Health and safety are always the top concerns but shortly after them come two fundamental goals of manufacturing: quality and consistency. Many manufacturers strive to achieve high scores in these areas. Some get there while others don’t. Why are certain manufacturers able to create quality products time after time while others are not? It comes down to doing the right things to ensure quality. Here are 3 ways organizations can ensure the quality of their products.
Investing in Employee Training
Many companies see employee training as a cost. It is not cheap to train employees to perform in the right ways and some organizations cannot get past consideration of the initial outlay it takes to train employees. The best organizations, the ones that achieve high quality in manufacturing, know that employee training is not a spend or a sunk cost; it is an investment.
Employee training is an investment for which you will quickly see a return in improved overall results. Hard numbers back this up. When employees are properly trained, fewer defective products come off the line, fewer slowdowns or shutdowns occur due to mistakes, and more products are made correctly from beginning to end resulting in a higher quality of product over time.
Training employees to increase quality goes beyond simply learning hard skills, though. True, when employees know how to use equipment better or do their job more efficiently, that is good for quality. But soft skills training is great for quality, too. When employees know their roles within the team, are empowered to make quality-related decisions and are given the incentive to take ownership of the end result, that is the true source of good quality.
One hears it said that it takes a village to raise a child. The same idea can be applied to manufacturing. If not everyone is driving in the same direction and doing their part to not merely get the job done but to increase and ensure the quality of the products, your organization’s standards and overall quality will never be raised. If you invest in training that teaches employees how to be part of a quality assurance team, no matter what their level or their role, you will get the ROI in high quality manufacturing.
Communication & Transparency
If you think of your manufacturing organization operations as a manufacturing process, you will see the value of communication and transparency within the organization. What if the part of the manufacturing process that attached Part A to Part B kept its process a secret from the machine responsible for attaching Part C? What if it didn’t notify the next machine that it was done attaching the two parts and just let them pile up? Without transparency and communication, processes either wouldn’t get done or they would get done poorly. This is exactly what happens in organizations that don’t have transparency and good communication.
Transparency is important because it builds a culture of trust and honesty. It also helps achieve employee buy-in for the end goal: higher quality. When workers at every level know what is happening at every other level, they get a holistic view of the entire process. This view allows them to understand where they fit into the process and how they affect the end product. They also see, and ultimately trust, that everyone is working together for the common good and no one is working against this goal.
Communication is important because it is the foundation for transparency. The way you build a transparent organization is to use communication to make sure everyone knows what everyone else is doing. Talking about how everyone is doing, discussing what they can do better, working together when problems arise, and other such conversations is the best way to make the entire organization feel that there is a culture of openness and transparency. It is also a way to expose flaws or issues within processes and fix them quickly and completely to improve quality results. If employees are afraid to communicate what is not working, it will never be fixed and quality will suffer.
Sound Quality Assurance Processes
Ensuring manufacturing quality has much to do with the people within your organization and the soft skills they possess, as you can see above. There is also a technical aspect to producing quality manufacturing. To that end, sound quality assurance processes are key to producing a good quality product. One of those practices is ensuring that the machines you use in production work properly and deliver consistent, repeatable results. To do this, companies should use the IQ OQ PQ as a framework
This framework for quality assurance is most often used in regulated industries where machines are inspected by a third party for compliance. Any manufacturer can implement it, though. The three acronyms stand for: installation qualification (IQ), operational qualification (OQ), and performance qualification (PQ).
These three types of qualifications are performed throughout a machine’s lifecycle to check for quality and to make sure it is producing consistent, quality results. The IQ process starts before the machine is even purchased: it involves making sure the machine has the specs to do the job right. After installation, OQ tests the machine to set a baseline of operation and set the optimal operating conditions. In the last step, PQ, the machine is run in real-world conditions to both validate the IQ OQ PQ process and determine if the machine is ready to go.
Commitment to the operating quality of your manufacturing processes is a hallmark of manufacturers that produce quality results. IQ OQ PQ is a laborious and painstaking set of processes but it is precisely these types of processes organizations that are truly committed to quality undertake in order to achieve the best results. If you’re looking for more information on how IQ OQ PQ plays out in regulated industries, this guide from Dickson goes into greater detail.”
The steps organizations need to take to ensure manufacturing quality are relatively straightforward but they are not easy. They take investment, commitment, and time. However, if your company cares about producing the highest quality results it can achieve, then investing in employee training, fostering transparency and clear communication, and taking the time to implement detailed QA processes will ultimately be well worth it.