“Quality is never an accident. It is always the result of intelligent effort.” These wise words of English philosopher John Ruskin still ring true today in manufacturing plants across the globe.
Without effective, consistent quality control (QC) processes, companies risk revenue loss due to redundancy or recalls, liability and a lack of trust in the product and brand. Luckily, there are proven steps to help you establish efficient quality control in your manufacturing operations.
Here are 5 steps to establish QC processes for your manufacturing operations:
#1: Determine Quality Standards
It’s important to define your quality standards for each product. This involves measurable attributes and variables
, as well as any standards established by a particular government agency or industry. The most well-known set of standards for quality management comes from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) with ISO 9000 standards series
When determining what to measure for QC, focus on the most important measures that will have the greatest effect on the customer experience and revenue. The metrics and standards that are chosen must be objectively measurable to ensure consistency.
#2: Select a QC Method
Numerous QC methods have been developed over time with proven success in helping manufacturers monitor and reduce inconsistencies in their products. Here are a few common methods:
Acceptance Sampling is a method in which a sample is chosen randomly for inspection, and batches are accepted or rejected based on the amount of defects in that sample
Six Sigma is a process that aims to minimize waste and reduce variation with a goal of 3.4 defects per million opportunities (DPMO)
Statistical Process Control is a data-driven process that analyzes key metrics in order to reduce defects through a more prevention-based approach
Total Quality Management (TQM) is an all-encompassing management system in which all functions, processes and employees ensure consistent quality
#3: Train Employees & Establish Procedures
After carefully selecting a QC method that works for the needs of your operations, it’s time to train your employees to ensure alignment, consistency and accuracy throughout your organization.
It’s also important to build procedures to follow when defects are identified during operations or a QC inspection. Establish a method of communication for reporting existing defects and alerting of potential defects during any manufacturing stage.
#4 Conduct QC Testing
Depending on your chosen QC method, you’ll need to determine a sample size to be tested. After choosing the specific batch and number of products to be tested, analyze the unit by measuring each item against the quality standards you defined in step 1.
Mark each product as “accepted” or “rejected” based on the objective, measurable metrics you previously defined.
#5 Analyze & React
After conducting QC testing, analyze any deviations and determine the cause of any found defects. A common technique is the “5 Whys
” method which involves asking “Why?” five times to get to the root cause of a problem.
Inspection software can also assist in gathering and analyzing QC data. FastField
offers customizable mobile inspection forms that can synthesize data to a dashboard to help managers make informed decisions. It also allows workers on the floor to flag issues and capture evidence through rich media. With seamless digital reporting capabilities from the floor to the back office, managers are even further equipped with the real-time information they need to make the right decisions.
After analysis, actions to consider at this point include:
- Rejecting batches with found defects
- Testing again
- Making repairs
- Halting production
It’s then important to consider more wholistic changes that may be necessary:
- Additional staff training
- Modifying materials
- Adjusting QC method
Know Your Process
W. Edwards Deming, a Founding Father of TQM and leading quality management thinker, states, “If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.”
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As harsh as this may sound, with such complex operations and oversight involved in manufacturing, it is necessary to establish clear and consistent QC processes in order to stay competitive and survive.