Tag: corrective action

Five Ways to Ensure Quality Manufacturing – Sourcing Success

Whether you’re sourcing abroad, or from a manufacturer down the street, similar issues with product quality, shipment delays, cost and safety concerns, etc. still apply.  To mitigate the quality risks and cost involved in sourcing, we recommend five actions that have been proven successful throughout the three decades of experience we have working with clients and suppliers around the world.

1 – Audit Potential & Existing Suppliers 

To help ensure that potential or existing suppliers deliver high-quality products, operate efficiently, and support continuous improvement, process surveys and factory audits are performed.

From supplier capability and qualification to process control and quality system audits, there are a wide range of options. More specific audits incorporate standards such as the ISO series, TS 16949 specifications for the automotive industry, social accountability, sustainability, C-TPAT for security, AS 9100 for aerospace and many others. Requirements for audits do vary based on a number of factors. Two commonly performed general system audits include:

Supplier Capability & Qualification – Auditors survey potential suppliers and provide feedback regarding general operations, quality systems, qualifications and capabilities. This critical information aids in determining if the supplier is a viable source and potential partner.

Supplier Process Control & Quality System – Auditors evaluate all manufacturing process control systems for existing or new suppliers. Audits cover several areas, including evaluations of management, quality control methods, non-conforming materials, production, corrective action and inspection and test equipment.

In general, there are four questions considered to be critical to the audit process:

1) Are controls defined?
2) Are controls applied?
3) Do controls really work?
4) Will controls last?

Many organizations incorporate a supplier rating system to monitor performance.  Examples include no rating, quality rating only, quality & delivery rating (graphic method), quality & delivery method (cost index method) and a comprehensive method.

Being mindful of communication with suppliers is impactful as well and should not be discounted.  More information: Three Ways to Improve Communications With Suppliers

Additional articles we have written regarding various audits include:

2 – Develop Product Criteria/Specifications – Know Your Product

A good plan is only as good as its foundation, so comprehensive and detailed product specifications are critical to success. An important component of product quality is knowing your product. And, that requires detailed product specifications that identify exactly how the item(s) should turn out. What characteristics of the product are required for it to “meet or exceed expectations?”

Product specifications should include defect details with classifications that later link to accept/reject determinations during QC checks. They also clarify the acceptable quality levels and expectations for the supplier.  Each defect noted is generally classified as major, minor or critical.

More information: Classifying Defects

3 – Test Products  

Product testing has multiple applications, from determining if the specifications are being met to troubleshooting various issues.  Using applicable regional and/or industry related standards to measure the product’s properties and evaluate performance provides assurance of quality throughout the production process.  Used as a proactive strategy, applicable product testing can avoid costly delays and rework down the line.

More information: Recognizing The Benefits of Standardization 

4 – Inspect Throughout Production 

Controlling quality by utilizing product inspections throughout the production cycle reduces sourcing risks and cost. Inspections can be conducted at any point throughout the production process, with the maximum benefit observed when strategically employed at the beginning (first-article), in-process (30% -50% complete) and pre-shipment (100% produced and at least 80% packaged). The idea is to identify, contain and resolve issues as quickly as possible.

Inspections generally include:

Quantity verification – This may include raw materials, in-process components, inputs (components) from other sources and/or completed and packaged product. Sample sizes are selected for each component identified in the criteria for inspection. Acceptable quality levels, AQLs, are identified for determining an accept or reject result.

Packaging –Drop-testing is often conducted to check the integrity of the unit and/or master carton packaging integrity. In addition, the condition of the cartons and labeling accuracy is evaluated.

More information: The Importance of Packaging

Appearance & Workmanship -Examples of appearance and workmanship usually include making sure samples are free of cosmetic defects such as scratches or dents and that all components and accessories are included.

Function & Performance – Examples of function and performance might include assembly or electrical testing, as applicable.

More information: Understanding the Inspection Process

5 – Focus On & Support Continuous Improvement (Kaizen)

Define, evaluate, implement, document and review results. Strategically planned continuous improvement initiatives result in the following:

* A decrease in costs due to less reworking, consequently producing less scrap.

* An improvement in cycle time due to less time being spent on correcting mistakes, and more time being spent on value added activities.

* An improvement in productivity due to less time being spent on reworking nonconformities.

* Improved relationships with suppliers (partners).

* An overall improvement in service.

* An overall improvement in cost.

Tell us about your experiences ensuring quality throughout the supply chain!  Or, contact us if you have additional questions and/or comments.

New Year, New Goals… 2015 Quality Goals

As 2014 comes to a close, we are considering the quality goals and objectives we’ve discussed with our clients and partners regarding ongoing improvement in the coming year.  Some examples shared with us include:

  • Establish and/or improve a supplier performance evaluation process
  • Develop and implement corrective action based on factory and inspection data analysis
  • More effectively communicate support for quality throughout the organization
  • Review and/or develop detailed product specification information to reduce discrepancies or other issues
  • Avoid delays in shipments
  • Review and analyze processes to identify bottlenecks and/or develop documentation

What are your quality goals for 2015?  

At Pro QC, we help our clients meet their quality goals and objectives. Contact us for additional information regarding how we reduce quality risks and cost. 

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Top 3 – Key factory audit components

Performing factory audits to assist in supplier selection or throughout the production cycle is a primary contributor to a reduction in both sourcing risks and cost.  While specific standards often apply, such as the ISO series, factory audits do have several key components in common.

1) Management 

Who is the management and what management style is generally supported within the corporate culture?  Through observation and interviews, an audit reveals attitudes and general values that serve as indicators of the overall organization’s realized performance.

“One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned over the past couple of decades, from a management perspective, is that really when you come down to it, it really is all about people and all about leadership.” ~Steve Case

2) Metrics –

Show the data.  Suppliers should be able to back-up any claims with supporting data that can be reviewed and verified.  The specific metrics vary depending on a number of factors, but identifying those factors and making sure suppliers are following through with documentation and review is critical to any industry.

“90% of making the correct decision is gathering information.”

3) Corrective Action

No one is perfect.  But, the difference lies within how an organization handles nonconformaties, or any service affecting issues that may occur.  Having paperwork on-hand is an excellent start, but suppliers should demonstrate through training and observation that staff consistently follows through with procedures.  Also, how is the supplier tracking trends and making necessary process improvements?

“For every failure, there is an alternative course of action. You just have to find it. When you come to a roadblock, take a detour.” ~Mary Kay Ash