Tag: quality control

The World is Not Flat… Pro QC’s VP/Americas discusses trends in logistics and supply

Pro QC’s VP/Americas, Michael L. Hetzel, was recently asked to join Awarely at the AON Center in Chicago to discuss the latest trends in logistics and supply and expand on Pro QC’s expertise in providing quality control and engineering services.

The interview begins with identifying the largest trend, which Michael discusses as the supply chain architecture changing.  He discusses the start of companies moving their supply chains to manufacturers more in proximity to market.  Our competitive advantage at Pro QC is that we are able to anticipate and respond to these changes and have personnel appropriately positioned. Michael adds that we “reduce a challenge for our client base by being able to be present wherever in the supply chain structure that it makes sense to help them manage quality and conformance.”

When discussing the benefits and value of using a 3rd party quality provider such as Pro QC, Michael focuses on scalability and flexibility. He also adds that “we are also more dispassionate than your own employees.”  There’s the benefit of a “fresh look.” In addition, using a 3PQ saves time. By doing this, we reduce the risk of waiting for replacements and the associated cost.  “Being engineering based, but also multinational and western owned allows us to understand what the expectations are between countries. The cultural translation is actually a very significant value that we bring.”

Michael discusses various industry standards and our ability to assist clients with preparing their factories to pass audits, such as the more popular ISO 9001 to specific evaluations such as TS 16949 and social accountability. He also discusses process audits as a problem-solving tool. “From procurement through shipment, we identify the opportunity points and then work with the facility to solve problems.”

“The world is not flat… If it were, then the value we bring would have to change. Since it’s not, that’s exactly where companies in our space bring considerable value to our clients.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=URErcyXPlII

 

Coordinate measurement machines (CMM): What are they and who needs it?

Within our testing laboratory in Ningbo, China, our engineers perform mechanical, electrical, environmental and other special testing as required by our clients. Experienced engineers use applicable and regionally specific standards, such as ASTM, IEC or ANSI specifications, to conduct a variety of in-house and on-site testing. One of our most common testing procedures involves the use of either a portable or in-house CMM.  

What is a coordinate measurement machine? 

“A coordinate measuring machine (CMM) is a device for measuring the physical geometrical characteristics of an object.” 

“Dimensional inspection is used in process control; its results adjust the parameters of
the manufacturing process to achieve the desired outputs. Computer controlled
dimensional inspection is typically performed with a Coordinate Measuring Machine
or CMM, which is a very precise mechanical system designed to move a measuring
probe to determine coordinates of points on a work piece surface. A CMM consists
of a workspace in which parts are fixed, a sensor for detecting the part surfaces, a
mechanical assembly for moving the part sensor around the workspace, and a
computer with software used in calculating the part dimensions based on the sensor
measurements.” (Source)

How does it work?

“A coordinate measuring machine (CMM) works in much the same way as your finger when it traces map coordinates; its three axes form the machine’s coordinate system.  Instead of a finger, the CMM uses a probe to measure points on a workpiece. Each point on the workpiece is unique to the machine’s coordinate system.  The CMM combines the measured points to form a feature that can now be related to all other features.” (Source)

The CMM’s dimensional capabilities generally includes position, roundness, perpendicularity, parallelism, flatness, angularity, profile of surface, profile of a line, symmetry, concentricity, straightness and datum quantification.

Who needs CMM testing?

Measuring the physical geometrical characteristics of an object allows for comparison to approved product specifications. Evaluations include first article and first piece evaluation and critical dimensional profile measurements.  Determining if products meet specification requirements prior to production and/or shipment can reduce costly rework and delays later.

As noted, CMM testing can be performed on-site or in-house.  Accuracy is a considerable factor with CMM testing, so many clients prefer to partner with a third-party (3PQ) rather than using equipment that may be on-site at the factory.  The machines themselves vary where accuracy is concerned, but equally important is the experience and skill of the operator.  “Incorrectly defining or failing to define a part alignment is the single most influential factor in gage repeatability errors and incorrect measurements.” (Quality Magazine posted an article related to this and discusses it in more detail.)

Our CMMs:

  • Photo 1 – FARO’s ARM Portable
  • Photo 2 – Fixed Bridge CMM – Measure range: 605*505*405mm – Accuracy: (2.5+4L/1000)um

CMM

 

If you have questions about CMM testing, or to learn more about Pro QC’s testing capabilities, visit our website or a recent article we posted in our quarterly newsletter.

Product Inspection Strategy

A frequent question account managers receive is how to employ an inspection strategy to identify issues early and continue to ensure that product meets specifications.  Most agree that the tangible and intangible costs associated with poor quality support a preemptive strategy. The answer isn’t necessarily a simple one due to the variances involved in product specific requirements.  But, a general method of attack is suggested here:

 

Inspection Plan Development
A good plan is only as good as its foundation, so a comprehensive and detailed product specification is critical to the success of the overall strategy.  Pro QC often assists clients with this documentation creation and also uses it internally to direct engineers on-site.  A good plan incorporates anything that will affect the salability and performance of the product.

 

First-Article Inspections
Pro QC inspects first-article samples prior to volume production.  That means the product specifications are being met and reengineering won’t be necessary at an inconvenient point of time in the future.

 

In-Process Inspections
These on-site inspections evaluate samples of your products selected during the manufacturing process.  It confirms the quality of your product and allows any necessary changes to be addressed early on.  Incorporating these inspections reduces rework time and costs.

 

Pre-Shipment Inspections
During a pre-shipment inspection, engineers verify that the finished goods confirm to your specifications.  A representative sample is chosen randomly from the lot using a sampling plan such as ANSI Z1.4. The criteria is used to determine sampling levels and accept/reject determinations.

 

Inspection schedules are dependent on factors such past performance, so costs associated with preventative action are also reduced as performance becomes predictable and/or stable.  Continuous improvement and consistent results means investing in quality throughout the process and avoiding associated risks and cost in the future.

Quality tools beyond Pareto, PDCA and root cause analysis…

If asked what your favorite quality tools are, you’d likely tell me Pareto, flowcharts, PDCA or root cause analysis.  I know this because I’ve recently reached out via Pro QC’s social network to get some insight.  It seems these tools are also the very same ones I’m most often working with… And, I know there’s more out there and wanted to expand my repertoire through an ongoing effort of trial and error.

I’ve reviewed the Quality Toolbox in the past and do believe this is the ultimate source on the topic.  And, anything not immediately understandable there can easily be Googled.   It’s really just a matter of taking an extra moment or two to pick the best tool for the specific problem.  It’s that “extra moment” that gets you when there’s a to-do list screaming for attention on the other side of the desk!

Dedicating some time to rediscovering existing quality tools that I can use in new ways has given me a few new favorites.  These include:

Fishbone Diagram (Ishikawa) – One of the Seven Basic Tools of Quality, this is a popular choice for identifying as many possible causes for an effect or problem.  Our engineers use it quite often in the field, but I’ve only recently realized there are so many more applications than originally thought.  I’ll admit the feature I favor most is its simplicity.  It mirrors a customizable checklist that adds the additional benefit of direction.  Focusing on people, methods, machines, materials, measurements and environment organizes information very well.  Rather than sticking too long on one topic, I’ve found just getting it all there at first and then attacking them individually generates more ideas. Try it as a tool for identifying the root cause of a reoccurring product defect.

5W2H Method (5 Why Analysis) – I love this method of asking questions about a process or problem! I’ve noticed its return to many of the business textbooks and can’t think of a more fun way of getting some really constructive brainstorming going.  I’ve seen it work brilliantly now both in the classroom and during professional meetings.  I’ve also started using it to help me organize and research articles. I think there’s something reminiscent of grade school that’s fun to get us thinking who, what, when, where, why, how and how much/many! Try it as a tool for developing inspection criteria.

Affinity Diagram – Any large whiteboard just screams for sticky notes, so this is perfect.  I’ve even heard of people putting the sticky notes on the door to organize the information (ideas) into what’s been described as their “natural relationships.”  I’ve used this tool in the past but quite honestly think my initial attempts were disorganized and maybe even missed the point. I decided to give it a try again not too long ago and have had much different results.While I had used the tool as a group effort in the past, I’ve found individual application is much better and removes some of the chaos I had associated with it before.  What’s great about it is that it works really well at something you’re trying to figure out and can keep hanging around for as long as necessary.  So, I add sticky notes to that big whiteboard whenever I think of something on my pending issue… Or, I’ll move them around after something I figured out during an entirely separate event.  It’s the best visual device I can think of that’s also tangible.  Try it as a way to evaluate supplier performance.

Any other recommendations and/or applications of those mentioned are welcome and appreciated!