While there are some Companies in Indian Manufacturing who have improved the Quality of their Processes to a very good level, still a big portion of the Indian Manufacturing is still in mediocre state. Quality of the Product is something that they have to work hard to attain. I notice following problems in these companies:
01. The Quality Plans are not defined well. Most of the Companies have just one Generic Quality Plan for all products together. This is simply not enough. One needs to go to a Micro level where they see the differences between Products and Processes for them. Broad brushing all the Products with one Plan is not enough.
02. Quality Plans are not implemented well. Quality Plan adherence in most of the Companies is about 30-40% only. Please check the actual situation on your Shop floor with a genuine audit. I am sorry to say ‘Genuine Audit’ as many companies have regular Audits that refuse to acknowledge the actual situation on the ground.
03. Quality Plans are impractical in many cases. The Quality Plans defined are impractical and the number of People checking Quality of Processes is just not enough to actually check the processes.
04. Quality is the job of Quality team only. While lot of word of mouth is happening about Quality being the responsibility of everyone, the actual work in monitoring and improving Quality is being done only by a handful of Junior most Quality Inspectors in most of the Companies.
05. Quantity still occupies most of the mind space. Getting the daily Production still occupies the mind space of most of the Engineers in Production function. The Management focuses on this and this alone in most of the Companies.
06. Quality of Problem Solving is not good. In most of the Companies, the Problem Solving is not recognized as a Skill that can be learnt. There is no training happening on the subject. There is general frustration around that same problems are repeating. But it is taken as a reality that cannot be avoided.
Generally, the medium-term approach is not given for the Quality. It is treated as an essential evil to please the Customers. There are no proactive improvements happening in this field. Only those forced by the Customers happen. This way there is more happening in Automotive Industry where the Customers are generally much more demanding than any other Industry.
In Non-Automotive industry, the status of the Quality is generally not good. There may be a few exceptions. But the Quality Systems in most of the Companies need a lot of improvement.
The Managements treat Quality as a subject that need to be managed somehow.
Set up a Vibrant Quality System
I would recommend two major steps in setting up a Vibrant Quality System in your Company. Maybe you can do lot more. But these two steps can become your Corner stones. You should Disrupt your Quality system with revsiting fundamentals and a good amount of Technology that is available today.
01. Make Quality as the responsibility of everyone
Quality should be the obsession of everyone in your Company. You cannot leave it to the few in the Quality function. Quality Team can co-ordinate the efforts on Quality. But they cannot be the only team who are worried about it.
Quality has to be everyone’s responsibility as everything right from Incoming Material to the Manufacturing Process, the Equipment, Final Inspection everything has to go right to get good Quality.
Rewrite your Quality Plans with the role for everyone in that. All the roles right from the Operator and right up to the Plant Manager should participate in the Quality Checks.
Manufacturing Supervisor’s role has to be rewritten. The Manufacturing Engineer’s role today is filled up with lot of Admin work. This happens as the Plants have not spent enough time in settling down the Manufacturing Lines. There are always problems in the lines on a daily basis. The Problems may be:
- Materials do not come in time. Supervisor chases for this.
- Process is unstable. Supervisor has to work with other functional teams to settle the process too frequently.
- Machines are breaking down frequently. Supervisor has to run around the Maintenance team.
So, you have an unstable Manufacturing and the Supervisor is doing everything other than taking care of the Quality. When Quantity becomes a problem in Manufacturing, everyone will run after only that. Quality takes a back seat. Stabilize the line and make the Quantity as a given. Then, the Supervisor will focus on Quality.
Involve the senior people in checking Quality: The entire Manufacturing team has to be very familiar with the nuances of the Manufacturing Process. When they do not know about the Process, the distance between them and the Operator team will increase.
Normally it is this team who take decisions about the improvements on the Shop floor. They take these decisions without deep knowledge of the Process!!
They will not be able to solve Process related problems; they cannot appreciate the issues on the shop-floor. Make it mandatory for the entire team to get involved in Quality checks, for this they have to study the process closely. When they continuously do this, they become more confident of themselves and they will be able to contribute positively to the Process Control.
Make Quality of Incoming Parts the responsibility of Materials team: Traditionally the Materials team gets the Parts / Raw Material and the Quality Team checks it. There is always a cat and mouse game between the two teams. You need to change this. Give the responsibility of Quality to the Materials Team. Make the Incoming Quality Manager and the team to report to the Materials Head. Let the Materials Head change the culture of his team. Invest into this. It will work.
Connect the dots between Quality and Equipment status: The Quality of the Product has lot to do with the Performance Equipment on which the Product is produced. Yet, the Maintenance team does not do much to control the Quality directly. Whenever the machine totally breaks down, they get involved. This has to change. Identify the Equipment parameters that have impact on the Quality of the Product and give the responsibility of ensuring these parameters to the Maintenance team.
Process Engineering Team has to keep revisiting the Process stability: The Process Engineering team sets the process initially and they prepare the Quality Plan. They will have to take responsibility to keep revisiting it with changes in the Process and maintain the Quality Plan updated. They have to play this role in an active manner.
Many of what I mentioned above are nothing new. But not followed in most of the Manufacturing Companies. Go back to fundamentals!
02. Let your Quality System go Digital and LIVE!!
Traditionally good part of the Quality checks in Companies are off-line. Some of the modern Manufacturing Lines may have controls not to let the bad quality go forward. But most of the Companies do not have an online Quality system.
The Quality Inspectors are checking the process and recording them. The action on the observations is scanty.
You can do the following:
- Go Digital with your Quality System. Develop an App that can capture all the Quality Plans of your Products. This App should be installed on Handhelds and all the Staff should carry the Handhelds that will alert them for all the Quality checks that they should do during the Day. Software are available with companies like Siemens that can cover all this
- Data input should be Digital to the extent feasible. The Input can be taken from the Machine / Gauge, Visual condition to be captured by a Camera and so on. This will ensure the correctness of the data.
- Analyze the Data. When you collect data online, you will collect a huge amount of data. The data will be:
o About the Process
o About the Equipment
o About the People who are collecting the data and so on.
You need to analyze the data and keep making the course corrections online.
- Develop a team of Data analysts: Your Quality team has to learn how to analyze the data and learn from the data. Analyzing the Micro data and making corrections is a skill that they have to learn.
o Example: If they capture the data about various Engineers capturing the Quality data and missing out a few data captures, they should be able to understand the problems in data capture and initiate corrective actions.
o Example: They should be able to look at data of Part dimensions in a machining process and decide when they should change the Cutter so that they can maintain the Process capability.
Just by doing these two Mega changes in your Company, you can build Vibrant Quality Systems in your Company.
Make a change. Do not continue with status quo.
Manufacturing Sector is a very old worldwide with Several Industries having Decades and sometimes more than a Century History. Like any other Sector, Manufacturing Companies deal with several Stereotype practices. Many Companies keep following the age-old practices without challenging them.
Let us examine a few of them and how breaking the Stereotype can perhaps show you new Possibilities. Sometimes huge new possibilities!
We need Employees with experience in our Industry: This is one of the Big Stereotype practices that several Industries follow. In the last 7 years, as a Consultant I have come across Professionals who swear that their industry is ‘Special’ and it requires people with experience only in their Industry. Because people from other Industries ‘just can’t understand the complexities of their industry’. I have heard this from ALL industries.
Let me discuss one actual example. A Progressive Leader from a Foundry decided to challenge this Stereotype practice. He recruited a Professional from Automobile industry as the head of their Plant. This Professional did not know anything about the Foundry Business. He brought with him the knowledge of several Best practices from Automobile industry. He helped the Company to transform the Plant. As he did not have the ‘baggage of experience’, he tried out new practices.
Let me quote another example from same Foundry industry. This time, the Leader tried out ‘Fresh Engineers’ with absolutely no experience at Supervisor level in various functions in the Foundry like New Product Development, Manufacturing, Quality etc. This Leader was a Foundry Industry veteran. He trained the Freshers in the Foundry knowledge himself. The fresher Engineers excelled in each function. They thought about everything in a fresh manner and went where none of their predecessors dared to go. Everything in that Foundry improved.
I remember a Senior Professional from Aerospace industry coming into Automotive Parts company. He introduced some very precision manufacturing to the Automotive parts Company. The Practices that he brought in helped the Auto parts company to shape up better for the entry into Aerospace industry.
I can quote examples from several other Industries. Wherever the Leader took calculated risk of taking people from more mature industries, it worked well. This requires a Leader taking Calculated risk. Once the New Recruit is supported well, there is bound to be much better results.
Our Quality System is excellent: There is hardly any Manufacturing Company that does not believe their Quality System is excellent. Most of the Companies would have a Quality Plan and they swear they are following every bit of it. Yet, they will be having plenty of Customer complaints and Internal Quality rejects. Most of them do not relate the problems to the Quality Plan and its’ adherence.
The belief is almost that some invisible force is creating the Quality Problems!!
My experience is that when you conduct a strict audit of their Quality Plan and its’ adherence, most of these Companies will not score more than 40-50% adherence!! Either the Quality Plan is not adequate, or it is not adhered to. That is the reason for their Quality woes.
But they would say there is nothing wrong with their Quality System!
In Some companies I found that it is simply not possible to do all the Quality checks that they listed in their Quality Plan with the meagre strength of people doing that work.
Challenge the Quality System in your company and recast it totally. Sometimes you need a fresh pair of eyes for this.
Quality is the responsibility of the Quality Inspectors/Engineers: In a Shift, in a Manufacturing Company there may be 12-15 Engineers looking after the Production, Maintenance, Engineering and so on. But the Quality Checks are done only by one or two Junior most Quality Inspectors in the shift. Everyone else do not seem to pay any attention to Quality!!
Quality Problems and Customer Complaints are dealt with only by the Quality Engineers. Production Engineers are busy with Numbers, Other Engineers are dealing with their own priorities.
This is a non-starter. One or two Junior most Engineers can’t be controlling the Quality. Quality has to be the responsibility of everyone in the Factory.
While many of the Readers would say this is a very old issue, you would be surprised to know that still in majority of the Companies the Quality is the business of only Quality Engineers / Inspectors.
Challenge this notion! Implement the ‘Layered audit’ concept where the Employees right up to the Plant Head and right across the functions have to participate in Assuring Quality.
You can’t forecast the Market Demand and Manufacturing has to deliver whatever is demanded by Customer: It is not easy to forecast the Customer Demand in any Industry. It is also required to deliver what the Customer demands. No doubt about these two imperatives.
But it is not correct to give up on Market Demand Forecast as it is difficult to forecast. This is too easy a way out for the Company. But a very costly way out. A Company that tries to supply to meet its’ Customers’ needs without some type of Forecasting will do so at a very high cost. This Company will have to keep high Input inventories / WIP and Finished Goods stocks.
Challenge the notion that you can’t forecast. You need to formulate your own Forecasting model and keep improving it over a period of time. You may have low accuracy of the model initially. But as you keep improving it with new information, your accuracy will improve.
Whatever Is the accuracy of your Forecasting model, not having a model is worse.
A Company that does not forecast will lose out big on the Top line and Bottom line. I know many Companies who argue that they are not losing out on the topline and somehow, they are meeting it.
My experience is that a Company that is behind the Market requirement will definitely Lose the topline. When the Company is having a lot of strain in meeting the Market demand, the Sales team of the Company will become typically inward focused. They are worried about the deliveries and do not want to go to the market and face the Customers. Resultantly the Company will start losing out on Sales.
My experience is that if we resolve this issue, a Company’s sales may go up by about 15-25%. As you service the market better, you start selling more. Availability of the Product is a fundamental issue in taking the market.
You need to Ramp up the Production very fast in the new Factory: When a Company sets up a new Factory, it tries to set up the factory very fast and start off the Production in a great hurry! I hear the boasting of the Companies that they started the factory in 6 months and started Billing the Customers!
Typically, these companies would make a dash to building the Factory by putting enormous pressure on the Civil Team. They would start up the Production ‘somehow’.
I recognize the fact that the investment that a Company puts in has to pay back. But a new Factory is a huge opportunity for a Company to:
a) Redefine the Productivity.
b) Redefine the Quality.
c) Re-engineer the Organization structure.
d) Re-engineer just about everything that you do in the new factory.
When you treat the New factory setting up like a 100-meter dash, you hardly have a chance to do this.
I am not saying you should delay the factory setting up. But what is needed is to Plan the wonderful opportunity in great detail and ensure the Company goes to a new level with the new factory.
Let it take optimum time to do this Re-engineering effort. Don’t lose out on the opportunity to redefine your Manufacturing in the hurry to start Production!
Our New Products are excellent, everything is fine: The New Product Development Team most of the time keeps defending its’ Product and the Product development process very closely. When a New Product is being developed, there is a good chance to fail as you are doing it for the first time! If the Team is adapting the mindset of ‘everything is fine’, then there is a good chance that the Company’s Customers will find out most of the Problems with the New Product.
The R&D Engineers usually a proud lot. They would be having very high Self-confidence. You would like them to be that way. But they should encourage the Practices that challenge the assumptions at every stage.
The Engineers should be encouraged to keep looking at DFMEA seriously. The team needs to be encouraged to look at the whole process from a distance and find more and more problems with their design so that they can make it stronger.
Challenge the Status-quo
There can be many more Stereotype Practices in a Company. A Company needs to keep challenging the Status-Quo regularly.
Are you challenging the Stereotype practices in your Company?