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.
Several Indian Companies are aspiring to use Industry 4.0 elements and they are trying to get the tag of ‘We too are implementing Industry 4.0’. But, as I was mentioning in the last few Articles, we are simply not ready. May be a small percentage of companies are truly there. But, most of the Companies are just not anywhere near to using Ind 4.0.
We have examined the Plant Maintenance area last week.
Let us look at Quality Assurance this time.
Indian Manufacturing Companies are supplying World over and we are generally capable of achieving any level of Quality if we put our efforts in to it. I know Companies that supply to the Best Companies in the World. Usually these MNCs take complex parts from India. As they find Indian Companies accommodating and willing to learn.
But, most of these MNCs also would have experienced that Indian Companies take quite a bit of time to ‘get in to the groove’ or ‘take off’ in supplies. Then, they also have a problem of giving ‘Good Quality consistently’. By the time the Customer heaves a sigh of relief that the Supplies have finally taken over, they will have a rude shock of getting a Batch of Parts that are totally off the Specs. They may notice something going wrong ‘terribly’. This usually shakes the confidence of the Customer.
I have seen that the Companies in India suffer, suffer the Customer and if the Relationship wades through all this and survives, the supplies may really settle down. But, a few hiccups here and there keep happening. The Customer would have accepted it and keep debiting huge costs to the Supplier.
Many Companies in India may find that the ‘Lucrative Business’ that they found in the Western world slowly starts losing money! Many companies would have slowly exited the Business. Very few would fight hard and improve themselves. The Companies that don’t learn, keep having the same experience being repeated with various Customers.
Now, many of these Companies are trying to join the Bandwagon of Ind 4.0. They can’t succeed unless they Re-engineer their processes totally.
Let us look at a few Micro areas within Quality Assurance. We will discuss the Current condition and how they can Lift their Game in preparation for using Ind 4.0 elements.
We will look at the following Micro areas in Quality Assurance:
o Quality Plan Adherence
o Quality Problem Solving
o Employee knowledge and Skills
o Who is owning the Quality?
o Response to Customer
o Machine Condition
o Work Culture
01. Quality Plan Adherence
Current Condition: I have seen that the Quality Plan Adherence in many companies is not in good shape. How much Percentage would you score if you check each line against the Quality Plan that YOU have worked out? My experience is that the adherence ranges from around 30% to 70% when checked actually on the ground.
Those of you who are not able to agree to this should actually go to the lines and check it. If you are really at 90-95%, then you are a minority in the Indian Manufacturing. Congratulations! Keep improving from there!
Why is the Adherence so low in many companies?
Some reasons that I observed are:
a) Does not recognise change: The Quality Plan would not have been updated for changes that are happening on the ground. Resultantly, it becomes a Dumb Document.
b) Impractical load of work: The Inspectors / Operators who are supposed to carry out the Quality checks are loaded very heavily with the work and I found in a few companies that if they have to do all the checks that are prescribed in the Quality Plan, they have to be available for at least 12 hours instead of the 8 hours for which they are available. No one cares about this. Operators simply can’t keep up with the work. They don’t check many of the Parameters. Everyone in the Company would know it and ignore it.
c) Simply ignored: There are many Quality Checks that can be done. But, they are simply ignored. If you ask the concerned employees, they would immediately start doing them.
Lift the Game: The Quality Plans have to be revamped. Recognise what is happening on the Ground. Work out a Layered approach for implementing the Quality Plan. Involve many more people in the implementation of the Quality Plan. Every one working in the Factory should participate in the Quality Plan implementation. Right from Factory Head to the Operator handling the Machine.
The Quality Plan implementation has to be audited by the Quality Team on a daily basis. Some companies have implemented this Layered audit approach in a very nice manner. The results are wonderful. When the Engineers involved control the process on a daily basis, their knowledge improves and they become very confident. I have seen that these Engineers are able to face up to Customers in a much better manner.
How to use Ind 4.0 : Now, we have a very well developed Hand Held Technology available. This along with the connectivity that we have makes it amenable to take the Quality Plan usage online. You can think of having a Mobile Software that will help you monitor the Quality parameters on line. You can trigger Quality check points to various people in the organization in the spirit of the Layered Audit that we spoke about earlier. The Quality Plan monitoring may interact with Bar code technology / Photographs / Video abilities in an intelligent manner to monitor the Process closely.
Once you go on line, you generate enormous amount of Quality data. This needs to be analysed by a full time Manufacturing Data Analytics team.
If you have standardized each workstation properly in the Process, then you can look at using Vision Technology to monitor the movements of the Operator and try to control the Quality at the root.
There are many things that can be done using Technology once you get your Basics in place.
02. Quality Problem Solving
Current Condition: The Quality of Problem Solving in Companies leaves much to be desired. The Problem is at various levels.
a) Not many people are involved in Problem Solving.
b) People involved do not have good Knowledge and Skills.
c) While Management wants Quality to improve, they do not invest in to improving these Skills.
Lift the Game: Formulate a Big group of Engineers in the Company who are ‘Problem Solving Ninjas’ of the Company. Invest in to Training them and developing the Group.
Create a War room and encourage the teams to meet every day for at least 45 minutes to actually solve the problems, for technical discussions etc.
Build a Good Problem Solving Methodology over a period with continuous improvements.
How to use Ind 4.0 elements: Once you have the Problem Solving Methodology working well manually, you can automate it with a Mobile Based Software that will control the Problem Solving across the Organization.
You can use the Video technology to capture the Learning from each Problem that is solved and have a Knowledge Management System in the Company that can be used for Training as well as learning from Past mistakes. Coupled with Artificial intelligence and a good methodology of indexing the Solutions, you may be able to even input the learnings in to your Design process.
You can let your Design process continuously learn from the Problem Solving Process in the Company.
03. Employee Knowledge and Skills
Current Condition: The Companies that give importance to Knowledge and Skills are very few in Indian Manufacturing. Even those companies that are focused on Training are not having laser like focus on Skills with a relation to Results.
The Employees in all areas of the Company keep doing several important works like right from Design of Product to facing the Customer without proper Knowledge of the Products / Processes of the Company.
Indian Companies are still recruiting people without a measure of whether they are needed and why they are needed.
The link between the progress of an Employee in a Company and the Knowledge & Skills that they have is very blurred.
Lift the Game: Companies need to define the Functional and Leadership Skills that the employees need to have. I would recommend a Leadership Model be built for every company based on their own Business scenario and the Values that they want their Employees to espouse.
While the definition of what all is needed can be put in place, every company needs to prioritise the skills that they want to focus on for this year based on the Business priorities.
They need to Train the employees on a regular basis rather than some spurts of Training.
How to use Ind 4.0 elements: Once the Skills are defined, Priorities are decided and Training has started, the Company can look at optimising on the Ind 4.0 elements.
The company can adapt a Blended Training approach where the Face to Face training on short modules is combined with Micro Learning modules using E-Learning.
The Company can get on to a Cloud based ‘LMS’ (Learning Management System) and use it to drive Learning across the organization.
Employees can be Certified for their learning, implementing Projects and getting results by an outside agency.
Using these elements the Company can bring Skills and Learning in to the centre of the way they do the Business.
With this focus, the Employees can certainly deliver more towards lifting the Top line and Bottom line.
We will examine a few more elements about ‘Lifting the Game in Quality Assurance’ in the article next week.
Have you started revamping your Quality System? Small changes won’t do! You need to rediscover yourself !!
Statistical tools play an important role in improving Manufacturing Quality. The usage of these tools is not very popular in the Indian Manufacturing. The benefits and simplicity of these tools make a strong case for the Manufacturing companies to take a serious look at these tools.
A Tele- communication plant was experiencing large scale failures, 45 % in 20 pair cable and still higher % in larger sizes of cables, in water penetration (WP) Test of PIJF (Polythene Insulated jelly Filled) cables.
Foreign collaborators concluded, after extensive investigations and trials, the technology was not capable of meeting that rigorous WP Test, which in their view is not required.
However the Customer was insisting conformance to the WP Test. As a consequence the company was losing several Millions of Rupees on account of price cuts, rework and scrap.
World Bank, which financed the project, ordered a Statistical Investigation. Studies were conducted on 20 pair cable, which could easily be extended to larger size cables
Phase 1: Process Control
Large variability, 1.0 mm against a tolerance of 0.4 mm, in cable core diameter was noted, hampering smooth passage of cable core through Jelly filling machine- loose conductors hanging out, insulation getting ruptured and conductors breaking.
Wire drawing and insulation operations were identified as critical stages of manufacturing. Analysis of data showed that the processes were evidencing frequent disturbances (out of control); conductor diameter (CD) was varying by 33 microns and Insulated CD (ICD) was varying by 120 microns as a against tolerances of 10 microns, 20 microns respectively.
scatter diagram between conductor diameter and resistance, thus, showed large variability
in cable resistance: 86 ± 7 ohms / km as against a specification of Max 91 ohms / km; expected rejection for high resistance was 44 %, and Resistance un –balance was 18 %. These got masked under high WPT failures.
a first step, scientific feed-back through line charts was instituted at both the stages. These helped identify process disturbances, link them with product dimensions and diagnose the problem: goal- post interpretation of specification, Not much effort in controlling process parameters, and not much concern for rework or scrap.
1. Reformulation of specification : Target ± Tolerance
510 ± 5
25 ± 3
1.05 ± 0.1
Ohms / km
88 ± 3
2. Training of operators to aim at Target rather than anywhere within spec. Band
3. Application of reduced tolerance for test sample, as variation in one km cable length was about twice that of one meter test sample.
4. Locking line speed and fixing wire Tension at insulation process after studying Regression of these parameters on ICD
5. Institution of process monitoring Control charts, and discussions with shop personnel on preventing disturbances. These helped improve ’Process Capability’ of ICD to 16 microns, evaluated using Normal probability plotting method, against a tolerance of 20 microns, and past variability of 120 microns.
6. Draw-down in CD (wire drawing to final cable stage) after controlling elongation was estimated as 8 microns, revealing scope for reduction in CD
These steps resulted in significant reduction in variability of mechanical and electrical dimensions and consequent large financial benefits.
CD - Average
ICD - Variability
Cable Core dia.
Phase II: Process Engineering
Failure of cables in WPT continued even though cable core became uniform. A critical examination of graphical representation of WP test results helped diagnose the problem:
“ Plant technology is basically capable of meeting WP test; parameter levels possibly located at unstable values and highly prone to disturbances”.
Deficient process engineering and lack of process control of jelly filling operation.
In order to examine the optimality and criticality of control of parameters at Jelly filling process a Statistically designed experiment was planned. Two teams- a Top Management Team and an Investigation Team, were setup for smooth conduct of the experiment.
Detailed discussions and elaborate lecture sessions with Managers, Engineers and shop personnel were conducted as a part of planning and organizing the experiment.
‘Experimental factors’ and their levels: 5 factors at two levels and 3 factors at 3 levels, levels for ‘Local control factors’ and ‘ Noise factors’ were identified.
Out of the 864 (=25x33) factor level Combinations 18 combinations that make up L18 OA (Orthogonal Array) design was selected.
The experimental factors were classified as ‘primary’, ‘secondary’, and ‘tertiary’ depending on the lack of ease in changing the factor levels. Two factors were nested in other factors.
The details of conducting trials, cable samples to be collected and test on samples planned.
The three cardinal principles of experimentation: Randomization, Replication, and Local control were ensured.
One km length of cable was produced for each of the 18 trials, and 3 samples from start, middle end of the cable were tested for WP and in case of failure, the day of failure was recorded.
Tests of Hypotheses on proportions of failure and expected life showed only one factor, Type of core wrap to be having significant contribution to WP failures. A critical examination of the data showed large sampling and experimental errors, in spite of the care taken.
The data were further subjected to ‘Minute Analysis’ of Prof. Taguchi and ANOVA performed. In addition to Type of core wrap, Jelly Application conditions: Temperature – Pressure, and Jelly Brand were significant.
Cables filled with indigenous Jelly are stable over time compared with imported Jelly, and low temperature, high pressure filling results higher rate of success in WPT compared with high temperature- low pressure filling.
These were contrary to existing belief and practice of the plant, but a vital technological input. Based on the experiment, technological and economic considerations, optimum levels for the 8 factors determined.
Recommended process parameter levels implemented: higher HP motor for pumping jelly installed, line speed locked, and chilled water plants set right. Process manuals prepared, graphical feed back instituted and shop personnel were trained.
The success rate of cables in WPT increased from 55% to 100 % in the 20 pair cable, and 99-9 % in bigger size cables in 2 years. Also, the number of cables marketed increased from 450 to 8050.
The testing of cables reduced to 1/8 th, test duration curtailed to 4 days from the earlier 14 days. The Management proclaimed a saving of 30 Millions of Rupees over an investment of Rs 9 lakhs.
Much more significant aspects are development of cordial relationships and improvement in work culture with customer and among employees.
About the author
Professor J.Venkatappaiah is a Post-graduate in Mathematics and Statistics (M. Stat., Indian Statistical Institute) with specialization in Quality Technology and Management. Overfour decades of rich professional experience as consultant and faculty on Quality Technology and Management to many prominent private and public sectorIndustrial and Academic organizations. Worked in association with UNIDO and other International Experts, and Genichi Taguchi, OA & QE Pioneer. Continuing the professional activity after retirement as Professor, SQC&OR, from Indian Statistical Institute;