For most companies, success relies on the ability to offer customers a consistently impressive product.
When the foundation of your organization is built upon quality, you can gain a competitive edge, and ensure that sales numbers and profits continually thrive. Quality contributes to customer loyalty, positive brand recognition, and repeat business — and increases the chance that customers will recommend your business to others.
Unfortunately, on the production floor quality control can quickly become lost in the rush of machining; often slipping through in the urgency to get completed projects out the door, while minimizing costs and maximizing profit.
How can you maintain quality control without losing profits? The solution relies upon streamlining your production processes, solving problems quickly, and implementing consistent progress.
Define Necessary Processes — and Standardize Them
Before you start promoting quality on the production floor, evaluate your current processes — how workers complete their jobs, and whether your manufacturing equipment is appropriate for the tasks workers need to do each day. Are any of your machine parts defective, or unnecessary? Are important project steps skipped, in an attempt to save time?
Your current definition of “quality” — according to the expectations of your customers, and industry standards — should help you to begin standardizing work procedures in terms of content, timing, sequence, and outcome. In other words, you can begin to make sure that everyone does the same job, in the same way, following the same steps. Over time, your definition of “necessary processes” may change, as you implement new machinery and new quality management systems.
Standardizing work procedures, based on what you already know, will engage your employees in understanding the best method for each job. This reduces the chance of quality errors, and enhances the finished product.
Solve Problems Immediately for Preventative Maintenance
Consistent preventative maintenance of equipment is crucial to avoiding downtime — not to mention the significant cost associated with replacing broken down machinery. Build quality testing into each of your processes, and deal with issues instantly; rather than trying to address them at the end of the manufacturing line, when the problem is more expensive to fix.
By replacing worn components when they begin to break, and conducting regular inspections to ensure equipment is functioning at the highest efficiency; you will significantly reduce your chances of falling victim to poor quality.
If you can implement automated testing, do so. When something goes wrong, take it as an opportunity to evaluate the machinery and processes, and aim to eliminate the root cause of the issue.
Remember, even a lack of cleanliness can lead to problems over time — particularly in a production environment, where raw materials leave residue on the machinery. This residue requires regular clearing to avoid breakdowns; just as damaged parts need replacing, and faulty processes need fixing. Don’t wait until a problem becomes too big to solve.
Make Quality a Team Effort
In a huge production factory, it’s unlikely that quality will be sustainably improved by just a few individuals. Make sure every member of your team embraces your quality management measures. You can even bring your team members together in meetings to ask them for input on quality improvement methods. Remember, a variety of perspectives leads to a wide range of solutions to each potential problem.
What’s more, if you use team-based thinking to create a culture of quality, you open the production floor up to constant improvement. You may even collect feedback from certain valued customers, business partners, or suppliers, regarding problems with quality in an existing product. Include this feedback in your team discussions. The more you listen — to your consumer base, your suppliers, and your employees — the more your product will improve.
Implement Changes Gradually
Inefficiencies within processes, or abnormalities in parts, can exist on any production floor. Creating a culture of quality, and ensuring that your team knows the value of their work, will help to ensure mistakes are consistently fixed, and your product is always improving.
Just remember that when you’re implementing large changes into your production processes, it’s wise to do so gradually; by changing one aspect of your procedure at a time. Rapid changes can be difficult for employees to embrace, and may even slow down production — particularly if they involve learning how to use new equipment, or services. Each change should come with the appropriate training, and give your team plenty of time to adapt.