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Quality control in automated shops9/28
We have a pretty automated shop. The workflow runs through our engineering software, and directly out to all of our machines on the floor. As we're primarily panel processers, most of the work goes off of the machines and are nearly complete.
Today we had a rush order for 60 simple components, banded all 4 edges. I engineered it and sent it to the saw. I made it out to the shop floor as the last part was going through the bander. Out of curiosity, I asked the bander operator if he checked the final measurement of the part (with banding). He said no. I asked the person putting them on the pallet, again no. Asked the shop foreman, and no.
I put a tape on it and there was no problem. Long story short, If we engineer everything correctly in the office, we RARELY have an issue. Our rework rate is very low, but I worry about some detail being missed on a high quantity project. I hate the thought that our customers could get something that we should have caught.
What are other automated shops doing to ensure they catch errors sooner than later? Or are they?
While I have not worked in automated shops, a few things struck me from this episode.
First, when the phrase "rush job" is the mantra for a particular project, perhaps the focus is on completion and deadline adherence rather than on quality.
Second, it appears as though there is no human in your process that has been delegated the responsibility of overall quality control. But you already found this out.
Finally, I think that even the most automated of industries still rely on the human touch to ensure that the product that goes out the door passes muster, even if it is only to throw a tape measure on it.
You might consider yourself fortunate that this process glitch revealed itself on a relatively small order.
One person whose job is to ensure quality throughout the process would probably be better than telling each workstation to be responsible for their aspect of it, as the latter may lead to a lot of finger pointing.
You might consider empowering someone in your company to be in charge of quality control and then rewarding them for that.
I don't know anything about parts manufacturing but I know a lot about boutique kitchens. There is a more or less finite number of possible places a cabinet can crash. These can be things like using the correct swing on door hinges or making sure everything is marked well or sanded well. For a glass door cabinet it might be simply remembering to measure for the glass and/or get it ordered.
With a simple checklist someone can certify that a cabinet is complete and ready to ship. It takes just a couple of minutes or less to go through the list and put a check mark by each event. If you paid one person a $10 bonus for each cabinet they certify you would be out a couple hundred bucks at the most and they would stand in line for the opportunity to be the Quality Assurance Guy.
When confronted with any kind of consternation out on the job site it costs the contractor absolutely nothing to say to you "We can't figure out what goes where.......can you send a guy out?"
When you are solving problems out on the job site you are solving them on somebody else's schedule. The cost of just one trip to remediate confusion will be a hundred times what it takes to make and laminate one single list.
When everybody is responsible nobody is responsible. If your system of management depends on somebody remembering to do something you will regularly surrender money.
There are 2 kinds of shops:
Office controlled and run
Shop floor run and run (amuck)
If it is engineered from the office and banding was subtracted through the software, then the parts should be right
If you want the parts checked, send a note to the operators via shop drawings to check the parts as they come off ......
We shipped 70k worth of panels 7 states away- you had better believe the office and shop double checked each and every part as they came off and got loaded
Of course, then again, we make clients even count the hardware when we deliver and then ask them where they intend the product until installed. We note that on the shipper and our office keeps a copy and their office/pm gets a copy
(it's so much fun to have a PM from companies a little smaller than Halliburton calling to get copies of our documentation)
For quartz and granite, we have clients initial polished edge approval, sink placement and cut out, and seams, etc and what do ya know ?
We put parts out at finish size, no edge subtraction, premill amount is adjusted after an edge sample is run on a per edge basis.
When I was a young pup in 1973, Caterpillar had a great investment in inspection personal in the factory. Inspection were made after each set up of a machine to start production. Then random daily checks by the same inspector. Each operator had a hammer with a code on it, and the operator had to stamp that code on each part. That provided a path back to someone running scrap. More training was provided when scrap numbers became too high. Operators were constantly checking with go, no-go gages. Today, each cell operator is responsible for verifying all dimensions are in tolerance. They use point to point digital arms to verify if the accuracy requires it. In any modern woodworking facility, I would suggest each operator should be trained to inspect and verify their own work after running the first part, and then random checking after.