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Implementing a documented and quality-controlled process

Implementing a documented and quality-controlled process

12th of August, 2020

This project was undertaken to investigate the root causes of how the company had delivered poor quality to their biggest and best customer which had then resulted in a reduction in confidence in their capability, putting at risk future business.

The Company

An established business selling a technically sophisticated product internationally. It is based in Lennoxtown in East Dunbartonshire, in a small facility with a ground floor workshop and offices on the first floor. At the time of the project, the assembly was completed by one member of staff who also had responsibility for technical support. The company was also in the process of recruiting a new engineer who would deliver technical support and product developments.

The Challenge

Following a recent customer quality escape, there is a requirement to formally re-examine and document the assembly process and review test and quality checkpoints and documentation. The customer in question was the company’s biggest and oldest customer and the quality escape had raised serious questions of the company's competency and capability. The customer was planning to visit the site to conduct an audit.

The scope of work visit highlighted that there was no documented assembly process and that the technician was working based on training received from a former employee and to drawings and diagrams that were incomplete and hand-annotated. The assembly technician worked alone and was often distracted by customer support calls.

The quality incident has led to a breakdown in communication with the Owner and it was feared that the technician was disengaged and mistrustful. The resulting risk to the business was that with no documented knowledge the Owner would not be able to fulfil customer orders without the active cooperation of the single technician. The technician would also be responsible for training the new member of staff.  

It is envisioned that this project will deploy standard lean methodology and manufacturing best practice. This will resolve the current issues and will provide a sound launch point for future adoption of lean practices across the business. 

The Action

The delivery of the project was to be achieved by;

  • Discussions with the Owner to understand the business and operational flow.
  • Hands-on work with employees within the workshop to understand the workflow and to review and improve workplace housekeeping, organisation and controls.
  • Working off-site to produce the documentation and materials required as part of the assignment

The key deliverables were identified and the scope of work defined and agreed;

  1. Establish assembly process flow and document methods into standard work. A documented process will allow for consistent and efficient completion of the assembly process and identify potential gaps and opportunities for improvement.
  2. Define the quality process for product assembly and provide simple quality checklists. Document key hold, test and checkpoints for the assembly of products with the objective of zero defects and zero quality escapes to customer. Documentation produced will allow for traceability of defects and escapes.
  3. Introduce the 5S process and review health and safety within the assembly area. Efficient and effective use of space, materials tools and equipment within the assembly area would improve flow and improve health and safety. The disciplines of 5S will enhance all aspects of the business and build pride in the workplace and the work output.
  4. Maintenance documents and calibration schedules. TPM methods would deliver simple and effective measures to reduce key equipment downtime and enhance quality.
  5. Employee (re)-engagement. Participation by existing and new employees was a key aspect of the project. Existing, undocumented knowledge was essential to the development of the process flow charts, standard work and quality and maintenance documents. Completing this activity would allow for training and learning that will motivate and engage the employees in operational improvement and customer service excellence.

The impact on the Company

All the scope of work was delivered in a short timescale with the active involvement of the existing and the new employee. Starting with the product that had been delivered with poor quality a complete overhaul of existing drawings and knowledge was achieved and a new workflow document was produced electronically to be used to manage assembly, checkpoints, tests and final quality inspection.

As a result, we were able to overcome the immediate risk of further quality escapes and to demonstrate competence and capability to existing and new customers.

Training, advice and support was also provided in;

  • Lean Manufacturing good practice
  • Measure and approval of travel documents
  • TPM
  • 5S (workshop and electronic)
  • Material replenishment and storage

Additional documents produced during the project were;

  • Workshop layout
  • TPM schedule
  • 5S audit sheets
  • 5S photos

The engagement of the employees was a critical factor in the success of the project. They generated several ideas and the transformation in the organisation and flow was evidence of both improved self-discipline and pride in the workplace.

The project also succeeded in defining areas for future review and action such as;

  • the production of a detailed project plan for the completion of workflows for all products, using  Pareto principles to set the order of priority.
  • the review electronic files and paper folders to find important instructions for older product that are in the field and place these into a technical library for future reference.
  • conduct an electronic 5S programme to run in parallel with the physical 5S programme.

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