Managing quality - You can do it! - Part 6
In the last section we looked at the main manufacturing procedures. In this section we look at the group of procedures associated with inspection and what happens when something goes wrong.
You can only measure a dimension accurately if the measuring instrument is accurate. The quality control of any dimension or property is only as good as the instruments used to measure it. An inaccurate tape measure will always give mis-measures and cause problems in manufacture. 'Do we add the correction for this tape measure or do we subtract it?'.
Window fabricators need a very a limited amount of inspection equipment and most have only tape measures and contact thermometers for weld plates. The control of calibration of tape measures is best done by the use of a calibrated master metre steel rule and a monthly (or when required) check to this steel rule. Obviously the results of the check must be recorded and this can be done on a simple check sheet. Inaccurate tape measures should be scrapped immediately.
Calibration of the master steel rule is often available from your local Trading Standards Unit at low cost and calibration of contact thermometers may also be available from the same source. Calibration should be regularly carried out and calibration sheets retained. It is recommended that the next date of calibration be marked on the item so that re-calibration is carried out at the correct time.
The inspection and test status of a product should be immediately obvious in any factory. Products that are suspect or reject should be clearly marked and separated from good materials. Most computer systems allow the printing of a series of check boxes on the production paperwork and it is strongly recommended that these are used by the operator to record the satisfactory completion of each operation. This can be by signing the check box and passing the goods to the next workstation. If the computer system cannot print a check box then a simple stamp can achieve the same result.
Suspect or reject goods should be clearly marked with 'HOLD' or 'REJECT' stickers and removed from the production flow in the factory. A decision regarding these products can then be made as required. The use of a very small 'HOLD' area for these products is strongly recommended. All staff should be allowed to place a 'HOLD', label on a product (in any area of the factory) but only the Production Manager should be approved to remove it and only after the product has been cleared as OK.
Perhaps the most important status is the Final Inspection status, where a clear indication of the 'PASSED' status should be marked on the product.
Once a product has been identified as not conforming to the specification it must be segregated from the good material and further action taken. There should be a specific process for handling these products so that they cannot be further processed or despatched to the customer. If further processing is carried out it is a waste of time, effort and money. If the product is despatched to the customer the results can be even worse in terms of loss of reputation and rectification cost. Don't be tempted to let it go if it is near enough - the product will only come back and cost you more in the end.
The use of a 'HOLD' area can make control in this area much clearer and easier to maintain. Any reject product should be examined to check if there is a simple mistake or if the problem is more serious
Corrective and preventive actions are taken to fix up and remove the causes of actual or potential problems with the product, process or Quality Management system.
Corrective actions are taken to fix concerns and are needed for each concern or group of concerns that are identified. Concerns should be recorded on a 'Non-conformity Report', which is also used to record a time limit for the action to be completed. The actions taken to fix the concern should be recorded on the same report and the report can then be closed out. The types of corrective action available are limited in the window industry because re-work is rarely possible and the usual response to a concern is a re-make with salvage of any hardware that has already been fitted to the product.
Preventive actions are those taken before a problem happens or to prevent a known problem from happening again. Preventive action is cheaper in the long run but make sure that you follow the Quality Action Cycle if you are going to carry out any action. The cycle will prevent you from jumping to too many conclusions and changing things 'just for the sake of it'. The Quality Action Cycle is shown in Figure 6.1 (below).
Figure 6.1: The Quality Action Cycle
Dealing with customer complaints is of the utmost importance in preserving and controlling our relationship with the customer. The implementation of ISO 9002 Quality System should minimise customer complaints but if a customer has a complaint then it must be dealt with promptly and efficiently. Complaints offer an opportunity to prove that you really care for our customers and you should grasp the opportunity to show this. A complaint that is handled correctly and quickly can actually provide a customer with a real reason to stay with a company. We can all think of companies who handled a complaint superbly and actually improved our relationship as a result, we can also think of those companies who blew it totally!
Customer complaints need to be acknowledged (without prejudice) immediately they are made. The investigation should be quick, thorough and the resulting action should be final. In handling customer complaints it is always best to 'under-promise' and 'over-deliver'. Telling the customer that you will get back to them in 7 days and doing so in 3 leaves a lasting good impression.
This should not be interpreted as 'giving in' to any or every complaint. If the complaint is wrong then do not be afraid to say so - but do it quickly and clearly in words the customer can understand. Then find out where your system led the customer to think they had a problem and take preventive action to fix the system. Many complaints result from the 'over-promises' made by staff in an effort to get the elusive order.
"Managing quality" is designed to give you direct and clear information on the requirements of ISO 9002. The series has been written specifically for window fabricators but most of the information is equally relevant to plastics processing of a general nature. The series is:
Part 1: Introduction
Part 2 - The requirements of ISO 9002
Part 3 - The procedures (Section 1)
Part 4 - The procedures (Section 2)
Part 5 - The procedures (Section 3)
Part 6 - The procedures (Section 4) (This section)
Part 7 - The procedures (Section 5)
Last edited: 11/03/10
© Tangram Technology Ltd. 1998
Our standard disclaimer regarding Internet data applies.