Put bluntly: if your job shop software automation or digital transformation goes too far it can annihilate your quality management. Why is explained later in this article.
Service-based manufacturing companies (heat treating, coating, plating, finishing, fabrication, forge, etc.) are always looking for ways to improve their production processes through some type of digital transformation or computer-based technology, and will try new things to streamline and improve operational efficiencies; this is all GOOD.
Every company is on its own unique path because even though two companies provide the same service and have the same type of equipment or machines, they might each go about it a totally different way: one might have extra operation steps embedded in their process; maybe the skill levels of their production staff differ dramatically in the various work centers throughout the plant; so might their commitment level, their conscientious focus on the task at hand, and their general attitude about what they are doing at the time.
Therein lies the potential problem…PEOPLE
The weakest link is always the PEOPLE.
In most companies, whether you’re talking about extensive building security or data and cyber security measures implemented, the main source of “software problems” is people.
This is the case for the overall quality of each completed job; everything from receiving, work order entry, releasing the job to the floor (with the right Process), specification requirements, production step operations, inspections and shipping.
Since individual PEOPLE are involved in completing each of these steps, PEOPLE can cause problems:
* they can cut corners
* they can eliminate key steps in a critical process
* they can say they did something when they did not
* they can say they checked and verified something when they did not
* they can make mistakes
Please don’t take this wrong!
Your PEOPLE are your GREATEST ASSET! But you must also understand that your software is also an important asset, just like a great employee and should be viewed as such.
As a matter of fact, if done properly, software is NOT even an expense. For too long, in most cases, the cost of the right software has been on the wrong side of the ledger.
So how does QUALITY fit in all this talk about software automation and people? I’ll explain.
Have you ever been in a boardroom meeting when one well-intentioned executive stated that a key company goal was “higher quality”? That sounds good, doesn’t it? However, this is wrong!
The GOAL of the company has never been high quality; the TRUE GOAL of any company is making more profit. QUALITY is a “Necessary Condition” for increasing profits.
So, in your quest to satisfy this ‘necessary condition’, make sure your company is not just focused on looking for ways to make things easier for the production staff and speed things up in order to get more work out the door in the same amount of time.
To accomplish this, some companies implement job tracking software on the production floor that automatically tracks jobs through each processing step, sometimes automatically tracking several sequential job steps at the same time just to speed things up.
When this automatic job-step tracking occurs out in the plant, the supposedly faster production and work order management software is making some huge ASSUMPTIONS, namely:
• that the PEOPLE did everything right and according to the Specification requirements;
• that the person actually doing the work was qualified to do that job step;
• that the correct piece of equipment was used;
• that the test results or quality inspections were all within acceptable ranges;
• that there were no nonconformances associated with the job steps that were automatically tracked;
• that the equipment and personnel performed perfectly;
• that nothing was damaged during that particular step;
• that the job was done in full compliance;
• Etc, etc.
That’s a LOT of assumptions that have to be right so you have increased profits and not rework because the job was done fast but not right.
As the Production Manager, you have to decide which is more important;
1. that your staff’s jobs are made easier with fewer software “clicks” so the jobs get done faster,
2. that quality management, individual accountability and preventing rework is more important so jobs get done right the first time.
If you chose #1… By eliminating potentially key quality checkpoints and signoffs (cutting corners), your software is making a very risky assumption. It is assuming that everything was done right on a particular job step and it is automatically passing the job on to the next operational step in your production Process.
Since PEOPLE are involved, their inherent desire to cut as many corners as possible screams for continuous accountability. Without accountability, quality will suffer dramatically, rework and production costs will increase, unhappy customers and fewer orders will follow, and profits will take a dive.
The right software will help with accountability, while reducing rework.
Bottom line: YOU CANNOT CUT CORNERS IF YOU WANT TO BE KNOWN FOR HIGH QUALITY and COMPLIANCE.
Quality software should be designed to help your most precious resource, Excellent Quality-Oriented PEOPLE, out on the floor; it should not be a crutch to enable “warm bodies” to get something done more quickly.
An added benefit is that properly designed quality software will dramatically speed up and ease the conducting of audits.
Choose a software platform that
- gives you the flexibility to configure it the way your business functions,
- allows you to build in all the quality checks and sign-offs that are required for your internal and external auditors,
- manages to the right Specification requirement (and the right version of the Spec),
- ties integrated quality management directly to individual operators on the production floor,
- tracks everything in real-time,
- automatically notifies a supervisor of certain plant activity triggering events (that you set up),
- holds PEOPLE accountable for what they do,
- does not allow them to do something that would cause the job to be done in a non-compliant way;
- provides a complete and permanent audit trail of exactly what happened on each individual job step.
POOR QUALITY has a COST – EXCEPTIONAL QUALITY is FREE — so DO IT RIGHT the FIRST TIME.
Your people will feel much better about performing their job duties when they are not being blamed for production errors. The right software can help them tremendously.
Bluestreak I Bright AM™