Author Archives: markqualitynetzel
Achieving Zero Defects
There are numerous names for it throughout the Engineering and Quality communities. Sometimes the names and meanings of these different chosen names become blurred.
When it comes down to it however, the intent and details of these methodologies transcend any chosen names for them. This blog will discuss the “basic” approaches to preventing defects from getting to your customer, regardless of whether the “customer” is the end user or the next step in your internal process.
In very simple terms a defect is typically the result of making an error during the process.
ERROR = DEFECT in this example.
ERROR FOCUS (PREVENTION)
If we can eliminate or greatly reduce the possibility of making an error we reduce or eliminate the chance of producing or passing on a defect to our customer.
There are a number of tools/ techniques available to eliminate or reduce the possibility of making an error. Examples are plentiful in numerous books on the topic. Here is a small sample of some of these:
- Assembly fixtures with pins in the holes that do not get items placed into them to prevent the Technician from placing components in the wrong locations.
- Modifications of tooling so it does not fit into or onto a part if it is not oriented correctly.
- Modification of part geometry so that it does not fit into a mating part improperly (example would be the old floppy disks with the beveled corner that prevent reversed insertion)
- Amplification of human senses to reduce the chance of making an error such as larger dial faces, lights, alarms, etc…
DEFECT FOCUS (DETECTION)
If a process cannot be made to completely prevent an error (resulting in a defect) we have a number of other approaches that can prevent these from getting to our customers.
a) Control Technique – (at the time it is produced)
– Examples of “control type” approaches would be once a defect was produced the device/ machine/ jig would lock the part in place so that it cannot be processed further (preventing downstream customer contamination).
– Another example of a “control type” device would be once a defect is produced a “lockbox or containment box” would require a part to be placed into it before processing could resume. There are many great sensor and vision machine applications for this.
b) Warning Technique – (at the time it is produced)
– Examples of “warning type” approaches would be when a defect is produced and a light or alarm is sounded that requires someone to capture and remove it from downstream contamination.
c) Another approach though not as effective as there is some waste that takes place and risk which is “downstream detection technique” utilizing the same above techniques of “control” and “warning”.
– Examples of this type of approach might be an assembly line track or feeder mechanism that inspects a characteristic (example – outside diameter of a bushing/ shaft/ etc… or presence of a welded component) through contact or non-contact techniques and vision systems.
Again, the intent of this blog article is not to give examples of all types of devices on the market (there are many), but to illustrate the different “basic” approaches”.
Obviously prevention is much better than detection as with detection we have already produced a defect which means we now have risk of contamination (downstream or at the end user) and costs associated with it (rework, scrap, repair). Both of these are forms of waste.
Here is to prevention and keeping our customers happy and us in business.
Deming’s Point No. 5 – Improve Constantly and Forever The System of Production & Service
W. Edwards Deming’s 5th point is the key to staying in business in these competitive times. This is relevant more than ever in this globally, competitive manufacturing environment. If we are staying the same, we are falling behind the competition and could eventually find ourselves out of business.
Continual improvement is by no means a new topic and neither are many of the tools and techniques that many organizations are using to try to stay competitive. Some of these tools and techniques are six sigma, lean manufacturing, kaizen events, and the list goes on.
Unfortunately many organizations treat corrective actions and unrelated improvement projects as their continual improvement methodology. Corrective action is important as are small improvement projects, but these in themselves do not make a solid continual improvement program that will make and keep them competitive in the long term. Improvement projects should be contributing to an overall strategy or goal that the organization has set.
There are a number of principles or strategies that an organization can and should follow to achieve this objective. I will briefly discuss each below:
a) Gather data on your core/ critical processes. This is not merely your manufacturing processes, but you business processes as well. If we are not improving our business processes as well we are not completing the mission. A Japanese term – “Gemba Kaizen” focuses on going to where the work or process is done vs. sitting in a meeting room discussing what might be going on.
b) Focus on employee involvement, employee empowerment and employee development. The only way to truly improve is to involve all areas and levels of the organization. To do otherwise is like only using ½ of the travel of your gas pedal during a race. Having said that, in order to get the maximum value out of our workforce we have to develop them and train them to bring out that knowledge with the use of statistical tools, team building methods, quality tools and we need to be wiling to step back as managers to empower them to make and act on their decisions. This also means that middle management needs to be involved and onboard with this or we will be doomed to failure. Turing loose on some of our authority can sometimes be the biggest challenge (it is human nature to want to be in control).
c) Change the reward systems to support the new way. As long as we celebrate the “rise to the challenge” to “get the order out of the door at all costs” we will continue to focus on fire fighting and corrective action instead of true improvement. Many organizations are guilty of this.Toyotahit the nail on the head with the “stop and fix” mentality – at least as long as we are focusing on the system and it’s improvement vs. the immediate “problem” that occurred (or worse yet – whose fault was it?)
This list is not all inclusive but it is a start to get us in the right direction.
Here is to improvement.
Deming Point No. 3 – Cease Dependence on Mass Inspection
Continuing on with Deming’s point no. 3 (one of my favorites) is “Cease Dependence on Mass Inspection”. Unfortunately many organizations have this problem.
There are many problems with this approach:
* Adds cost to your process
* Is only a method of detecting the problem and does nothing to keep it from happening again.
* In addition to potential costs of scrap, you may incur costs for rework, repair, and sorting.
* If the defect that was not detected it could also get out to your customer which has even worse repercussions.
* These costs are coming right from your company bottom line, which also hurts the potential for employee bonus, raises, profit sharing, stock dividend payouts as well as makes the company staying open less attractive to the shareholders and less competitive to customers.
Basically, a detect vs. prevent mentality is a losing situation for all stockholders. Many companies perform inspection in all phases of product handling (Receiving of materials, setup, in-process by production, in-process by QC, final inspection of all containers after production, final batch inspection) and dock audits to make sure packaging and labeling was also done correctly. Some of these are necessary depending on the maturity of your quality system, manufacturing process and even your employee skill levels but in the end they are “band-aids” to being totally effective. Many times the inspection becomes so ingrained in the process that it continues on throughout the life of the product because the customer is not complaining and because leadership is lacking to drive process improvement (also know as complacency).
So what should we be doing? There are a number of effective and proactive strategies that many companies use.
a) Production Process Planning (sometimes referred to APQP, or product realization planning). This is in my opinion the greatest tool in our arsenal as it forces and allows us to thoroughly review and put in place the necessary actions to operate a defect free process. Production Process Planning (if done properly) allows us to look at the design of the product so that it is feasible for manufacture and sometimes more feasible for the end user who at times does not know your product as well as you. Production Process Planning is many times done to checklisats, planning sheets, and allows us to review the entire process from design to shipment (and sometimes post delivery).
b) Error-proofing, mistake-proofing, poka-yoke, etc… is the use of different methods to prevent defects or prevent the quantity of defects with the use of fixture design, product design, sensors, etc… Error proofing can be done to where an error cannot be made (remember error leads to a defect) through product and process design. No error can mean – no defect. This is also an ongoing process throughout the product lifecycle as processes will always find new creative ways to producing an error.
One of my favorite Production Process Planning tools is the Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA). There are a number of different types of FMEA (Design, Process, System, Machine, etc..). A great text on some of these FMEA types is the AIAG FMEA manual in my experience.
Needless to say that not focusing on proactive/ preventive activities will always lead to additional costs and in most cases the detection activities are not value-added. The definition of value-added that I like to look at is – “Is your customer willing to pay for the activity?”. If no,t it is not truly a value added activity. Having said that however I try to be realistic and admit that there can be activities that are non-value added but necessary.
Here’s to good planning.
Many of us have used the common statistical tools of ppk and cpk for determining how capable our processes are. Many times we blindly input our raw variable data into a statistical software such as Minitab and admire our statistical genius without first making sure our process producing the data is stable. Some of the Minitab tools (capability 6 pack) will tell us if our data is stable via the probability plot and the control chart functions, but many do not take this step first of actually looking at the data with these tools. In a nutshell unless your process is stable the statistical probability behind the ppk and cpk formulas are not valid with non stable data.
Lean implementation has some similarities with this example in that we should first install a stable, repeatable process before we can begin to realize the true benefits that Lean or the Toyota production System (TPS) offer us with other tools in the toolbox like kaizen. The “House of Lean” is built upon the premise of “stability”. If we do not first install and develop a process that is done the same way every time, using the same repeated steps and same tools we cannot truly expect to reap the benefits. If our process being studied is not stable and repeatable how can we expect to analyze it to find the areas for improvement. That is why a true Lean initiative (in my opinion) should be started with standardization, 5S and value stream mapping (current state). Only once we have a stable process can we move onto the other tools available such as Just-in time (kanban), quality at the source, poka-yoke (mistake proofing), etc… Once these are installed the kaizen process can be repeated again and again to bring our process to higher and higher levels.
Stability (as is the case in many areas in life) is the key. If your day (work or home) is a chaotic frenzy then you cannot hope to focus on the proactive areas.
In many instances (actually most or all) this involves “culture change”. We have all heard the saying – “change is hard” and it can be if we do not introduce a strong enough reason as to why it needs to change.
Company culture (good or bad) is a result of many things. Some examples are below:
* The beliefs reinforced by the owner/ management staff
* The values, attitudes and beliefs of the individual employees/ team
* The experiences/ training/ beliefs/ of the employees and management
Culture usually develops over a period of time within a group or organization. In many instances the longer an organization has been in business or the longer an employee has been employed at a company the more difficult it is to permanently change the existing culture. It is not impossible, but can be difficult.
There a number of steps that should be taken when a culture change initiative is being undertaken. These are outlined below:
1) Determine why the current culture is the way that it is (behavior is caused and so is culture. There is some sort of “payoff” or else it would not be maintained.
2) Know exactly what the desired culture is. If you don’t know where you want to go, you will never get there.
3) Create a strong enough reason as to why change is needed. This could be the loss of critical business, competition, sales decline, pending closure or bankruptcy, etc… If there is a stong enough “why”, the how becomes simple.
4) build your team of “cheerleaders” that will aid in the change and will act as peer pressure to get the change implemented. Sometimes a small-scale (bell weather) project helps in gaining this support team.
5) Use teams/ team building. Anything that involves multiple departments is served well to use teams to help reduce resistance.
6) Management needs to reinforce and “walk the talk”
7) Provide the necessary training, education and competency to make the change. This includes the technical as well as the “soft skills”.
Having always been a Deming follower, I wanted to put together a post on some of his points. His 1st point is as follows:
“Create Constancy of Purpose For The Improvement of Product and Service”
I feel that Deming put this in the top spot on purpose. If there is not a “constancy of purpose” the remaining 13 points will not result in the expected benefit and improvement.
Your organization purpose should be stated in either your Vision statement/ mission statement/ quality policy/ etc… Many companies have these (probably most) but many that I have seen really have no meaning to drive the organization. They are empty statments that hang on a wall. Most will talk about satisfying the customer, continual improvment, supplying quality product, etc.. but when the measureable objectives are looked at there is a gap. The gap can either be in the goal itself or the performance of meeting the goals.
Many organizations are focused solely on the daily fights, the quarterly dividends, annual profit sharing checks, etc.. instead of the long term goal of staying in business, growing and improving. Many times the goals and objectives are exactly the opposite of what should be the long term focused objectives. For example I have heard that Honda has what it calls it’s 100 year plan. How is that for a forward looking business? Other simple things like your business contingency plans and capital expenditures can reveal where the focus is at (daily survival or long term viability).
Stephen Covey also stated it perfectly in his book “First Things First” when he stated that companies that are focused on the urgent are least focused on the important (my summary of his statement – not a quote).
In a nutshell a simple tool such as a tree diagram can be used to start at your organization’s long term objective and can then be branched downward to other goals within the divisions, plants, departments and personnel.
I feel that too many companies are too focused on the short term and not the long term. Deming wisely summed it up many years ago, yet many still do not heed the advice (either for lack of knowing, lack of understanding or just that the organization culture is focused in the wrong direction). It is sometimes difficult to “right the ship” but it can be done.
The 16 step M.E.N Problem Solving Process Approach ©
1) Identify the problem (What is the gap)
2) Describe the problem in detail (Provide detailed information)
3) Select potential containment methods (stop the bleeding) (Plan)
4) Decide on best containment action (cost/ benefit analysis/ test method) (Plan)
5) Implement containment actions (Try it out/ test it) (Do)
6) Verify the effectiveness/ Decide (Will it do what you want it to) (Check/ Act)
7) Select potential root causes (Plan)
8) Decide on most likely/ feasible root cause/s to address (Do)
9) Collect data to verify which of the decided upon root causes are correct (check)
10) Decide on the actual root cause/s (based on data collected to verify) (Act)
11) Select potential permanent corrective action (cost/ benefit analysis/ risk) (Plan)
12) Decide on data collection methods to verify corrective action will work (Plan/ Do)
13) Review data/ verify permanent corrective actions will work as planned (check)
14) Implement permanent corrective actions (Act)
15) Verify effectiveness of permanent actions (check – again)
16) Implement preventive actions (standardize/ communicate/ audit for ongoing effectiveness) (Act)
The PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) is not just another quality tool or quality notion. The PDCA cycle is sometimes linked with PDSA (Plan-Do-Study-Act) which basically are both the same in my eyes. The PDCA/ PDSA cycles are not merely quality tools but are how we deal effectively with life. PDCA is used in more areas than most of us think. For example – in getting to work in the morning we must PLAN what time we need to get up, the best route to get there and prepare our needed items in advance. Next comes the DO which merely means we implement our plan and get to work (car, bus, etc…). The 3rd step is to CHECK (or study) the effectiveness of the results. Did we get to our destination on time and safely? Lastly comes ACT which means that – based on the results of our planning and implementation efforts we either correct the results or possibly refine/ improve how we will do it the next time. If we did not meet the goal we call it corrective action. If we did and we look to improve the results it is called continual improvement. Either way action based on data/ results is taken.
This can be applied to other life processes as well such as cooking dinner. In this case we (PLAN) the meal (what, when, how many people, etc…), We (Do) prepare the meal after which we (CHECK) the results by eating it and then (ACT) decide if we need to either make it over, add some seasoning or make it different next time.
The PDCA is also commonly usd in the quality field as an improvement tool. After an opportunity for improvement is selected a definitive PLAN is developed to attack it. The plan is again implemented (Do) and the results verified (Check) for effectiveness. Did we achieve the goal (reduce an event from occurring, remove a defect, increase the throughput of a process, etc…). At this point we either determine we need to reformulate our plan or conclude that we achieved the goal and move onto improve the process further or move onto another process altogether.
As you can plainly see the PDCA/ PDSA cycle is not just another “Quality tool”. It is how we effectively deal with life and improve things.
Here is to effective problem solving.
Problem Analysis – 1st critical step – Gathering data
An often occuring issue in many problem solving efforts is the failure to gather adequate data about the issue and failing to look at the issue from the “eyes of the process”. All too many problem solving efforts take place from a meeting room table and without gathering enough data about the problem at the site where it occurred. The Japanese call this Gemba.
Once you have gathered the background information about the problem it is time to go out to where the actual issue occurred. Initial questions to ask for example are as follows:
a) When did it occur?
b) Where did it occur specifically? (plant/ machine/ line/ area)?
c) How frequently/ to what extent/ etc..?
d) Who was involved?
e) What exactly occurred and what is the problem specifically in the eyes of the customer and the process itself?
When you go to the worksite itself it is very helpful to interview those involved. Another useful task is to “try the process”. Many problem solvers are afraid to “get their hands dirty” by actually trying the process steps themselves. In doing so many potential root causes may reveal themselves that are “under the radar” of management. I also try to look at the process and the issue from the eyes of the person working within the process as well as understanding how their specific strengths, weaknesses, and personality may have influenced the issue occurring. Many times I have seen problem solving teams try to disregard the “people’ side of the equation which is not wise (in my opinion).
You also need to look outside the process with the eyes of an outsider as well.
My approach to problem is to get as many potential questions on the table as to what may have caused the issue and that means going to the process (I refer to it as the eyes of the process) vs merely looking at the issue from a high level alone.
Here is to good problem solving.
I recently agreed to coach our 5th & 6th grade boys basketball team at school. Interestingly enough I have found many similarities between coaching the team to implementing a “quality mindset” in an organization.
Below is a brief mental note on the relationship:
1) Involvement by the leadership (crucial in establishing the “Vision” of how you want the team to function and establishing the “Need”.
2) The “Why” – The reasons why the team or organization needs to strive to learn and become better. A “united front” works well and also provides the WIIFM (What’s in it for me)
3) Measure the “before and after” state – very important in both an organization as well as a youth basketball team. Both need to be able to see what degree of progress is being made in simple yet functional areas (example – operating costs or ability to ability to shoot a foul shot)
4) Train everyone – I love the “TRAIN-DO-TRAIN-DO” approach. This simply means show a small digestible amount of new crucial tasks or skills, then follow it up with some hands on application so the value can be seen and experience gained. Also keep in mind that different team members learn differently. Some are able to hear something once and do it while others need to be able to see it or try it first. This applies to a new basketball drill or use of a new statistical tool. In basketball terms, the training portions are the “practice sessions”.
5) A solid implementation plan – Also very important and is the actual “Game” where the learned skills are applied in the real world under real conditions. A solid implementation plan requires the following:
a) Overall strategy (how to use the skills and tools learned in a structured manner)
b) Clear Goals – What are the individual and team goals? Set some measures (% of foul shots as a team for a game, QMS business process metrics, etc…
c) Constant Reinforcement – different team members react differently to different types of reinforcement and feedback. A once size fits all approach will not lead to optimal results. You need to find out the type of reinforcement (positive and negative) that works for your entire team.
d) Walk the Talk – also known as “do what you say”. If you promote a desired behavior make sure that you as the leader live by that rule as well. To do otherwise will result in no one doing the behavior either. If you talk about “good sportsmanship” you must exhibit that behavior yourself. If you promote a thorough well planned product planning process – do not deviate because it is not convenient. You will only pay the price later.
6) Continually improve in all areas – This applies both on the court and in your business. All important activities must be made better, faster and on the business side of things – cheaper. You have to measure performance however to know where you are currently so you can decide what improvements need to be done and what activities need to be done to improve it in which areas. Some business units may need to reduce non-value added activities and some players may need to work on ball handling where others need to work on foul shooting.
Needless to say the experience has been very enlightening and rewarding.