When learning how to improve quality in a factory, the key is to react immediately when defects appear, to find where they come from, and to fix the process (or train the workers). Here are 4 tools that help us reach this goal...
1. A Good Old Whiteboard
When a defect appears, write its name down and start counting. You set a limit, for example 5. Once 5 cases of a particular defect have appeared in the same batch, a production technician and a quality engineer must go on the line and look for the point of cause.
If the product is big enough, operators make a mark on the product or on the label. That mark needs to indicate the production date and time, and who worked on the product.
Traceability makes it easier to find a problem's point of cause, to analyze it, and to take corrective actions.
3. Small red boxes
Defective products should be placed inside special boxes, small enough that they can only contain 5 pieces. When the box is full, every one can see it. It is a visual signal to the supervisor or to the quality staff — they know they should immediately analyze these defects.
4. No-go jigs
An even more radical way of making defects obvious is to place no-go jigs on the production line, when the type of product permits this.
It is our consultants' job to look for new methods that are well adapted to the processes, the products, and the people of each factory. Some of the above tools might not be suitable, but it is possible to find other methods!