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4 Essential Tools for Improving Product Quality in a Factory

August 20, 2020

 by Renaud Anjoran

4 Essential Tools for Improving Product Quality in a Factory

Product quality is essential in manufacturing. 

Not only will a high-quality product appease the customers and allow higher customer satisfaction, but quality improvements can cut costs to make manufacturing more profitable and productive. Find out why and how your manufacturing can improve quality.

The Benefits of Investing in Quality Improvements

Cutting Costs

When an error in manufacturing occurs, it is more often than not caught by quality control staff hours after the error appears in production. By the time the problem is detected, a lot of the damage would have already been done and materials have to be scrapped. This can amount to upwards of tens of thousands of dollars in material cost and further measures must be made to replace the material in the rush.

By simply increasing the quality, a lot of the unnecessary costs of the error would be cut to a minimum and could help save your company a lot of money.

Increased Productivity

Higher quality translates to increased productivity. When errors in manufacturing occurs, the process of tracing the error hinder the momentum of your production line. By focusing on improving quality, you create a lower margin of error, making it less likely that your staff need to halt or slow down production to fix issues.

4 Tools that Assist in Quality Control (QC) and Quality Assurance (QA)

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) as soon as possible. Here are 4 tools our consultants use to achieve this.

1. A Good Old Whiteboard

engineers discussing in front of whiteboard

It sounds too easy, but sometimes simplicity is key in streamlining the defect identification process and encouraging workers to actively take part in it.

When a defect appears, workers can write its name down on a whiteboard close to their station and start counting the number of times it appears on the line. Once the number hits a certain limit within a batch (for example, 5), you can make it necessary for a production technician and a quality engineer to take a look at the production line and investigate what is causing the issue.

2. Traceability

factory worker scanning barcode on box using electronic device

Traceability is the ability of a manufacturer to track every part of the process in making a product—from the moment it comes in as raw material to the moment it is shipped out.

If the product is big enough, operators should 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, analyze it, and take corrective actions. Traceability can keep productivity high when a slow-down occurs as it simplifies the act of pin-pointing the problem which causes a drop in morale and momentum as tracing back production is tedious. 

Look at ISO 9000 or 9001 for the gold standard of management. This standard can be implemented for all companies and provides quality is guaranteed with implementation of the standard.

3. Small Red Boxes

red plastic box storage for defective products

Having a designated place to store defective products helps keep production tidy. Implementing a red box to keep all defective products can help be a visual signal for supervisors to check the box constantly to find the problem behind the defective products. The red boxes should be sized accordingly (around 5 pieces) to keep supervisors accountable and to ensure that defective products don't start stacking up. 

4. Go/No-go Jigs

go no-go plug gauge

An even more radical way of making defects obvious is to place go/no-go jigs on the production line, when the type of product permits this. A go/no-go jig (also known as no-go gauge) is an inspection tool to keep products from deviating from its tolerances.

This works by having a gauge-like tool inserted on the product, keeping the products in check as errors will only be permitted to a specific tolerance. This is only applicable for some manufacturers, however, because the go/no-go jig is highly specific tool.

Final Words

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!

22 Signs Of Good Factory Management in China eBook

Topics: Quality, Process Improvement

Renaud Anjoran

Renaud Anjoran

15 years experience in China.
Partner, China Manufacturing Consultants.
Worked with hundreds of factories in China.
Certifications: ASQ CQE & CRE; ISO 9001 & 14001 lead auditor.
Author of well-read blog, Quality Inspection Tips.

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