Whatever your industry and your price positioning, quality matters. Even if you collect, sort, and sell scrap metal by the ton, your customers won’t be happy if you send them the wrong grade or the wrong type of metal.
Unfortunately, China manufacturing quality control often leaves a lot to be desired. Chinese factories seldom give enough importance to quality. Here is what often happens:
- The factory owner knows he needs to meet his customers’ standards in order to stay in business in the long run, but his employees don’t know this.
- Throughout the factory, quality is seen as “a check at the end of the line to ensure we don’t ship anything really bad”. It is purely about compliance. How to catch issues… and how to avoid getting caught!
How should you avoid these issues?
Quality Performance Indicators
Displaying quality performance indicators
First, people need to know whether they are doing good or not. Here are a few examples:
- At the team level, they need to know their first-pass yield – for example the target for an assembly line could be 98% “good the first time”.
- At the process level, the few (or the one) key variable(s) can be subjected to statistical process control – for example the target Cpk of the heat measurement inside a press could be 1.0.
- At the workshop level, the supervisor should know how many hours of rework and how much scrapped material were generated by quality issues.
- The quality manager should know the rolling throughput capability of each sequence of processes – that’s a great way of deciding where the next priorities for improvement lie.
Don’t hide those numbers. Show them in full view of all employees and, above all, keep them simple. Here is an example that is probably over-complicated and intimidating.
Image source: Orgatex.com
Four important notes:
- The workers need to understand the numbers. It means the board needs to be designed with the workers in mind. Don’t put information on your walls for the auditors, the customers, or upper management. It is not interior decoration!
- The production department should collect the numbers and post them regularly. The quality department can help them set the system up, and can help troubleshoot issues… but your factory will fall in the “quality is purely for the sake of compliance” attitude if data are not ‘owned’ by the production staff.
- As much as is practical, display leading indicators (e.g. last hour’s proportion of errors in a certain process step) rather than lagging indicators (e.g. last month’s customer complaints). This way, there is still time to do something to move the numbers in the right direction at the time they are posted.
- In a given workshop, it is often good to show quality issues found by downstream processes. Make sure there is a good feedback loop!
Managing quality performance indicators
Let’s say you have done a good job collecting and displaying the right type of information. What next?
You need to provide the right type of training to your line/group leaders, your workshop supervisors, and your production manager. They should be able to understand the data, and to act based on those data at the right moment.
Without that, you are only displaying data. Management is a skill. If your managers are not picking up on this, consider giving them training.
What about you? What do you see in factories you visit? Can you see their quality performance? Is it collected with the aim of giving the right information to the right people for problem resolution, or to please some upper managers?