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How To Ensure Quality In Chinese Factories By Writing Work Instructions

    Issues with China Manufacturing Quality

    If you have visited Chinese factories, you have probably seen A4 or A3 sheets of paper above each workstation. But have you seen them being changed when a new product gets on the lines? That is very unlikely.

    There are several issues with this type of work instructions:

    • They are often way above the head of the operator, who would have a hard time referring to them if needed.
    • Work instructions are prepared for ISO 9001 auditors and for customers, with the assumption that they don’t look carefully into the effectiveness of those instructions.
    • There are often no image/photo. With text only, it takes more work to check and ensure that they correspond to the product being made. As a result, instructions are not engaging and operators don’t read them.
    • The group leaders and supervisors know the instructions are meaningless, so they don’t use them as a standard. Ideally they would look periodically to see if an operator respects the applicable standard.
    • Important quality considerations are not followed – for example checking 1 in 10 pieces for dimensional conformity.
    • Important safety considerations are not followed – for example putting one’s hands in certain places to ensure they are never caught in a stamping machine.
    • Important maintenance considerations are not followed – for example opening a compartment and cleaning the equipment.

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    How to Improve China Manufacturing Quality?

    In these conditions, how to ensure quality in Chinese factories? That’s obviously an issue.

    Here are a few tips for writing work instructions that fulfil their role:

    • Engage the workers when designing the work instructions. Get their input, make sure it corresponds to the way they do it, and put it on paper.
    • Include critical tips related to quality, safety, and maintenance, as appropriate.
    • Take photos and print them in color. It helps a lot.
    • Better yet, take videos and show them on small screens. As part of a good manufacturing execution system (MES), the right instructions can be displayed on the screen, depending on the product to be made.
    • Coupled with a properly-configured artificial vision system, operators (and their leaders) can be alerted when they do something incorrectly.

    And you? Have you noticed that the instructions for work are really not prepared for the production operators? Or have you worked with factories that have prepared good instructions?

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