Key components of quality control in manufacturing

Reid reduced the KPI scorecard at Michelin Dundee from 50 to just three: safety, production and quality.
A Michelin plant in the UK reduced the KPI scorecard from 50 to just three: safety, production and quality.

All too often, manufacturers inspect for defects at the end of a production cycle and when problems are spotted, corrections are made after the fact.

This causes a huge amount of waste on the part of the manufacturer, bringing all associated costs up significantly with the end result being passed on to the end consumer, business or private. Rather than wait until an entire batch is produced with flaws, today’s manufacturer should take advantage of the technology that enables them to test each step along the way.

Not only will this result in a much higher profit margin but it will also keep costs low for the consumer, which encourages repeat business. Quality does sell! So then, what are the key components to quality control in manufacturing to ensure consistency in processes? It is first necessary to standardize your test and measurement procedures and secondly it is vital to standardize responses, either in the presence or absence of issues.

Quality must Be standardized for each product

Before you can even think about defining a QC (quality control) process, you first need to detail the exact specifications to be standardized. For example, in the manufacturing of fabric for bed linens the quality of the fabric is generally defined by the type of fiber being used and the thread count. If a low end sheet is manufactured with a thread count of 200 and made from 100% cotton/poly blend, this is the standard you will be inspecting along the way. You can’t have some sheets with a thread count of 250 and others at 190, and others yet at 300.

The thread count is either 200 or it’s not. The weave is vital in this product and so a system of inspecting periodically throughout the weave is vital. Here, you will be looking at the type of fiber and the thread count in the weave. Of course, this is oversimplified because you will also be looking at dye integrity and other variables, but the point is, you can’t run an entire batch of 200 count cotton/poly blend fabric for bed linens if it isn’t precise in the parameters set out for the quality of linens being woven.

Carefully choose a method of measuring quality control

In another example, you could look at how the oil exploration industry works. There was a time when rigs drilled for crude, brought samples up and then began digging based on that sample. This is a primitive way of testing oil, and is as time consuming as it is ineffective.

Today’s technology makes it possible to send extremely precise Raman sensor probes down during the exploration which will not only tell you the type and quality of crude you are looking at but can also measure other variables which may make digging unfeasible at that location. Each probe can be designed and developed to identify and measure variables necessary to justify digging at that location.

Standardizing the QC process

Next on the list is the standardization of QC processes. This entails defining who is going to be inspecting and at which points in the production, the inspections will be carried out. Sometimes it is a machine’s operator who will be periodically checking for standardized quality as defined in the beginning and other times it will be a line foreman or an inspector from the QC department. Each person in the ‘chain’ should be well trained to identify potential issues and a system for reporting those problems should be in place. This is a vital step in quality control.

Defining and standardizing responses when issues arise

This can be one of the most difficult areas to establish. First, it needs to be clearly defined when and how batches will be declared defective. How far from your standards is a pass? Will you need to put QC on further testing or can a lineman or foreman reject the entire lot? If major issues are found, you will need to determine if the entire batch should be scrapped, starting over at square one, or if you can make alterations in the process and continue on from there. Again, it is vital to define who makes this call.

There is so much more to quality control than many factories are willing to invest in, but those that do are the ones that withstand the test of time. In order to ensure continued sales by developing a brand with consistently high quality products, it is vital to enumerate key components of quality control within your industry. Once these are established, and guidelines for acceptable responses are put in place, you will find that your profits increase proportionately.

Quality Assurance of vital importance to today’s consumer and is one of the main reasons why that “Made in America” stamp on products manufactured here at home is so important. With the QC technology we have available to us, there is no reason why any manufacturer in the United States should settle for anything less than perfection.