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5 Steps for Sustainable Quality in the Manufacturing Process


We know this: Great managers and organizations seek to contain costs in the manufacturing environment at all times. And there is no better cost to eliminate than the cost of poor quality. As each of our production processes remind us, scrap materials and lost labor hours certainly add no value to the operation, they are its greatest detriment in many ways.

A strategic approach to quality improvement to eliminate these wastes is essential. Here are 5 steps that can ensure quality is improved in a meaningful, long-term way.

Create a Team Mindset

Quality cannot be sustainably improved in manufacturing by individuals alone. A key phrase used in the 5 Why exercise below is that “people do not fail, processes do”. This is why lasting and meaningful change requires a team-based approach. By involving multiple disciplines in the search for improved quality, a variety of perspectives is obtained.

There is great value in knowledge of the process history as well. What steps have occurred in the past that resulted in how things are done today? What explains the process the way it is done now?

There must be a cause, and this reason should be reviewed so as to repeat a problem that existed in times gone by. You may find that current processes actually take certain elements of production back to the same state (or to the same set of results) as days gone by.

What Does Quality Mean to the Customer?

Management and staff often would like to improve upon a product or its manufacture, but they don’t always know what that means. What the manufacturer thinks is important takes a backseat to the customer’s perspective; what does a “better” product mean to them?

Spending additional resources can make a product superior in almost any case. But is additional cost desirable by the customer even if it means better product life? Someone in the organization should serve as the customer advocate. Typically, this voice can come from the sales or marketing departments. Use the customers’ perspective to define what the best-in-class product would be and meet those requirements while minimizing cost.

Understanding the Cost of Quality in the Organization

The cost to fix a defect in the field once it reaches a customer is dramatically higher than the cost to fix the source of the problem before it is created.

It is essential that the manufacturing staff be trained to understand the cost multipliers involved with warranty repair or replacement and cost of damaged reputation. Once the staff assume this point of view, a desire to find root cause for problem solving is inherently developed.

Completely Solve Problems

Often times a manufacturer will add quality inspection steps or rework stations to more efficiently fix defects in production. True, at some level this does have a limiting effect on cost. But it is far more effective to get to the root of the problem and address this, as opposed to creating systems that merely fix the symptoms.

This is related to the Ishikawa process, which is the “5 Whys” technique, to determine fault:

The Vehicle Will Not Start. (the problem)

Why? - The battery is dead. (first why)

Why? - The alternator is not working. (second why)

Why? - The alternator belt has broken. (third why)

Why? - The alternator belt was well beyond its useful service life and not replaced. (fourth why)

Why? - The vehicle was not maintained according to the recommended service schedule. (fifth why, a root cause)

The technique is not limited to five steps; the answer may take 6, 7 or 8…but 5 is typically the number needed to ascertain why a process failed.

Fixing the root of the problem(s) means the symptoms currently being addressed should not exist in the first place.

Create Strong Process Discipline

It’s vital that a structure has been established that guarantees consistency and an understanding of the way the product is produced, so that these root causes can also be identified if new problems come up in response to this and any future changes. This process needs to be wary of a stifling bureaucracy that limits innovation. However, the quality improvement process also needs an unwavering discipline to see that it’s employed too, and this does require adherence to an overall plan. So it’s a balance.

The mission of ShopFlow Solutions is to provide the products and supporting materials and tools that a modern manufacturer needs to address each of these vital topics. A great example in this case are 5S storage cabinets. Create a visual workspace and quickly access frequently used parts with the right storage option.

Shopflow Solutions is a leading provider of products which make your facility run using the LEAN philosophy and building the overall quality of your manufacturing or warehousing facility. We help you get organized and empower your employees to reach their full potential, and the overall success of your plant or shop in the process. We are your total solution for industrial storage, material handling, workspace equipment, parts organization and CNC tool protection.

Contact ustoday to see how we can provide you with the solutions you need for the most profitable and productive workplace possible. I’d love the opportunity to help guide you to the path of greater efficiency and effectiveness.

  • orgainization
  • quality
  • tool storage
  • cnc storage
  • 5s storage
  • drawer cabinets


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