Manufacturing, in many respects, is not all that much different than an athletic team. It requires the coordination of many different elements to keep it running correctly and to keep it winning.
For manufacturing, it is the coordination of suppliers, engineering, maintenance, production labor, documentation, quality systems, and the list goes on. Any breakdown in any of this can, and most likely will, disrupt manufacturing.
So, what do we mean by “basics.” This is the act of maintaining fundamental operational disciplines. This can be as simple as data based decision making, strict adherence to specifications, to organizational design. The problem comes in when the organization becomes complacent in enforcing these disciplines. It often starts with a very subtle breakdown in discipline, such as overriding pass / fail criteria, by relaxing specifications or by relaxing accountability. This can, and often does, have unintended consequences such as reliability and yield issues. Also think about what messages you might be sending to the organization? Do specifications really matter?
Consider this; manufacturing moves product through a series of processes to create a final product. Every morning when process engineering comes to work, one of the first things they might do is check on the production activity from the previous 24 hour period. They find out of specification material left from the night before. The engineer then starts to disposition the material to decide what must be done with it. Since both production and engineering want to keep their yields as high as possible the engineer will most likely make every attempt to rework the product so that it meets specification. This sets in motion a whole series of activities.
Let’s look at what happens:
So, you must ask yourself, is it worth it, and is it the right thing to be doing?
Now Consider this:
The engineer is allowed to focus on correcting the root cause of the problem.
This all sounds good, but…
The problem comes in when it involves a lot of material, valued perhaps at thousands of dollars. The pressure from management to “fix” the material is often greater as the value increases. This is a very slippery slope and usually gets out of control very quickly. Violating basic quality disciplines will, more often than not, create more problems, not to mention reliability issues.
The longer and more complex the manufacturing process, the more risk you run to allowing creative reworking into your processes. Although some “standard” reworking might be allowed, this is very dangerous and very difficult to control. There should be very good documentation for this.
So, when we talk about “basics” what we are really talking about is fundamental disciplines and decision making. This should all be focused on limiting risk in the manufacturing operations.
So, like a football team, you have to pay attention to detail, set realistic expectations, and always be thinking about the decisions you make and the unintended consequences that can result. You must set strong guidelines for…
It’s important to remember that “you get what you measure,” so if you measure the right things, you get the right data, and you then can make data based decisions.
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