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Manufacturing your best friend or your worst enemy?

Many companies struggle with decisions to “make or buy” their products. Whatever their decision, the fact is there are liabilities either way. The real question is how to minimize these liabilities?

For so many companies it sounds simple to just make their products or if they have capital constraints to just sub-contract their manufacturing. There is a lot that must go into this type of decision. Out of all the activities companies deal with, manufacturing is probably the most underestimated activity. Whichever decision is made, most companies underestimate the overhead support necessary to keep control of their product quality and reliability.

How many times have you heard about product recalls from reputable companies that you would never expect to have problems with quality? Companies simply cannot become complacent with their manufacturing activities.  So, what goes wrong? How do you limit your exposure to manufacturing issues?

There are three key important elements to controlling your manufacturing:

  1. Quality systems:
    1. Documentation.
    2. Data collection.
    3. Audits, both internal and external suppliers.
  2. Process control systems, and…
  3. Clear organization responsibilities.

These activities MUST be designed to maximize accountability. Key elements of the organization and specific individuals must be held accountable for each of the activities above.


It may sound like “paranoia” but never underestimate a supplier shipping materials to you that are out of specification, engineering losing control of a process, contamination finding its way into your product, or a manufacturing manager cutting corners to make the numbers. Control systems MUST be designed to insure these types of things do not happen.

Whether you make or buy your end products, it’s important to collect relevant data from your manufacturing processes, have clear pass / fail criteria, and equally important, the organization must have clear roles and responsibilities defined. As an example; you could argue that everyone should be responsible for product yields, but the fact is, everyone cannot be held responsible for product yields. In most organizations, engineering has the overall responsibility to continuously improve and maintain yields. This in not to say everyone in the manufacturing organization does not have a responsibility to maintain yields, but they do so by following specific directions set forth by engineering.   So, as the manufacturing organization is held accountable for productivity, the engineering organization is held accountable for yields. These sounds easy, but believe me, it’s not.

So, how do you make manufacturing your “best friend”? Attention to detail is extremely important, plus a good understanding of overall organizational requirements. Do things right and do the right things, look at the data. Seek help from someone who has extensive experience with complex technical manufacturing processes.

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