5 Proven Steps to Improve Manufacturing Quality in Your Plant

Manufacturing quality matters more than ever, and not simply because it keeps customers happy. In fact, manufacturing leaders have found that quality pays for itself — and then some.

Why? Because implementing processes that generate high-quality products avoids both obvious and hidden costs of defects:

  • Rework and scrap costs
  • Warranty and repair costs
  • Discounts to retain upset customers
  • Legal costs and penalties due to product harm

Executives who understand manufacturing quality’s financial and human impact invest in it — building a foundation that allows employees to execute for quality. Few companies have done that as well as Milliken & Company, which has received the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, European Quality Award, British Quality Award, and Canadian Quality Award. Milliken & Company embedded systems, tools, and a culture within its operations to prevent quality problems from occurring, and, if defects do occur, the means to rapidly identify and resolve them, including:

Standardized work

Establishing standardized processes and work procedures can prevent variations that result in manufacturing quality issues. With tools such as 5S shadow boards and job instruction sheets, frontline associates know precisely what to do and how to do it, freeing them to think about how to improve what they do. Improvements in a model area within a facility create a proving ground for standardized processes. Once target results are achieved in the model area, all standards and practices are replicated in other areas of the facility. Overtime, all processes are standardized.

Visual management and communication

No matter how good your preventive processes, quality issues can still occur. The key is to spotlight defects, rather than simply fixing and forgetting them (at least until the same defect recurs). Visual management boards and daily huddles on the production floor keep problems transparent, enabling frontline teams to identify problems as they occur, find root causes, and implement solutions that prevent recurrence.

Associate development

Continuous skills development (CSD) is a pillar of the Milliken Performance System (MPS) that helps leaders identify gaps in employee knowledge and competencies, and then bridge them with education, training, and support materials. The CSD process documents the knowledge required for each position, establishes standard work procedures, and informs work audits, which contribute to lower process variation by ensuring standardization.

Zero loss thinking

Instead of assuming that problems will inevitably occur, zero loss thinking sets perfection as the goal — i.e., perfect quality. Zero loss is difficult (if not impossible) to achieve for many production measures, but using it as a goal keeps employees striving for perfection. Over time as they incrementally reduce the number of quality problems, the gap between the current condition and perfection becomes exceptionally narrow.

Quality management

Adoption of a systematic approach to manufacturing quality (e.g., ISO 9001) establishes standardized tracking and documentation of quality measures and methods. Even more important, though, is how a quality management system can reinforce an organization’s embrace of quality — and communicate that commitment to employees, customers, and regulatory authorities.

Performance Solutions by Milliken, the consulting division of Milliken & Company, has helped more than 400 operations in a variety of industries and in over 25 countries adopt these same quality systems and practices, developing processes that ensure high quality. If a quality foundation is missing in your plant, sign up here to receive more news and analysis, and to learn more about how Performance Solutions by Milliken can help.



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