Author: Paul Van Metre
Nearly every CNC machine shop I’ve talked with or visited always has a bottleneck in their QA room or inspection department. It just seems like it takes anywhere from several hours, to a few days for jobs to move through the QA room before they can move to the next process, whether that’s internal, or leaving the company to an outside process or to the customer. It’s just a fact of life that most shops deal with, and it’s costing them a lot more money than they realize. See if you recognize some of these points in your shop.
A bottleneck on a resource happens where the capacity for throughput is lower than other resources in the value stream that feed it. Because the QA room is processing jobs coming from many manufacturing resources, such as CNC machines, assembly, deburr, it’s easy for the department to get overwhelmed and backlogged with incoming work orders, causing a bottleneck. Bottlenecks happen for a number of reasons in the QA room.
1. First part buy-offs or FAI is being performed in the QA room, which can result in a high number of complex inspection processes being performed.
2. In-Process inspection is being performed in the QA room, so parts are being delivered frequently, resulting in a lot of transactional cost/time.
3. Final inspection is often performed here. Doing a comprehensive inspection when it’s too late to affect change in the parts. (note: this is sometimes mandated and unavoidable).
4. The QA room is where FAIR (First Article Inspection Reports), like AS9102, are generated. Since these are often very time-intensive, they can cause significant delays and contribute to bottlenecks.
When bottlenecks in the QA room happen, a number of unfortunate outcomes are typically a result. These are all very expensive to the business and cause reductions in productivity.
All of these outcomes are expensive, and often all of them need to be employed for a single job, dramatically reducing the chance to make a profit on the job, and very likely ensuring that the job will lose money instead of being profitable.
1. Develop a system to do as many FAI’s on the shop floor as possible. In many shops, the setup machinist does the first buy-off, and then submits the part to QA for a second check. Have another machinist or a shop floor inspector do the 2nd check. There is almost always someone who has a bit of extra time while they are running a machine, or can come give a second check without affecting their other job’s throughput much. It’s important to ensure that this person is qualified and trained to be an inspector. Not just anyone should be able to give a second QA check on a part to ensure that the inspection is done properly. It’s important to provide the necessary equipment on the shop floor, including even the use of shop floor CMMs where warranted. Whatever inspection is done, it must be recorded appropriately, and ideally in a digital format and not on paper.
2. Do your In-Process-Inspection on the shop floor, at the machine. These inspections should be designed into the workflow of the machine operator, with very clear and easy-to-understand visual work instructions. The appropriate inspection equipment should be provided, and consider the use of go/no-go gages to increase speed and accuracy when appropriate. And again, record the results digitally!
3. Record the inspection results in a way that flows seamlessly into the final inspection. This means don’t use paper, and if spreadsheets are used, ensure that they are connected or shared in a way that can be utilized later in the process. Ideally, your ERP system should collect this data in a seamless way to allow the next step of the process to happen.
4. Automate the preparation of FAI reports at final inspection. By collecting the right kind of inspection data earlier in the process, and in a way that can be leveraged for the creation of client-facing inspection reports, a significant amount of time can be saved. Preparation of inspection reports is really a formality and isn’t the actual time that the quality of the parts is being verified. As discussed in points 1 and 2, the validation and verification of quality should be done at the same time the parts are made. A final inspection is a time to do a few spot checks, review the job for completeness, and prepare inspection reports from previously collected data. When done correctly, forms even as complicated as the AS9102 can be completed in seconds using the data collected earlier in the process. This can be a game-changer for throughput and reducing bottlenecks, when reports that used to take hours, can be completed in seconds.
When these strategies are utilized, not only are bottlenecks in the QA room eliminated, but the jobs themselves flow more efficiently, scrap is reduced, and spindle uptime is increased and throughput is dramatically improved. Creative energy must be used to mitigate risks, but it’s always possible and the upsides such as these are too large to ignore.
1. Expedite fees for outside processes can be drastically reduced when parts don’t sit in QA and are shipped immediately to your vendors for processing. That gives you more room to maintain the margins on your jobs and keep the money in your pocket.
2. Spindles run far more often when parts aren’t sitting in a queue in QA waiting for a buy-off. This translates to higher throughput which means more dollars being generated off your equipment.
3. Better on-time delivery performance to your customers. Every company wants this! By speeding up the flow of product through the QA department and the facility in general, you will be able to improve your lead times and be on-time more often for clients.
4. When you are on-time, or ahead of schedule, you don’t need to scramble at the last minute to ship overnight or drive your parts to the customer. You can ship using less expensive methods, like UPS ground, spending less money on shipping, or paying your employees to drive parts around. They have far better things to do.
5. When all of those benefits are counted up, the net result will be considerably higher margins on your jobs. Multiplied by many jobs over the year means more profit for the company to reinvest in growth or increasing shareholder value.
Let’s run a quick simulation of how these ideas can dramatically improve margins at your company. Let’s take a sample job worth $2000. If everything goes smoothly and no excess waiting, or expediting was necessary, you perhaps have $1600 in cost and make $400 in profit - a 20% margin. If you need to expedite finishing for $150, pay $100 in overtime costs and also need to use UPS red shipping to send it to the vendor, and to your customer, with a $50 charge each time, that totals up to $350 of unnecessary costs; reducing your margin to $50 or barely breaking even, rather than making 20% profit - a significant reduction. By eliminating those extra costs, multiplied by dozens or hundreds of jobs per year, a shop can add many thousands of dollars of profit to the bottom line. The ROI of reducing the bottleneck in QA is significant! Some of these changes can be helped by the ERP/QMS system, but many of them are simply changes in process that can be made by any company after careful consideration and planning to mitigate the risks.
Besides the ability to print a router with the QA room listed as a process, there is little a traditional ERP system can do to help with this process. All inspection processes are managed offline with paper, spreadsheets, or other 3rd party software. ProShop has a complete paperless QMS system integrated into the ERP and can completely manage all inspection processes for first part buy-off, in-process inspections, final inspection, and more. It can automatically prepare final inspection paperwork such as AS9102 forms, auto-filling the fields from many other places within the ERP, leveraging data that is collected earlier in the value stream. Our training module and company positions module can help track the training proficiency of your inspectors and machinists so it’s clear who is qualified to perform inspections. Our inspection dashboard will show you what priorities and shipping date targets are for the jobs that do need to flow through the QA department The right work is done in the right order, and it’s as quick and efficient as possible, reducing time through inspection, helping your company get the product to your customers on-time at the highest quality and margins possible.
Author: Paul Van Metre
Running a business in 2017 is all about exceeding your customer’s expectations, developing deep relationships built on trust and continuously improving your company to add more value to clients. If you aren't doing this, you're going backwards!
Continuous improvement is what the latest ISO-9001 (and AS9100) standard is all about. The developers of the standard recognize that companies who focus on constantly evolving will have higher quality and better customer satisfaction. It’s proven that companies who are certified are also more profitable. When you fix problems that improve customer service, you also fix problems that cost you money. Unfortunately, some companies only see the certification as a costly requirement pushed on them by customers, or a necessary evil to get a foot in the door at a new customer. They do the bare minimum to get certified and then go back to business as usual until they need to scramble to pass their next audit. You can see it in their QMS. The manual, documents and procedures are all at rev A and haven’t been touched since their last audit. I hate to break it to you, but there is nothing continuous about rev A. Continuous means you’re constantly thinking about and implementing new ways to run your business that increase your value and make you better. This isn’t just about Quality Management, it’s Business Management because it needs to encompass all aspects of your business.
I’m going to throw out a challenge. I’d suggest that every high-level procedure should change revs at least once per year, and more detailed level tasks for daily work should change at least 2-3 times per year. If you consistently make improvements to your business on that type of schedule, you’re going to be a leader in your industry and be unstoppable. The key is to do the work. But where does the time come from?
Just keeping up with working IN your business is more than a full-time job and managing a QMS is a tedious nightmare of paperwork, forms and filing cabinets full of documents, right? How can you find time to work ON your business which is so critical? I’d suggest you must lean out the process of managing your QMS. So it isn't a tedious nightmare of paperwork and filing cabinets. The first step is getting rid of the paper. It’s gotta go!
When you eliminate paper and go all digital, you’ve made the first leap forward in the struggle with rev control and making your QMS much less expensive to manage. You can make sure that people are only finding the latest revision of a document when they go looking. There is only one place to update it when the time comes to make that improvement in your process. The easier it is, the more likely it is that you’ll do it. When you make those improvements, you’ll save time which enables you more free time to make other improvements. It’s an upwards spiral. Auditors will also be impressed - as will customers!
With our customers, we often see high level procedures at rev E or even G! After just a few years. They live the reality that improving business frees up their time to work on their businesses. Through their use of ProShop's QMS software modules they have all the data they need to make the right decisions. Data that is being fed from the ERP and MES modules directly into the QMS systems. They make huge leaps in business improvements and ride that upward spiral to be leaders in their market. So, is 2017 the year that you’ll abandon paper in your shop and focus on accelerating the improvement of your business?
Author: Paul Van Metre
Running a regulated manufacturing company is difficult. Aside from the normal daily challenges of getting product out the door, managing employees, keeping quality high, you have the added burden of keeping perfect records of everything you do, doing it exactly as you say you do, keeping up with training employees in the never-ending changes of process, regulations and more. It adds to what was already one of the more difficult jobs on the planet and makes it that much more impossible.
But what if it wasn’t a burden? What if having a certified QMS was actually the least cost and lowest burden way to run a thriving manufacturing company? You’d be hard pressed to find many people who would agree that at the end of the day, being ISO 9000 or AS9100 certified was actually the lowest cost way to do business. But it really is. We are some of those rare people who believe that because we’ve experienced it first-hand.
Most QMS systems are either paper-based (which I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy), or they are a little more advanced and use a combination of Word, Excel and other Microsoft “Office” files to keep records of everything. In a paper-based system, companies are constantly battling over keeping track of the latest copies of records, procedures and more. The cost of maintaining such a system is incredibly high and it is likely so difficult that it is completely neglected and won’t reap the benefits of having the certification. Research from Dassault Systems found that more than 70% of today’s businesses would fail within three weeks if they lose paper-based records, due to unforeseen events such as flood or fire and almost 15% of an organization’s revenue is spent creating, managing and distributing paper documents. Those are crazy statistics! In an “Office” based system, there is likely a lot less paper, but the complexity of file revisions, checkouts, permissions, software management and more may be even more difficult.
The solution to both problems is a 100% paperless, web-based QMS system. One that looks like this:
1. ALL employees have unique user IDs in the system.
2. All documents are digital and web-based. Managers have total control over read and edit access of all users.
3. Only the latest revision of any document is available to the staff.
4. When new revisions are created, managers are alerted for approval and signoff.
5. Once approved, the new document becomes the latest revisions, all relevant users in the company are alerted that new revisions must be reviewed. The now old revision document is automatically archived and unavailable for most users.
6. All documents have a list of trained users with integrated training records and proficiency levels that are tied to training documents and processes.
7. All employees can see exactly what training they need to reach that next job promotion or company position.
When all these elements are in place, the QMS becomes a central tool for everyday activities. Employees become inspired to make positive changes. New revisions of documents are made daily as employees improve and refine how shop activities are performed. As these processes improve, company performance improves, improving quality, lead times and customer satisfaction. Profits increase as work is flowing more efficiently through the shop. Work becomes less frantic and there is time to make even more company improvements in a positive upward cycle. Before you realize it, the company has taken what used to be a profit-sucking and tedious task and morphed it into an engine of efficiency and profitability. Long gone are the days of scrambling to prepare for your next external audit and then abandoning all QMS work the day the auditor leaves, in a vicious cycle. You are ready every…single…day because to be ready for the auditor means you are ready for that new big customer. Ready to say yes to a huge new project that will catapult your company to the next level.
All this is possible and is playing out with customers of ours. If you’d like to see first-hand how this works, please contact us. We’d love to help your company realize these kinds of improvements.