Manufacturing Challenges Blog Series: Defects and Recalls

Steve Wise
By Steve Wise | March 11, 2019
Vice President of Statistical Methods
Welcome to the third installment of our Manufacturing Challenges blog series: “Defects & Recalls.” Part one, “Audits,” from Doug Fair, InfinityQS COO, and part two, “Reporting,” from yours truly, were fine starts to this topic of manufacturing challenges. But there’s so much more…
We know there are challenges; but there is nothing that we can’t overcome. I don’t mean to sound overly gung-ho, but I’ve seen our Quality Intelligence solutions in action, and I know this to be true. So, let’s talk about defects and recalls. Both very dirty words in the manufacturing industry.
Manufacturing with Quality Intelligence

No Dirty Laundry

First and foremost, I think it’s a general truth that no business wants their dirty laundry aired. We don’t want any defects or recalls. Period. If we have defects, we’re fighting problems within our walls, and we don’t want those escaping—at all costs.
Manufacturing rule of thumb: As painful as it might be to deal with the costs associated with the waste and defects we find, and all the problems and delays that those things cause, as long as there's enough profit in what we find “good enough to ship out,” the doors can stay open. And that’s the bottom line. Keep the doors open. And the best way to keep the doors open is to never air that dirty laundry.

No Escapes

Thwart EscapesAs my colleague alludes to in his “escape” blog (alluded to above), the goal is no escapes, no escapes, no escapes. Did I mention no escapes?
That’s what traditional quality control systems have been. The main goal for inspections and samples, or inspection plans based on samples, is capturing defects before they get out the door. Adding bars to the huge iron doors that keep such things locked away.
So, where InfinityQS (and our Quality Intelligence solutions) comes into play in all this is enabling manufacturers to look “upstream” for the root causes of these problems and catching (and getting rid of) them before they rear their ugly heads. We are the Van Helsings of manufacturing. No vampires here!

Working Upstream

If you can’t look upstream and figure out where things are going wrong, chances are you end up waiting until even more “value-add” is put into the product. And then, only at the last minute before you ship it out to the customer, do you throw it away or pull it from your stock. That is expensive, to say the least.
On the other hand, when you do manage to catch something upstream, it’s just one component you have to throw away—rather than the whole unit. But you need to know what to do when you find that defective component upstream.
Manufacturing with Quality Intelligence

For a Purpose

That’s when the questions start. Is this coming from a supplier? Is it a particular setting on the machine? Are we running the oven too hot? Not hot enough? Using statistical methods will help you point to where the problem is (the root cause) and help you determine what you can do about it. This is the strength of statistical process control (SPC).

Total Recall

Although defects are not all small (in fact, sometimes they turn out to be huge), a defect—in general—is a small escape…when compared to a recall. A recall is the Godzilla of escapes, leaving a wake of destruction in its path. And they happen all the time. Like this one, or these. I could go on, but you get the point.
The fear of being exposed to the market and losing market share (and goodwill, and money) is huge. Finding the root cause of a problem then becomes a very important undertaking, indeed. Organizations who fear recalls live in a constant state of balancing between the risk of a recall and the cost of fixing the inherent problem(s).
It’s precarious. At some juncture, there is a tipping point. There has to be. Chances are that a smaller company can’t endure a big recall; it will force them to close their doors. Generally speaking, larger companies have deeper pockets with which to deal with such calamities. They may lose the aforementioned goodwill, or some market share, or their stock price falls. But they’ll probably keep going…
Quality Intelligence Eliminates Defects and Recalls

Nowadays the Yelling is So Much Louder

Add to all that the unsettling fact that—in today’s consumer environment—if something does go wrong, chances are the customer will jump on Yelp or Google Reviews and immediately spread the word. If you have an escape in today’s world, you have about a zero chance of keeping it a secret. That’s just the way it is. That can be good for we consumers, don’t get me wrong. But it’s a nightmare for manufacturers (or restaurants, or nail salons…).
It seems blatantly obvious why many companies make an earnest effort to avoid escapes of any kind. So, let’s turn the page and talk about the remedies, about finding the root cause before an escape happens—about avoiding a recall altogether.

Something Positive!

Before I break out my guitar and we go into full “Kumbaya” mode, let me just say that sometimes stuff happens. There are going to be problems. People are going to complain. There will always be things that cannot be prevented.
Shop Floor Quality IntelligenceThat being said, we still need to put prevention systems in place. We still need to look closely at the critical areas of our manufacturing processes. We must make SPC a working part of our everyday manufacturing lives.

Sort of Positive

There are problems due to natural variation. It’s a fact. We just have to deal with it. If the specs of a finished product are tighter than what the natural variation of the inputs are providing the system, then we’re going to have to take steps to correct things…we’re going to have to sort.
We need to do things to eliminate the tails of the bell curve, especially when we're dealing with natural products—like chicken, or crops. There's just enough variation in there that sometimes only a small percentage of the products we're trying to produce will be “good enough.” And so, depending on what we're making, sorting is just the way we do business. We need to work around (or work) with the natural variations.
Quality Intelligence in Action

Open the Toolbox

If there are other sources of variation (which happen to be in our control), then the tools that InfinityQS provides can help to mitigate those, or show where the thresholds (i.e., spec limits) have been reached—anything beyond those extreme points can't be endured. It's great when we can know where those “goalposts” are.
So, these are all decisions that can be made to help the bottom line. We need to know and understand what the statistical nature of these inputs is. In other words, on average, how much variation do I expect from the test characteristics that I'm interested in? And what can I do with this information? And if there’s too much variation, what’s causing it?
Maybe some of the product meets the standards, but some of it doesn't. How can we reduce that variation? And our tools—our Quality Intelligence tools here at InfinityQS—will help you figure out where the variation sources are that are causing the biggest grief and, potentially, what are the things you can do to tighten things up.
Even if you end up making no improvements, if you just learn what the heck is going on, you could make so much more money—because it's not a surprise anymore. You could say, okay, we expected that. You can compensate for this or that or make adjustments elsewhere for these other things that aren't performing as you’d expected (or hoped).
Using a Quality Intelligence solution can provide you with the actionable information you need to make transformative decisions. When you collect the right data, roll it up properly into useful reports, and make your decisions based on accurate measurements and information, challenges like defects and recalls will a) cause much less pain and b) become the rarity you laugh about over lunch, rather than the regular occurrence.
  • Find out more about InfinityQS’ quality intelligence solutions: Enact® and ProFicient™.
  • Read about how quality intelligence can provide your organization with the actionable information you need to transform your business.
  • Learn more about how we de-mystify SPC.
In part four of our Manufacturing Challenges blog series, Eric Weisbrod, InfinityQS VP of Product Management, discusses “Operator Engagement”…check back next week.
Read other parts of our Manufacturing Challenges blog series:  

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