Maintaining Quality Assurance in a Machine Shop
If you’ve ever worked in a product manufacturing plant or machine shop, then you know that oftentimes, companies within the same vertical are often separated by how many defective units they can expect per batch. This is, in short, the essence of quality assurance; maintaining it in a machine shop — and elsewhere — begins and ends with the following handful of tips.
1. Document Shop Policies Comprehensively
At a minimum, this allows all members of a project to understand the role within the context of said project. You don’t want your unit to function as disparate parts with an unclear understanding of what you hope to achieve at projects’ end. Generally, this begins with a full understanding of the rules of the machine shop.
2. Is Your Technical Architecture Up to the Task?
There isn’t a more certain cause of failure in meeting quality assurance goals than a technical infrastructure that cannot adequately perform the tasks needed. You cannot expect outdated machines to perform competitively with the newer ones for substantially increased volume; you WILL experience more subpar products as a result — and it will be more costly. Greater cost (tighter margins) combined with a greater number of products that miss the mark is a death-knell in even a moderately competitive space.
3. Periodic Scheduled Checks
This is akin to having someone watch your back — no matter how good things are going, you need to be prepared from the back-end. By implementing systematic checks of the machines and workstations, you have a much better chance of nipping an impending problem before it takes off. Furthermore, this helps ensure that the shop team is adhering to the principles that minimize the number of defective products.
4. Follow-Up to 3 — Audit
This is, essentially, double-duty. In a machine shop, with the number of processes going on simultaneously, you don’t want to get lost in-between them; this necessitates record-keeping of even the follow-up procedures. It is unlikely that you’d have many of these; record-keeping helps pinpoint the failures and the actions taken for future reference.
5. Post-Production Testing
Test the products that emerge from your machine shop based on the numbers the team manages. If you churn out hundreds; then test every couple of dozen or so; all that’s important is that it is a set interval; the numbers will readily reflect if you’ve under-performed, hit, or surpassed your quality assurance goals.
Make your quality assurance program a system-level event; in the sense that you have the team implement it as a departmental standard, instead of for a specific project. It can help tremendously to refer to ISO 9000 QA standards manual for tips on how to best go about doing this in your machine shop. The results are in for companies that have implemented it successfully: the bottom line is maximized and the company’s reputation for churning out good products flourishes.