We live in a world where every manufacturing process is under intense scrutiny, with objectives ranging from improving efficiency, cutting waste or reducing costs. By now, most of the “low hanging fruit” has been picked. That means it is getting more and more difficult to continue the quest for continued process improvement. New processes might now require new and different approaches to how you do business.
Have you considered a world where your raw materials or Work In Process (WIP) is received with perfect quality – for every shipment from your suppliers? What if your quality tests were already performed and passed for all of the materials you received from your suppliers?
This concept may not be as far-fetched as you might think.
To start, you need to have suppliers that are willing to work with you to establish a “collaboration interface” that connects your production processes to theirs. Times of economic uncertainty and challenges present opportunistic windows to negotiate new terms and conditions as a way to ensure future orders …
Instead of doing an inspection at the receiving dock when the goods come from your supplier, what if the delivery was accompanied by the inspection results of key tests that has already been performed, having been agreed upon between manufacturers and their suppliers. Implementing this vision could significantly reduce the time, resources and costs associated with ensuring your quality standards are strictly adhered to.
This process improvement could literally redefine how your production processes are executed, as the raw materials could be schedule to arrive as they are used, in exactly the right quantity and with exactly the right quality. Production delays could be significantly reduced, and idle inventory could be reduced, helping to support your Lean manufacturing initiatives. In fact, your delivery schedules could be better synchronized with increased visibility to your supplier’s operations, helping to improve efficiency by receiving supplies not only just in time, but also in sequence, if applicable, even if a supplier disruption occurred from one of your key partners.
The above concept can be implemented with a modern manufacturing execution system capable of extending visibility into your product supply network. Suppliers submit their quality control data (i.e. the results from the tests performed, etc.) directly into your system – electronically – becoming part of your As-built records, suitable for tracking, tracing and genealogy requirements, including root cause analysis.
Having all this data in your system lets you combine it with your other manufacturing data, simplifying the calculation of the cost of poor quality (COPQ) due to line stoppages, scrap/rework processing, warranty issues or recall costs resulting from supplier quality issues. Further, this intelligence creates a basis for corrective actions with suppliers, helping manufacturers to further engage suppliers in the quality improvement processes where real “ownership” can be established, managed and maintained. Just imagine a world where such strict quality controls could be implemented and managed before a part even entered your warehouse!
Are you currently engaged in these practices? If so, I would greatly appreciate hearing from you about your story, including what is working well and what could be improved.