As engineers, we are constantly in a battle of improving the quality of our products without drastically increasing costs, so what exactly can we do?
Cost is the driving factor in virtually every engineering project, and usually, the only way to bring it down is to decrease the quality of your materials and parts. There are, however, some ways to bring the quality of your products and parts up while keeping costs the same.
First, you are going to need to take some time to evaluate your production processes. In manufacturing any component or product, there will always be waste, inefficiencies, and bottlenecks in the production line. These areas are major locations where some creative engineering can save time and money. When addressing excess scrap material in part production, be willing to consider other manufacturing methods such as additive. Your plant was likely designed by an engineer, perhaps even yourself, which likely means that there is room for improvement in the design. After all, no one is perfect. Focus on places to improve and determine your bearings moving forward.
We can spend all day discussing improvements and redesigns, but there comes a point where it just isn’t worth it. To state this another way, there is a point where improving quality in a product would be just as much work as improving quality control. I say this not to discourage quality, but rather to consider all aspects of the quality control process when examining where you can make improvements.
Inevitably there will be costs in any redesign or quality improvement process, but the costs we want to focus on eliminating are those strictly related to production. Spending man hours to improve a process is worth it in the long run given that they are static one-time costs, but increasing production costs is what we are trying to avoid. Beyond these one-time improvements, there is also some dynamic shifts you can make to the environment on the production line.
Your manufacturing workers who are involved hands-on in the everyday work likely can offer a differing perspective than the engineer who designs in his or her office every day. If we take time as manufacturers and empower our workers, we can open up the channel for unique and innovative solutions from the ground up. Another way to build on this empowerment is to improve initial manufacturing training. While this will increase your upfront costs slightly, it shouldn’t affect your final product costs. By spending even just a few more hours training workers, you can decrease downtime and increase production speed.
Beyond these relatively straightforward production improvements offered up here, there are also several more refined methods we can follow along with. Develop a total maintenance program that addresses issues before they occur. Develop an equipment improvement team to constantly seek out these inefficiencies throughout a manufacturing process and develop dynamic solutions.
Whether you are a one man manufacturing plant or you run a plant with thousands of employees, implementing these solutions on various scales can increase product quality while keeping costs at a minimum – keeping everyone happy.