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How to Implement a Quality Control Program in Manufacturing

In 2022, Vehicle manufacturers alone issued over 400 recalls. Those recalls affected more than 25 million different vehicles across the United States. Manufacturing in general consists of different processes used to create a variety of products. A quality control program for manufacturing companies is meant to ensure that there are no defective goods that get sent out to the public.

Essentially, it’s a way to not only protect your business but your business’s reputation, your revenue, and your consumers. Quality control improves customer satisfaction. It’s also meant to guarantee that high quality is achieved for not only one of your product lines but all of them.

Businesses that don’t have a quality control program are at significant risk of facing detrimental downtimes. Irreparable reputations, lawsuits, and losses in earnings are also concerns. To better safeguard your manufacturing quality and workflows continue reading as we lay out each step to help you implement your own quality control program.

Learning What a Quality Control Program Is and Why It’s Needed

Quality control is the process of continuous improvement. It’s the use of best practices and guidelines for compliance as well. The point is to have a set of standards that help your company deliver high-quality products without any defects.

Not everything will always go as planned and mistakes will happen which is the reason for QC. It will allow you to catch any defects or harmful components within your products before exposing the public to them.

In a way, it’s similar to having a second chance to check your work and because things do happen, some averages allow for potential mistakes. The industry average for minor defects of products for example is 4%. For more major or critical defects though, you can expect the industry average to remain around 2.5% which doesn’t give much space for significant shortfalls.

This is where manufacturing quality control takes place. It keeps what you produce from falling within this range altogether.

While there is room for mistakes, the general idea is to have none. More specifically, there should not be more than 1% of defective products in one completed batch. 

Try Thinking About It in Another Way

Think about it this way, if you have 2,000 products that are completed, only 20 of those products are allowed to be defective. Keep in mind that you don’t want to get close to that number of defective products.

Knowing how many products are coming out defective from one production line can help you to better determine your defective rate. This is something that can assist in outlining any potential trends. Being able to pinpoint what issues are occurring, at what rate, how often, and what type of issue it is can keep your company from having repeat incidents of defective products.

These are the reasons that a quality control program is needed. Businesses without a QC program won’t get far without running into customer concerns. Diminished performance will also be a concern. They will also be at risk of falling below both their direct and indirect competition.

Understanding How the Process Works

The process of quality control involves testing units of your products. The point of this is to determine if the finished product falls within the specifications outlined for it.

This is a form of mediating your product lines. Mediation allows you to make necessary corrections throughout the process. Something like this is helpful to catch before an entire production run is complete.

A good way to grasp the concept is that for every step involved in your production process, there is one for your quality control workflow. For example, start by obtaining samples from a product line.

Then compare it with finished products. This will give you a good comparison to see how uniform your processes are.

Instead of having a parallel program that is one continuous step, breaking it into multiple checkpoints to match the phases within your process is more efficient. This will also save your company more money. It will also help to determine the root cause of certain problems more quickly.

You Have to Understand the Difference Between Quality Control and Assurance

It’s also important to know that quality assurance is not the same for every industry. Manufacturing QA processes will differ from food and drug manufacturing or pharmaceutical manufacturing. For OEM manufacturers, your QA process will focus on comparing parts and end designs. It will also focus on ensuring the parts that you’re using match the specifications for it.

You also want to realize that quality control and quality assurance are two completely different things. Quality assurance takes a look at every action and process that would be required to guarantee the end result that you prefer. Whereas quality control takes a look at quality requirements on a smaller level.

It focuses on the quality of the parts you are using and the components you are creating. Quality assurance will make quality control methods simpler and while they are different they do play hand in hand. QA in most cases will come first and you would implement a QC program afterward.

Assurance consists of a combination of different guidelines and activities to ensure quality. Control involves processes that ensure your product meets those assurance standards.

Putting the Needed Phases Together

There are a few primary steps that you have to follow when drafting a quality control program for manufacturing processes.

  • Inventory your products and outline the manufacturing quality standards for those products
  • Determine your method of quality control; acceptance sampling, process control, etc.
  • Configure how many products you will test at a time; batch numbering
  • Implement a training plan for employees before launching the program
  • Create a system for defect reporting and communications
  • Implement quality improvement steps for all reported defects

Outlining Your Standards

Creating the standards for your quality control program creates the structure of the program. To start, you should review your industry standards. This will help you to establish a baseline.

Also, consider conducting competitive market research and comparing your products with your competitors. This will lay out where you may fall short or where you may be pulling ahead. Doing this will give you an idea of what you hope to expect for your end product.

Outline the most important measures related to the production lines you run. This means that you should consider your capacity utilization and potential production downtimes. Also, take into account your real-time throughput and the overall effectiveness of your equipment.

Knowing your essential KPIs is important for reporting and forecasting. It will make product modifications, data visualization, and potential expansions simpler.

Which Method of Control Will You Use?

What you want to keep in mind is that you don’t have to choose one method of control although it would help to have a primary option. Control charts are significantly useful for manufacturing companies.

The main reason is that they help production managers to visualize changes over time. Using a quality management system will also help with this.

Using control charts is also a way to leverage the data that your business generates. This will help you to make better-informed decisions for your products. 

Acceptance sampling is another measure of control that you should consider. Batching your products allows you to sample a certain number of them to get an idea of the impending quality of the rest. Process protocols are another popular option used by manufacturing companies. This mapping methodology helps you to improve the overall design of your implementation process.

It does this by giving you indicators to evaluate through every step of your program. A better way of looking at process protocols is as a master set of rules for your program. It helps to ensure effectiveness and safety by having one way to perform certain actions.

Number Your Batches

Numbering your batches compliments acceptance sampling. You are picking a certain number of products at random. They can be either raw products or completed products and you would use them as samples to represent your full production line.

Doing this allows you to form an educated estimation of larger grouped products. This method is also a good way to determine whether your product lines are meeting the acceptable quality level (AQL) that you will establish in your quality standards.

The reason why accepting sampling is popular among manufacturing companies is that it helps to limit the waste of resources. It also reduces the risk of negatively altering your cash flow and also saves the production team time.

Plan for All Employees Is What Will Make the Program Successful

Creating a training plan for your employees will help everyone to learn the new quality control procedures that are being put into place. Not only will this announce the new standards for employees to expect of your production lines but it will give you an employee’s idea of what to look for and what to flag.

Setting acceptable manufacturing ranges will make the implementation of the program simpler as well. It’s also going to make the implementation faster and will set things in place for developing a quality control program that compliments your quality assurance standards.

A Communication System Is Needed to Ensure Improvement During Defective Incidents

Implementing a communication system to report defects or system failures will close the loop. It also enhances the safety as well as the efficiency of your system. You should encourage communication between not only your production employees but your engineers and design staff.

This should also involve the safety assurance staff and line managers. The point is that everyone should be on the same page when defects are noticed. This is because it will take everyone that actively participates in the production process to implement the changes outlined in your quality control procedures.

To make all of this work you need communication and this should be done in at least two ways. One method of communication should be an initial line of verbal reporting.

This should involve relaying defects to all necessary teams. The secondary method should involve written or digital communications so that reports are easy to generate as needed.

Act When and Before an Issue Occurs

Product defects can result in a lower productivity rate. This also causes additional costs. These costs come from having to fix, repurpose, or discard damaged products.

Customer loyalty will likely see a loss or a decrease as well. To combat this you have to be a step ahead of your workflows. This will involve evaluating your processes at not only the product level but your equipment as well.

Consider the training of your employees and their post-training performance. It’s also useful to dedicate a maintenance schedule for your product lines. This helps to guarantee safety and to prioritize defect prevention.

The key to making your quality control program work for you is to act when or before an issue occurs. This means being proactive after one defect gets reported. A primary way to control defects is by catching what you can in the product design phase.

Following that, ensure your manufacturing process is flexible. It should also be adaptable to change if needed. After this, you want to launch extensive inspections when needed and establish preventative measures when defect reports come in.

The Sustainability of the Program Will Be Up to Your Team

A quality control program that works is one that everyone knows, gets trained on, and works together to sustain. Your QC efforts will depend on your products, company standards, and industry restraints.

The best place to start is by outlining what you can and can’t do and what you prefer to have as an end result. The best place to end is with higher quality products and a sustainable program that can be interchanged between extensions of your business and different product lines. To learn more about streamlined manufacturing services, get in touch with the Shield Works team.