By: Don Alexander- Quality Engineer
There is an old saying in Manufacturing that “Quality is everyone’s business.” As a Quality Assurance Engineer, I embrace that belief. Better still, however, is the fact that we at Dymotek all embrace it.
I have worked for a dozen different manufacturers in my career in Quality in roles ranging from Consultant to QA Engineer to QA Manager and I have never seen a company embrace quality as a lifestyle more than I have here at Dymotek. From our owners to our newest machine operator, quality is our #2 priority (#1 is safety). “Quality, then quantity” is heard on a consistent basis, with management emphasizing this daily. Are we perfect? Of course not (no manufacturer is), but I can honestly say that we strive for perfection.
If you’ve ever worked in a Quality Department anywhere, you’ve probably heard the term “Quality Police.” That term is used when the Quality Department is the main (or only) source of product quality inspection, and of the 12 manufacturers I’ve worked with, 11 had to use “Quality police”, as the Production Departments were more concerned with quantity than quality. In some cases, machine operators were punished for not reaching the production quantities they were expected to attain, so they concentrated on producing and packaging product while ignoring quality. In other cases, product quality was placed solely in the hands of the Quality Department and operators were not trained to inspect product.
Here at Dymotek our operators are trained to detect general injection molding defects, such as flash, shorts/non-fills or contamination and defects specific to the parts being produced. They are aided by part-specific work instructions created by our Quality Department with input from the Production and Engineering departments and in some cases, the operators themselves (I have found that machine operators can give you the best input, as they are on the “front lines” and know what is going on). These work instructions detail all aspects of a job, including cell set-up, operations, assembly (if appropriate), packaging and inspection. They also include photos of good product AND common defects for the product. These work instructions are living documents and are updated whenever a “new” defect is discovered or if methods, packaging or anything else related to that product change. Again, in many cases, our machine operators are drivers of the changes made.
You might be asking, “If quality is everyone’s responsibility, then what does your Quality Department do?” I am so glad you asked. The main reason a Quality Department is SUPPOSED TO exist is to be a support department. At Dymotek, that is exactly what we do.
1) Our top priority is to support our Production Department. We do this by creating work instructions, First Piece Inspection and In-Process Inspection Sheets, assisting in training operators, lead operators and auditors (all members of the Production Department) in their tasks, creating Quality Alerts or Deviations, and performing Gage R&R studies to ensure that the gages being used by the technicians, lead operators and, in some cases, operators, are the correct ones to use to accurately AND efficiently measure the products we make. We do more to assist Production, but you get the idea.
2) We also support the Engineering Department by taking part in new projects from the beginning of the project. We give our input and raise any concerns we might have when reviewing part blueprints (drawings), we offer our assistance in creating Qualification Plans for the new parts and we perform the metrology (metrology is the science of measurement) needed to qualify the new product along with giving feedback on our findings. We also give our recommendations on any fixtures or part-specific gages that might be needed to measure the new parts and we work with the customer’s Quality Department to determine visual, testing and other requirements for their products. During our qualification runs, we perform Gage R&R’s to ensure that the gages used are suitable, part layouts to make sure that the parts meet blueprint specifications and capability studies to ensure that the process is capable of continuously making good, consistent product. We do more, but this is a good sample of our work with Engineering.
3) We support the whole company by creating, reviewing, maintaining and supporting the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s), Work Instructions (WI’s) and forms that make up our Quality System which helps keep us focused on our goals and the direction we want to take to become a world-class manufacturer.
4) We also support our Customer Service, Shipping and Receiving in various ways, but I think you’ve got the idea. Although the role of “Quality Police” doesn’t exist here at Dymotek, we are kept busy, and with our new facility opening soon and business increasing, it will only get busier.
Someone once said, “Evidence of your culture is what people do when they’re not being watched.” At Dymotek, we believe in quality, and the proof is in the trust that we have in our people and the quality product that we manufacture.