In this episode…
Your host Renaud Anjoran is joined once again by Andrew Amirnovin, Sofeast’s head of New Product Development, to discuss the 3 elements a factory (yours or your supplier’s) needs in order to provide good manufacturing performance.
What is ‘good manufacturing performance?’
It’s all of the things importers want from their suppliers!
- Product quality that reaches our standards
- Costs within what we’re expecting
- Fast delivery times and no delays
- Safe, compliant products that can be sold on our markets
Renaud and Andrew explain the three elements required and share tips on how to obtain great products based on their decades of experience and real learnings from Sofeast projects worked on over the years in China, Vietnam, India, and other areas of Asia.
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00:00 – Greetings & introducing Andrew
01:50 – Explaining today’s topic – the elements needed for good manufacturing performance.
03:45 – A quick overview of the 3 elements: An effective management system, manufacturing processes under control, and well-designed products properly transferred to manufacturing.
05:49 – 1. The management system.
We find that management system issues in the factory are very often the root causes of other problems. Management drives the whole production process, so if they don’t understand certain things it will have a knock-on effect. They need to track day-to-day operations, KPIs, and issues diligently. They need to be able to allocate the right resources and hire correctly, otherwise, staff shortages in certain areas can cause problems. A lack of KPIs can lead to arguments and finger-pointing if issues occur, but this doesn’t help solve them. If a manufacturer lacks a proper approval process for ECMs (engineering change management), such as adding a new function to a product, then mistakes can easily happen as someone is approving a change when they do not understand how it needs to be made or the many different departments responsible for realizing the change.
Problem-solving can also be deficient as many organizations don’t want to do the work to find root causes and instead are almost always engaged in fire-fighting which is a wasteful activity.
To avoid this you need a well-defined process and well-trained and knowledgeable management who can confidently approve any changes and honest teams who work together well. For problem-solving, 8D is a very helpful tool that systematically goes through the whole production process until the problem’s root cause is located, documented, and can be fixed.
Lastly, the founder’s personality has an influence on the factory. Are they technical and knowledgeable about the products being produced, do they like to work to rules in an organized manner, do they avoid taking shortcuts and discourage this in their staff? Traits like this can really shape how a manufacturer operates and is managed.
19:36 – 2. Running manufacturing processes following best practices.
Here are some of the best practices that a manufacturer should be following in order to run manufacturing processes well with a minimum of disruptions:
- Hiring competent people and assuring that they receive the necessary training and support to develop the skills you need.
- Putting process controls in place that guide the staff to know if they are doing something correctly or not. If a process starts to go off-target changes can be made.
- Preventive maintenance, linked to process controls, a machine needs to be maintained in order to provide peak performance. This may include cleaning, servicing, etc.
- Utilize a planning system, like an ERP, correctly. Most Chinese manufacturers don’t use traditional MRP modules around dual and production control.
Are the staff working to standard? They need to be following work instructions and line leaders need to police this. The leaders are in a position of trust, too, as they need to issue updates to WIs in a timely manner, otherwise non-conforming products will be made and then need to be reworked, and this could be in the hundreds or even thousands.
Consistency is key. The management needs to understand what they’re producing and put in place a consistent process that is consistently followed by competent staff in order to have good manufacturing performance.
29:00 – 3. Well-designed products that are properly transferred to manufacturing.
Designing an amazing product that solves customer needs and has a place in the market is an art. Assuming that you’ve achieved this, transferring it to manufacturing with low risk is a science. Going to a smaller or less advanced Chinese manufacturer with your product design, drawings, etc, will allow you to get the product made, but their onus may be on speed, reducing component costs, and they may also outsource a lot of the steps, perhaps only really doing some final assembly. They may have production process issues, and if these are added to possible design or component issues (that they may overlook or not notice) this will lead to many problems with the manufactured products. When it comes to selecting a manufacturer, you get what you pay for.
Assessing a potential manufacturer’s ability, capacity, and knowledge is all a part of the supplier vetting process and activities like factory audits can help you to end up with a low-risk supplier who can do a great job.
Renaud also explains how complex the NPI process is and the importance of pilot runs to iron out issues before mass-production begins. The reliability test plan is also really important in order to test the product comprehensively before production in order to find and fix issues that may occur under as many potential use cases in the field as you can anticipate during the NPI process. The manufacturer needs to understand the role and importance of thorough product testing and have staff who support doing so. If corners are cut to save time or costs, that’s when many failures will occur in manufactured products. If failures lead to safety issues for users, the costs in terms of warranties and your company’s reputational damage may, in turn, be dwarfed by legal costs or penalties. Some examples are the Boeing 737 Max fault that led to crashes and passenger deaths, the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 that kept exploding.
44:07 – Conclusion: What you need in place to have good manufacturing.
A well-designed and well-tested product going into production. Audited suppliers and sub-suppliers and can be relied upon to provide quality and safe components. An audited manufacturer, who you know has the capability and capacity to build your product consistently. All of these reduce your risks of larger issues in the long run.
45:19 – Wrapping up
- The 7 Most Common New Product Launch Pitfalls in China
- Why You Need Mature Product Designs BEFORE Working With A Chinese Manufacturer!
- A Product Designer’s Tips For New Product Launches
- How Many Product Samples Do We Really Need To Test For Reliability And Compliance?
- Why Product Reliability Testing Is A MUST During Product Design [Podcast]
- The ‘Three-Legged Stool’ Approach For Superior Manufacturing Results [Video]
- Listen to our supplier vetting podcast series [Podcast]
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