Renaud explores how to improve the product quality you’re getting from suppliers who you sourced and are now actively working with.
This is a continuation of our series of podcast episodes on how to do your own sourcing from China, covering every topic from initially finding them through to going into mass production.
Almost no production will be completely free of defects, but if you follow the advice here you should be able to reduce quality problems to a minimum and with no capital outlay!
By the way, this is part 8 of this series, and if you want to go back and listen to every earlier part of this series check out the links below.
Just hit the play button to start listening..!
Listen to the episode right here 👇👇👇
- 00:00 – Greetings & Introduction
- 02:29 – Are product defects impossible to avoid?
It’s extremely rare to have no defects in products manufactured in large quantities, especially common consumer products (medical, auto, aeronautical, and others, are exceptions where a very low defect rate is more normal). If buying products from ‘low-cost Asia’ where your key objective is as low a price as possible, poorer quality, safety, and reliability should be expected. Regardless, many Asian and Chinese suppliers will tell you that avoiding defects completely isn’t possible.
- Some advice for getting towards zero defects (with low/no capital investment)
- 07:53 – The supplier needs to be incentivised to care about quality
Suppliers in China/Asia may not pay too much attention to strictly controlling quality unless they are well aware of how seriously you take it with regular feedback, your contract, chargebacks and other penalties, a stricter AQL, etc. This is the foundation required for future quality improvement activities to be a success.
- 10:54 – Tip 1: Beware of batch and queue
Many manufacturers around the world are attracted to producing large batches as this is easier for them to set up and manage, but the risk is that if, say, a component had a defect, it may only be detected once the batch is finished and that could be a huge number of pieces. Ideally, WIP (work in process) inventory will be reduced and processes linked more tightly. This may cost some time and money in changeovers, but the reduced risk of quality issues is worthwhile. On the assembly line, operators with lots of tasks to do can more easily miss one of them which is one of the largest drivers of defects. That goes for testing, too.
- 15:57 – Tip 2: Local management needs to build up a disciplined culture
Local management needs to put in place systems that define the correct way to work, keep the factory clean and organised, and work towards your expected quality standard. To do so your quality standards and work instructions must be clearly defined and the staff need to understand and commit to following them. Local leaders need to check on progress daily on the shop floor and display updated production information to keep pressure on their subordinates.
- 21:06 – Tip 3: Getting operators to do some QC work
Using inspectors to find defective pieces after the fact can’t really spur better quality. Training some operators to self-inspect will improve quality and save money. Beware of suppliers who pay operators by the piece, as this could undermine these efforts as they’re incentivised to go as fast as possible to get paid more, whereas taking the time to find and fix issues reduces their pay!
- 26:23 – Tip 4: Implement a usability engineering approach & mistake-proofing
A process engineer can make human mistakes impossible. Start from common mistakes and find out why they happen. Mistake-proofing devices could be put in place to prevent the issue or they can detect the issue so it can be corrected, and, if done well, they won’t add any work for the operator. Color-coding components can also help operators to avoid mistakes. These cost basically nothing.
- 31:35 – Tip 5: Clear work instructions & staff training
Work instructions need to be documented with photos per step, examples of problems, and tips (such as what is particularly important) to train operators with. They need to be updated and evolve over time. The same principle can be used for testing stations and inspectors – defining and standardizing the process reduces variations and will improve quality as when issues occur you can track back and find where it occurred (if the standard was followed or maybe needs to be updated). Management will need to put effort into staff training in order to get better results.
- 37:18 – Tip 6: Process controls
Production processes throughout the supply chain that are under control will help provide good quality. Know the limitations of processes and what variables to be wary of – Renaud gives the example of powder coating where there are dozens of variables that can affect quality throughout just that one process. These need to be understood and documented to keep them under control, and for equipment, there should be preventative maintenance put in place to maintain optimal operation.
- 41:54 – Wrapping up.
- Part 1: Good Fit, Sourcing, Vetting, & Backups [Podcast]
- Part 2: Negotiations, Terms, Leverage, & Quality Standards [Podcast]
- Part 3: Project Management & Checking Quality Early [Podcast]
- Part 4: Final Inspections [Podcast]
- Part 5: Building Rapport [Podcast]
- Part 6: Hands-on or hands-off buyer? [Podcast]
- Part 7: How To Develop Your Chinese Supplier? [Podcast]
- Quality Assurance In China Or Vietnam For Beginners [eBook] 👈 Download for free
- Many more blog posts about quality
- Work with the Sofeast group’s own contract manufacturing subsidiary: Agilian Technology
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