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Manufacturing problems and alerts

By Mark Zetter

Manufacturing problems are not completely avoidable.

Engaging a contract manufacturer inevitably increases the complexity of communications in the supply chain.

To help OEMs and contract manufacturers manage manufacturing-related issues once production and direct fulfillment shipments are underway, it is best to put in place communication tools that keep all functional groups and parties on both sides involved and informed. Software applications can provide a terrific way of achieving this objective. However, one should never discount other seemingly simple, yet effective, alternative tools.

One of these tools is the manufacturing alert. Alerts are typically a structured document that is emailed to a specified list of recipients.

Purpose
The manufacturing alert serves multiple purposes with the primary purpose of isolating issues and helping bring issues to the forefront and to resolution. Either the OEM or the contract manufacturer can issue manufacturing alerts – although it makes sense for the contract manufacturer, particularly the program manager, to take the primary responsibility of issuing and communicating a manufacturing alert across the supply chain. (See, also: Program management responsibilities and activities)

Stage
Based on the severity of the manufacturing problem in the contract manufacturing facility, alerts can have varying stages, or levels, of importance such as stage one, stage two, or stage three – with the higher stage representing a more important issue with greater consequences if it is not resolved quickly. Naturally, the more severe an alert is, the higher up the executive supply chain the alert is communicated.

Format
The most effective manufacturing alerts are concise and consistent with the type of information contained and the distribution parties involved. Typically, an adequate manufacturing alert should contain at least the following pieces of information:

1. Summary
The manufacturing alert begins with summarizing the issue or problem. This can include the product, or product family, test issues and type (i.e., high failure at functional test), an assessment of what may be causing the problem (i.e., failure possibly related to a parametric test step that powers the units beyond product limits) and, when the problem is expected to be resolved and how.

2. Calendar days since inception of alert
It is important to keep a running track of how many days have passed since the manufacturing issue was identified and the alert was created. This helps to keep the issue on everyone’s raider and helps drive resolution.

3. Manufacturing areas impacted
The manufacturing areas impacted could be the contract manufacturer’s production area, the order consolidation area of the contract manufacturer from which the product is shipped, and possibly the field (customer site) where finished goods inventory (FGI) product has already been delivered and installed.

4. Manufacturing alert team
All parties associated with the product impacted need to be kept informed. An alert might include the following functional areas and is distributed to a responsible party within each, regularly, when the issue first surfaces and any time the status of the problem changes:

  • planning, scheduling
  • quality control
  • production, operations
  • procurement, purchasing
  • warehouse, shipping, logistics
  • external contract manufacturing managers
  • site general manager

5. Manufacturing status
The alerts must clearly communicate the current state of affairs. For example, if box build activity is on hold, this is indicated here. If the contract manufacturer’s order consolidation facility has stopped making shipments, this must be detailed as well.

6. Installed base impact
This is where product model number totals are reported, the total number of products shipped, and the number of products shipped to which customers (include customer names) are each identified.

7. Fulfillment impact
Number of backlog units for each product, number of units in the distribution channel and promise dates for each unit (by customer) are identified.

8. Next steps
Names, titles, and company name (i.e., OEM, contract manufacturer, vendor) are spelled out with the responsibilities of each (i.e., John Doe (contract manufacturer) debugged and root-caused the manufacturing alert issue to [component vendor name] P/N: XX-YYY-ZZ

9. Issuing source of manufacturing alert
Name of (single-source) individual responsible for updating; tracking, and distributing the particular manufacturing alert



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