How to drive teams to improve manufactured product quality
In a perfect world, quality is built into the product and there should be no need, or very little need, for technology OEM and contract manufacturing companies to address product quality issues throughout various phases of the product life cycle of the product being manufactured.
Meanwhile, until that day comes, below is a reasonably good way for companies to develop teams to root cause, isolate and escalate, and ultimately, work to resolve manufactured product quality issues and product defects.
Meetings should take place once per week for manufactured products programs that have weekly production and once per month for product programs with less frequent production.
Assembling teams, objectives, and responsibilities
Although one could argue for a more extensive list of objectives, for a start, any assembling of teams by organizations committed to addressing manufactured product quality issues should begin by at least focusing on a.) improving the product manufacturing yields of products and b.) reducing the percentage rate of dead on arrival (DOA) units that leave the contract manufacturer.
A cross-functional team of committed individuals having both responsibility and authority for driving product quality for any particular manufactured product program should be assembled carefully from the proper functional groups.
Below are key participants for any product defect reduction team. Its important participants are assembled from proper functional disciplines.
The contract manufacturing product program manager must be responsible for initiating and facilitating the meeting. The program manager must take responsibility for maintaining the meeting agenda and action item list. Program management must also be ultimately responsible for the overall success or failure of any efforts to reduce defects. The buck stops here. Period.
Program management responsibilities also include driving OEM (or contract manufacturing) product design issues, that adversely impact OEM customer yields, to the OEM customer’s supply base engineers and new product introduction (NPI) engineers for resolution.
Program management should also publish and distribute meeting minutes to all team members. Preferably, within 24 hours after the meeting takes place.
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Test engineering and process engineering
Manufactured product yield data should be reviewed in advance of all meetings by test and process engineering which must also attend the meetings.
The role of test and process engineering is to identify primary product test and process yield issues and to initiate actions to address each issue. Test and process engineering must take full responsibility for measuring the success or failure of activities assigned, and actions taken, to improve product yield including documenting all manufactured product process changes in any related manufacturing product documents.
It is the responsibility of production management to implement process changes identified and proposed by engineering and to communicate product yields to engineering on a timely basis.
Additional members of these meetings should also include a member of the factory general manager’s staff to aid meeting facilitation, additional representatives as needed from other functional areas such as component engineering and quality and, meeting members may also include OEM customer representatives such as engineering and quality to also help drive manufactured product yields and quality.
Meeting guiding principles
1. Beginning with the start of each calendar quarter, the team will determine two or three manufactured product yield points to focus on for the various products in any one product program. Any yield points determined must be compared by putting actual yields against product target yields which can be determined jointly by the OEM customer and the contract manufacturer. All of the above must be agreed upon by all team members and documented regularly.
2. Engineering must provide all product yield data to team members a minimum of 24 hours before meetings take place.
3. Product DOA failures are to be discussed in meetings only for the purpose of reducing DOA rates and this should be done only after the root cause of the DOA has been determined.
4. Manufactured product data for presenting at meetings to team members should be reported in the following manner:
- Inclusive manufacturing product yield points should include weekly yield charts and graphs showing a minimum of data for the past five weeks which compares actual yields against target product yields that are established by the team. Product quantities built and failed quantities must be detailed for all products in any particular customer program being manufactured.
- Yields for the two, or three, focal points must be presented in pareto analysis format. This will help in identifying the most frequent types of product quality issues and defects.
- Action items determined by the team to be included in an opportunity log or, list of action items, are assigned to help improve yields and drive quality. As each item is ‘closed’ and considered to no longer be an issue, the item is removed from the list three weeks after closure.
5. Items to be included in the list of action items are assigned at a maximum of two action items per yield point and should be assigned only for the two or three focal yield points. Team members must work together so that at any given point in time no more than six action items can be opened on the action item. One exception to this rule might be where the yield on a yield point other than a focal yield point is determined to be catastrophic by the team and requires immediate attention.
6. ANY failure to close an action item against an appropriate period of time must result in management escalation. Program management must be responsible for escalating the issue to management of the appropriate functional group the action item is assigned to and scheduling a meeting to discuss why the functional group has not moved properly to close the action item.
An effective agenda or meeting format that is focused on driving efficient meetings should cover the following:
- The meeting is facilitated by program management
- Review of focal yield points and quarterly objectives and goals
- Review and status of open action items
- Review of yield data across all manufactured product (inclusive)
- Review and discussion of yield and pareto data from focal yield points
- Discussion to determine new action items. Its important for action items to get ‘buy-in’ from all team meeting members
- Teams meetings should last no more than 60 minutes
Follow up and meeting minutes distribution
Program management must distribute minutes from the meeting within 24 hours to managers of program management; test engineering, process engineering, and the factory general manager. Minutes should also include a list of names of meeting attendees.