Quality/Published: October 28, 2021

Plant Floor Inspections When Manufacturing Orders Are Surging

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Plant Floor Inspections

ING analysts report that industrial output is beating expectations, with automotive production rising a full 11% in July. This is great news given continued labor shortages, supply chain issues and cost increases—but also comes with its own challenges.  

One of these is ensuring quality when you’re under pressure to get orders shipped.   

Part of the problem is that quality is often placed at odds with production, viewed as a roadblock to productivity. 

The truth, however, is that quality has a huge impact on overall productivity, making defect prevention critical to capitalizing on today’s opportunities. Plant floor inspections are an essential tool in this fight, helping make sure standards don’t slip in the race to get products out the door. 

Today’s post looks closer at this risk, the mindset shift that’s needed and how plant floor inspections can help ensure quality without sacrificing speed.  

Learn the truth about cost of quality, the ultimate quality metric

Hidden Risks of the Manufacturing Surge

As manufacturing picks up steam, there’s a risk of letting quality and safety standards slip. People are less likely to slow down to address quality and safety concerns when there’s a huge order on the line—especially if doing so could mean a late shipment.  

Not surprisingly, research on the correlation between human error and production rates shows that increasing time pressure is associated with lower performance. 

Safety is also likely to take a backseat when production pressure is high. The American Institute for Chemical Engineers notes, for example, that workers are nine times as likely to make a lockout/tagout error when in a rush.   

The tendency to let standards slide during a production crunch is dangerous when combined with pandemic-era challenges. Shifting consumer demand means many plants have made changes to production processes or plant layout—two events that require paying more attention to safety and quality.  

COVID safety standards are also a factor to consider in the context of manufacturing growth. Compliance with these policies is key to protecting worker health, as well as minimizing staffing shortages that can make it difficult to meet production quotas. 

Production vs. Quality: The Key Mindset Shift

People often view the quality department as the hall monitor of the manufacturing plant, slowing everybody down just when you need to pick up the pace. 

Here’s the error hidden in this line of thinking: 

Production is actually more efficient when you make things right the first time.  

It’s not just that resources for detecting and correcting problems subtract from the bottom line. They also represent a significant opportunity cost, using time, staff and materials to address quality issues rather than making profitable products.  

In essence, the quality vs. production stance is a false choice. Manufacturers must recognize that quality is essential to production and profits, working to prevent defects instead of just reacting to them.  

Using Plant Floor Inspections to Ensure Compliance with Standards

Plant floor inspections to detect production defects help improve profitability, especially during times of increased production. The 1-10-100 Rule highlights this fact, which states that preventing defects is 10 times less expensive than detecting them and 100 times less than correcting them. 

Manufacturers have found that short, fast plant floor inspections like layered process audits (LPAs) can deliver steep reductions in production defects, scrap and quality costs. Mobile audit software like EASE enables these results, allowing users to: 

  • Automate notifications to ensure audit completion during busy periods 
  • Provide direct links to checklists so nobody has to find, update and distribute paper copies 
  • Get instant visibility into plant floor risks impacting quality, safety or productivity 

The manufacturing industry is moving along at a steady clip, despite labor and supply chain challenges. Staying profitable in this environment means being proactive about minimizing costly and time-consuming defects and process issues. Conducting fast, frequent plant floor inspections like LPAs are an ideal strategy for achieving these goals, providing a window into risks that stand in the way of productivity. 

Read a success story of how one manufacturer reduced internal PPM 73% with mobile audit software

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