Improve Your Manufacturing Efficiency and Quality with Problem Solving and Mistake Proofing

Improve Your Manufacturing Efficiency and Quality with Problem Solving and Mistake Proofing

PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Action) - four steps management method written on chalkboard

By: Dean Simmons

Continuous improvement techniques, such as problem solving and mistake proofing, apply to manufacturing and other sectors. Each technique can have significant benefits to production, efficiency, quality control, and workflow.

Problem Solving

The problem solving technique uses a structured and systematic approach to the Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) cycle, also known as the Deming cycle. Organizational improvement generally follows the PDCA cycle and is very beneficial in manufacturing as it is geared toward upgrading quality, exposing waste, increasing operational efficiency, and establishing metrics that promote the right behaviors. 

In the Plan phase of the PDCA model, you generally define the problem through the use of a problem statement, setting goals, and designing the solution. The Plan stage also includes mapping out the current and future states of the value stream so that everyone knows what to expect when teams try to solve a problem.

The Do function of the PDCA cycle means implementing changes to solve the problem after some experimentation. This phase of the cycle includes deciding upon a measurement to gauge effectiveness, testing the potential solution, and measuring the results.

The Check stage involves evaluating the solution to the problem to see if it worked. You confirm the results through before-and-after data comparison, review the result, measure effectiveness, and decide whether the prediction of your problem-solving solution is on track or not.

In the Act stage, the changes involved with the solution should be monitored, and if they are determined to be working well, the results should be documented. Then you need to provide training to inform others about the changes, how to properly implement them, and to ensure their sustainability. 

If the solution is successful, implement it. If you did not get things right, go back to an earlier phase of the PDCA cycle and try again. When managers or team leaders decide to implement more changes, they should return to the Plan step and start the process over.


Mistake Proofing

Mistake proofing (or error proofing) refers to analyzing a manufacturing process to eliminate the possibility of product defects. It is often referred to as the lean manufacturing tool Poka-Yoke, which translates from Japanese as “avoid” (yokeru) “mistakes” (poka). The goal of performing the poka-yoke, or mistake proofing technique, is to prevent product defects from reaching customers by catching, correcting, and eliminating errors at the source. Simply asking people to “be careful” and “pay attention” doesn’t always work. 

When manufacturers focus on mistake proofing processes across their operations, they improve their efficiency and ensure that product quality is at the forefront of their organization. You cannot build quality into your products by inspecting them. 

Mistake proofing has proven to be a more effective way to improve quality through cost-effective and creative solutions. Errors are either prevented or caught shortly after they occur, helping to keep products with quality defects from making it to the end of the production process, resulting in higher quality of output.

By addressing errors quickly, spending time on rework can be avoided or minimized, and solutions can get to the root cause of problems before they become bigger ones. Also, with fewer errors, oversight and inspection needs are reduced.  

Other benefits include:

Higher productivity – faster, more efficient, and smooth running processes result in greater overall productivity

Waste Reduction – by producing fewer defective products, fewer materials are wasted

Continuous Improvement – encouraging employees to brainstorm and solve problems and address their root cause fosters a continuous improvement environment

Training in problem solving and mistake proofing techniques can also help manufacturers who are facing an increasingly competitive business environment and higher customer expectations, in addition to streamlining production processes, increasing efficiency, and improving quality.

CONNSTEP teaches these two key principles in their CICC (Continuous Improvement Champion Certification) course, where you learn problem solving tools and how to implement a mistake proofing solution.

By utilizing these two techniques your business can achieve immediate improvements to the quality, efficiency, and productivity of your manufacturing operations, often with a culture of continuous improvement. Your processes will run more smoothly when errors are prevented, and defects are detected and solved more quickly.

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