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Quality control procedures
9

Quality control procedures

Quality control procedures

(OP)
The company I work for has doubled in size in about 7 years. We are having a lot of problems with new people not knowing what they are doing and the company has created a quality control department. What this involves so far is:

1. Making project plans that outline everything you need from other disciplines, when you need it by, how many hours each task will take, and a list of drawings that will be created
2. BIM clash detections
3. A checklist for technical accuracy and a checklist for coordination between disciplines
4. All day meetings to perform reviews of a project between all disciplines
5. More checklist items to make sure people have addressed the items caught in such review meetings and how they fixed things
6. A checklist for people to sign off on each item above being adequately created/addressed
7. Non-compliant people being yelled at

The problem is that all of this doesn't seem to be working that well except for the meetings where we get together and find coordination mistakes and the independent technical reviews of a project. All of this takes a lot of time and people are not happy that have not had to do all this before at companies that are smaller or from large one discipline specific companies. Others that come from companies like Jacobs are used to this kind of thing. I am wondering what such quality control procedures your company has that you feel work.

RE: Quality control procedures

It sounds like a completely ineffective solution to poor management and lack of competent, experienced engineers. There is no substitute for experience and competence.

RE: Quality control procedures

7
So many companies have the same problem, it's not funny.
The shop-floor worker would produce high quality if only he/she would adhere perfectly to the plans in the mind of the designer (rather than what they put on paper).
The purchasing department would procure all the right materials if only they knew every material and fastener specification (which are in binders on the engineer's shelf).
The inspectors would catch every flaw that could hamper the safety of any structure if only they had the tools to find them (and were trained to use them properly).
It goes on like an ironic bad dream.

The only remedy (not a cure) is to encourage all people in the company to learn a bit of everyone's business. Yeah yeah we're all one happy family and sing songs around the campfire, but seriously, consider what a difference it would make:
The welder knows that the plate specified in the Pressure Vessel code should be A not B and is empowered to make that correction,
The designer is given complete and thorough requirements that never change during the entire project,
The planner recognizes that the installers will require special equipment to swage a fastener on the job site and orders the one that does not have a 7 month lead time,
And of course that is a pipe dream.
But if there's any way to make it better, the way is getting everyone to understand each other. What they need, what they use, what they do.

If your company tries to do it with multi-department meetings, then that's better than nothing. But what about everyone having the freedom to walk around talking to people, often? Seeing what the other guys do all day? Sure - minute by minute bean-counter productivity will make it look like you are wasting time. But that's only because you can't clock your time to the "quality control" time slot when not sitting in the official QC meeting room. If you have managers with any guts at all, then they can shield their office people from criticism for spending too much time in the shop, and likewise the lead hands can be given the freedom to talk to any engineer or designer they need to in order to resolve any problem, rather than soldiering on when they know the drawing is wrong.

Of all the things I need to do in my job, the one thing I must NEVER do is shut down communication with anyone else.

STF

RE: Quality control procedures

I was thinking "I wish I could give SparWeb two stars...', and the 'give him a star' dialog box came up twice, so maybe I did.

That's the power of positive thinking.

Mike Halloran
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

RE: Quality control procedures

I hate to say it , but this requires an outside consultant with the power to make the management and the shop floor listen. And it absolutely requires the management to buy into it.
I have been through enough Dr Deming lectures , and 6 sigma stuff to know that works when all buy in , otherwise it is a total waste of time.
One approach that works, is to set up small inter department teams, with the task of solving one problem , you decide what that is. you have to have enough power on the team to go high, and low, Management, and shop. When you get that problem fixed , pick another one. At first you get the low hanging fruit, the obvious problems , then as you dig deeper you find the stuff that is really screwing you up.
B.E.

You are judged not by what you know, but by what you can do.

RE: Quality control procedures

2
I gave spar a star for you, Mike... but now I need someone to give him one for me.

berk, I've yet to find a situation where an outside consultant is worth any more than in-house management actually doing their job. Getting that to happen is the key, and no outsider is going to convince an entrenched management style to change. A very depressing reality, unfortunately, particularly when you're stuck in the middle.

Dan - Owner
http://www.Hi-TecDesigns.com

RE: Quality control procedures

(OP)
There is a problem with getting people to go around and see what others are doing and it is encouraged all the time. They seem to get focused on what they are doing and don't realize what they are designing affects other people. I think relying too much on BIM to catch conflicts has become a problem in itself.

RE: Quality control procedures

MacGyver,
You are absolutely correct ,If Management was doing their job correctly , the OPs situation would never have happened . The sad thing is that very often when management does wake up ,and realize that they need to change, then do something about it , it is too late.
Sometimes an outside consultant can provide enough of a trigger to change a situation usually by galvanizing both the shop floor and upper management into universally hating the consultant. Who while they are doing that, can be looking at company style and culture for useless make work programs and miniature empires, together with other programs that take away from the bottom line.
The saddest part about this, is that companies very often sow the seeds of their own destruction while they are prospering and expanding.
B.E.

You are judged not by what you know, but by what you can do.

RE: Quality control procedures

Sounds like you're moving from an unorganized cluster resembling a company to an actual professional work environment, kudos! Please realize that whenever there is a significant process change many folks will either be upset or hypercritical of most everything. I put it down to human nature and have learned to ignore it. As for how projects stay organized, there are various schools of thought on the matter but it sounds like you've got the basics. Obviously project management needs to create a timeline to break the project up into major decision milestones/checkpoints/gates/etc. There needs to be proper means of organizing and sharing requirements and data, various software databases exist for this. There also needs to be proper means of prioritizing and delegating issues and their resolutions that occur along the way, more software exists for this. Then you also need company engineering and drafting standards to ensure the staff are all fairly consistent with work output. You can then get into meetings. I usually have a weekly 30-60 minute meeting to review various projects' timelines every week with project management. 60 mins/project weekly goes to resolving the list of issues and open questions and 1-2 hours goes into each project's monthly overall project management and design review. Naturally, as folks work through technical issues they will need to hold other meetings to discuss pros and cons with others.

+1 to not hiring consultants.

RE: Quality control procedures

haynewp,

I do mechanical design. I understand this, so I will stick with it for discussion purposes. When I design something, I want to generate a design layout, an assembly drawing, process instructions if necessary, a BOM, specification controls and fabrication drawings. This provides purchasing and manufacturing with the resources they need to do their jobs. I have worked with people who design something and generate a stack of fabrication drawings. Manufacturing is left to figure out quantities of the parts, figure out the sizes and quantities of fasteners and how to put it all together. If (when?) it all does not work, engineering is off on some other project, so manufacturing sits down and solves the problem. The re-engineering can be extensive. When the smoke clears, engineering does not get a whole lot of respect.

I am sure there are electrical, chemical and civil equivalents to all this. At the department level, your basic QA strategy is to do your job. Your QA, to be of any use, must define minimum standards for work done. For mechanical design, this means you hold a review and you verify that there is...
  • an accurate design layout, suitable for continued development of the product.
  • an assembly drawing showing a feasible assembly procedure. If production can some up with a better procedure, that's nice.
  • a complete bill of material (BOM), including fasteners, and electronics. Mechanical, electronics and software must chat. Production must be able to use the BOM for ordering.
  • specification controls and fabrication drawings for each and every part.
Once you have defined quality standards, the next thing you need to do is define who is qualified to do the work. Anyone who works as part of a multi-disciplinary team must be good at communicating. They must be willing to communicate. They must be able to describe their technical issues to people outside their technical specialty. They must listen to their co-workers. They must not be jerks.

If you are doing your job, which includes documentation, you have the right to complain about co-workers.

--
JHG

RE: Quality control procedures

Right to left thinking, i.e. work from the end product through all the steps in reverse order.

Identify who needs what, when, and most importantly, WHY. Make sure the next person in the chain understands the WHY not just the what and when. Then they might actually care about making it easier.

As much as everyone hates meetings, actually getting EVERYONE in the room and talking about the thing you are making is the only way to ensure you are not screwing the next guy in the chain over. If they don't know what your up to until it lands on their desk, he doesn't have any chance to make it better.

Make the big changes earlier - they cost less than trying to fix it later.

Not everyone is going to enjoy the change. Don't just highlight the positives of the change, also highlight what they will lose by not changing. This makes the argument much more persuasive.

Recognise who is 'with you' on the drive to improve and make sure they get recognition for it. Others will follow suit.

RE: Quality control procedures

One of the problems is that they may well have made quality the Quality control departments job imstead of everyone's.
All the responses here are correct but you have to develop the right culture to make it all work. The welder needs to sit in the design shop not just for a few hours but maybe for a long time(start of the project if thats relevant). A purchasing guy needs to get down on the shop floor , designer with sales etc etc. Have some multi-discipline teams to sort out quality problems, but deal with them properly. Go and have a look at what happened and why. Give some people authority to do some things, and sacrifice a few sacred.
cows.

Everybody needs to accept that they are not necessarily the most important cog in the chain and the way they do things now may not be the best way.

Regards
Ashtree
"Any water can be made potable if you filter it through enough money"

RE: Quality control procedures

Management really need to create the culture to make it happen based on my experience, creating a quality control department really means nothing unless they are supported by management and empowered with implementing change.

I've been charged with something similar in the past by management, I created some bulletproof procedures to address the issues ongoing with the culture & work flows within the company. I found despite seeing some need initially from management, that once presented with the reality of what needs to occur they fought me every step of the way because any form of quality control was so foriegn to them (they thought they had some systems, but the reality was it was all 'just in time' type stuff and living by the seat of your pants and identifying serious issues well past the point of no return).

Consequently there was not a whole lot of support from the top towards implementation, they saw it as a personal attack on the way they have always done business. Very resistant to change. Therefore people down the bottom simply saw it as being optional as they were not seeing any enforcement from people who paid their wages, they knew they should be doing it. Part of the issue is all this no matter how efficient you make it, it takes extra time. Conversely it saves time in some aspects (like avoiding rework for example at an earlier stage of a project), but this is a hidden time cost as the rework is part of your current work flow sometimes whether you release it or not. This is the hard sell in implementing this type of thing.

In the end I simply gave up because management didn't see the need for it, I eventually left in frustration. Good luck!

RE: Quality control procedures


haynewp (Structural)
Whilst what you are complaining about is a symptom, it looks like your company has a bigger problem , in that you appear to me making the transition from being an entrepreneurial to a professional company.
B.E.

You are judged not by what you know, but by what you can do.

RE: Quality control procedures

never worked in perfect conditions but what I found minimizes misunderstanding is
-RACI matrix
-'right-sized' checklists that are not too complicated or long to utilize
-highly visible issues list with problem and solution searchable

RE: Quality control procedures

The company that I work for had been taking similar steps:
  • Made several standardized procedures and checklists for inter-discipline work, work demarcation, work flow, design manuals, etc.
  • Training between different department/disciplines for us to be aware on what they are doing
  • Made a separate project management group with people coming from different departments, and they had training/seminar on the work of different departments, i.e. "General Engineering"
  • Quality control/assurance system in place (multi-level approval, peer review, lessons learned, checklists, etc.)
  • Moar training, procedures, and checklists
There are too many checklists that I suggested we make another checklist to make sure that all checklists are checked (?).

I believe it had improved the work to some extent, but the company is having problems retaining experienced engineers and the culture hasn't really changed, so the quality is still an issue.

RE: Quality control procedures

Quote:

There are too many checklists that I suggested we make another checklist to make sure that all checklists are checked (?).

Typically that's covered by a colorful high-level flow chart showing the entire product development process.

RE: Quality control procedures

(OP)

Quote (RaymondN)

The company that I work for had been taking similar steps:
Made several standardized procedures and checklists for inter-discipline work, work demarcation, work flow, design manuals, etc.
Training between different department/disciplines for us to be aware on what they are doing
Made a separate project management group with people coming from different departments, and they had training/seminar on the work of different departments, i.e. "General Engineering"
Quality control/assurance system in place (multi-level approval, peer review, lessons learned, checklists, etc.)
Moar training, procedures, and checklists
There are too many checklists that I suggested we make another checklist to make sure that all checklists are checked (?).

I believe it had improved the work to some extent, but the company is having problems retaining experienced engineers and the culture hasn't really changed, so the quality is still an issue.

This is basically the exact same scenario we have.

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