3. Improve Overall Communications
In general, improving communications reduces quality audit times and builds better production system processes overall. With solid communication structures in place, there are fewer surprises and blind spots that could easily delay a quality audit, drag it on for another day, or cost you a positive outcome.
To improve communication quality across the board:
- Use an integrated document management system to build an active repository of all previous audits, your quality manual, compliance documentation, etc.
- Establish a clear chain of command with a centralized dashboard, that includes KPI’s (key performance indicators) that updated automatically throughout the day in real-time.
- Use automatic updating for specifications and process control. Be able to look at a job that was done a year ago and see what specification was active at that time, and what heat treat process was used, including who did what, on each operating step within the process, which piece of equipment was used, how long did each step take, etc.
Automate your data collection—reduce paper and human errors with no more written forms. As you improve your communications, future audits can happen more quickly because you’ve made clear steps for addressing past audit issues and you have documented the chain of responsibility.
You’ve reduced or eliminated missing information and data gaps and removed more chances of human error, causing a production—and therefore, an audit—issue. The data from each past job and audit history is present and accessible at any time, and you have a digital paper trail (rather than physical paper trail) for your production line. Communicating within this centralized hub of real-time data is the final piece.
You can streamline your decision making with comprehensive and customizable business performance Dashboards, whether they are for sales, plant performance, safety and compliance, or on-time delivery of completed Parts.
With the right QMS + MES software, your audit trail will be automated. It keeps track of everything that you need to keep business flowing and improve productivity on the shop floor. There’s no more lost paperwork or conflicting results. It automates systems to provide real-time and accurate information at every phase of the production process and keeps information together to make the audit process go faster.
Some of the advantages include:
A detailed, time-stamped, and user-identified audit trail for each document or process step can verify compliance with accreditations, certifications, and compliance standards, including ISO 9001, AS9100, Nadcap, TS, MedAccred, ITAR, EAR, etc.
There’s no more wondering who has access to critical files, who changed operating procedures, what changes were made, or who signed off. It’s all there in the digital documentation.
Paperless reporting follows the tracking, approvals, notification, and policy administration of quality documentation. It creates gatekeepers for approval and electronically tracks every interaction at every step. The right QMS + MES stores all test result data, so there is full transparency. This includes both the rest unit values themselves, rounding algorithms, and the converted units used for customer reporting.
End-to-end control—from quoting to invoicing, maintenance, production tracking, and real-time customer portal access—creates a structured audit trail to track jobs throughout the entire lifecycle of heat treat production processing. This eliminates information silos by using a fully extensible and audit compliant QMS.
Using the right software also prevents potential errors that could lead to quality problems, unhappy customers, or audit issues, such as:
- Work order specifications that are replaced with recent revisions;
- Operators who attempt to process furnace loads, or use unauthorized pieces of equipment without documented proper training or currently active certifications;
- Equipment being used that isn’t qualified (or qualifications have lapsed), which would cause the heat treat job to be done in a non-compliant way;
- Vendors that aren’t qualified for specific jobs, or have lapsed qualifications, to complete some type of outside vendor processing;
- Failing to note changes to qualifications, certifications, instrument calibration, pyrometry, personnel, or survey requirements.
The Benefits of Better Audits
Continuous monitoring and effective control and management of heat treat processes leads to better audits. Everyone from the top floor to the shop floor will appreciate a timely and efficient external quality audit, including your customers.
By speeding up your audit process and conducting a more thorough external quality audit using the information and tools available from the right QMS + MES, your business will lower your total cost of production, and send more dollars to your bottom line, above and beyond paying for the software itself.
A 50% reduction in time spent on audits results in worker-hours that can be put to use in other ways that will make you money. It saves time and frustration, catches errors faster, and makes your operation more efficient.
When an external quality audit is completed quickly with every necessary piece of information, it improves overall customer confidence and satisfaction. They will rest assured that the heat treating they’re paying for has been done right, according to their specifications. It will also enhance your image and reputation in the heat treat marketplace. When you consistently clear audits without problems, it’s a clear indication to customers and prospective customers that you take quality seriously and do what it takes to get things right, the first time.
Save Time, Save Money
Audits can be time-consuming and expensive propositions. With the proper controls, authorizations, and documentation readily available, audits can be completed much more quickly. After touring your facility, an auditor can just sit down at a computer terminal and see a fully documented audit trail of what happened on every step of a heat treat job. Any time that you save when dealing with an audit will also save you money.
Audits give clear and actionable insights into your production strategy and are a pivotal part of remaining on top of heat treating’s razor-thin margins. The flip side is allowing audits to derail those margins and negatively impact production times. Streamlining your process by focusing on these common obstacles to a fast yet accurate quality audit gives you the insights that you need while minimizing disruption. Your audits can happen faster without sacrificing insights. Automating as many processes as possible and managing your data from a single point of truth ensures that you always have the required documentation, approvals, compliance assurance information, and signoffs that you need.
If your existing system cannot provide your business with what is required, it’s time to upgrade to a system made specifically for the unique needs of heat treating and move toward a streamlined production and audit process.
Takeaway: It is no longer acceptable for business being halted or unnecessarily disrupted for lengthy audit processes.
Article provided by MTI Associate Member, Throughput Consulting – Bluestreak. Throughput Consulting provides technology solutions for total shop management. For more information on Bluestreak, visit www.go-bluestreak.com.