Quality Scan: Global Manufacturing Requires Global Gaging
In today's global marketplace, manufacturers are expected to deliver consistent quality wherever those products are made. Whether a plant is located in Asia, Europe, or the Americas, achieving quality requires the definition of numerous production factors while leveraging local cost advantages.
One key factor is the application of production metrology to help meet quality objectives. Modern production evaluation devices, or gages, must be robust and simple to use, yet afford the flexibility that allows them to be integrated into a plant's manufacturing strategy. Because even the best gages require installation and maintenance support, this support should be provided locally to help ensure a reliable production schedule. While the need for local support may seem obvious, actually providing it has become increasingly difficult.
In general, process and quality control teams in American manufacturing have experienced continual downsizing in recent years. Intercontinental project groups are kept to a bare minimum to control travel and transfer costs. The job is made tougher for today's lean organizations as lead times shrink. For this reason, a strategic gaging partner with local knowledge and global support can make a big difference to global manufacturing success.
To help define quality globally in their operations, manufacturers are partnering with strategic gage suppliers that can also provide the tools to monitor it.These gage suppliers must be able to address two major requirements.The first is the ability to identify and produce gages to meet the highest standards worldwide. Second, these suppliers must have experience with the type of production parts and processes at issue. This detailed knowledge gets translated into costsaving advice on how quality can be achieved in any production situation. It comes from years of experience working with a manufacturer's type of products or part family. Time and again, the benefits of this type of expertise for manufacturers has more than paid for itself in faster time to market, quality output, and warranty costs saved.
Once quality is defined, an effective measuring strategy must be developed. This step can be broken down into three categories: In-process, postprocess, and final control. Historically, few gaging companies have offered a product portfolio that enabled them to be helpful in all three fields. Working with a single supplier that can provide proven solutions in each area can be an enormous benefit for manufacturers that have stretched their own resources to the limit. Strategic gaging partners can help simplify the whole process, and accelerate the implementation of all measurements required for a production line.
Further, a global gaging partner can not only provide a wide range of gaging solutions, but is also more likely to include up-to-date technology designed to be integrated into the manufacturing system.This integration is key to realizing the very concrete benefits of a gaging investment. As part of a total manufacturing strategy, today's gaging technology will provide the ability to communicate inspection and measurement data upstream and downstream, and positively impact manufacturing quality and the profitability of the user's operation.
Understanding and providing in-process, postprocess, and final control gaging from one single source provides additional synergies. The thoughtful definition of appropriate measurement in all aspects of the production results in an intelligent measuring strategy that avoids redundancy. It can also reduce costs by using common parts and evaluation devices throughout a production system. Another benefit is the decreased training time for the manufacturer's quality and maintenance staff, and the reduction in cost and downtime that are consequences of maintaining a smaller spare parts inventory.
Really, it should not matter where a production facility is located. But when it comes time for manufacturers to ramp up production or just keep the production lines running efficiently, local support is required.When production lines end up overseas and in emerging markets, quick and competent support will help control running costs by avoiding intercontinental service calls and by helping to maintain manufacturing quality globally.
As manufacturers expand their operations worldwide, they will benefit from working with strategic gaging partners that can deliver products, services, and strategies that support consistent quality everywhere. As a team, manufacturers and gaging companies that understand the challenges of global manufacturing, and respond with a clear, comprehensive strategy, will be successful.
This article was first published in the April 2008 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine.