Quality Scan: On-the-Job Quality Manufacturing Lessons
By JB Brown
Bremen Castings Inc.
Today, Bremen Castings Inc., a precision CNC machine shop and foundry in Bremen, Indiana, is well known for providing gray and ductile iron machined castings to customers on both a national and international level.
It’s been a long journey.
The reason that BCI, which was founded in 1939 as a family owned and operated foundry, has survived and grown these past 70 years is because of its willingness to change and adapt to new ways of doing business. We have constantly studied ways to improve our customer service, product quality and employee safety.
Recently, we created a new “customer engineering” department. Our team members in this department have backgrounds in foundry and machining so our customers can receive on-the-spot answers without delay. Our customer engineers essentially combine quality and customer service together, renewing the way we interact with our customers and create products.
Here are other lessons BCI has learned over the years about being a successful ISO 9001:2008 registered quality manufacturer:
Coding and Reporting: BCI reports production, scrap and inventory in real-time through an ERP system called Odyssey by B&L Information Systems. This allows for reduction of cost and it also ensures that we know exactly where each order is in the system. As long as we make all of our official start dates, there is no reason why any order should be late. We also organize all of our finished goods with bar codes. Forklift operators can scan the bar code and know exactly what section the product needs to be stored in, and they also know the weight and the amount of parts in each box. It helps to make our entire process more efficient, from our shipping to our storage to our customer service.
Laser Scanning: We recently began using a laser scanner for a coordinate-measuring machine (CMM) which allows full scans of our tooling or product. All new patterns that come into BCI are scanned and recorded to show how the pattern lays out on the blueprint. After so many runs we can rescan it, measure the wear, and update our customers. This actually lets our customers stay informed of possible wear-and-tear and allows them to update their tooling before quality issues arise.
Safety: Safety is the first thing discussed in daily production meetings. All safety accidents and incidents (even ‘near misses’ such as a minor slip on the stairs) require a report that is e-mailed to the entire management team. We believe that all employees are members of the safety team and we all have a role in providing corrective action when needed. All of our departments also have a weekly safety audit where they are scored from someone trained outside that department. We even go so far as to rate the housekeeping staff on their safety. And in the hot summer months, Bremen cools workers off, around the clock, with an ample supply of free freezer pops and liquid.
Training our team members. Everyone on our staff receives extensive training in their field, and they also receive cross-training so that they are aware of the steps in the entire process of production. This not only allows employees to acquire new skills and broaden their experience, but it allows them to be informed of everything they need to know that happens within the foundry and machine shop. The more information and training we can give our staff, the more empowered and skilled they will be when it comes to making choices about everything from quality to safety.
We live our policies. You know the panic you feel when your in-laws say they are coming over for an unexpected visit? You have to run around the house cleaning things as fast as you can and getting the kids to put their toys away. For some companies, audits create similar feelings of panic and stress. They have to run around fixing things and getting things in order and everyone from the supervisors to the employees are in a state of overdrive. This isn’t the case at Bremen Castings because we live our policies everyday 24/7. We ensure that this stays the case by veering from the norm: We don’t just do audits once a year. We have management review meetings each and every month on our policies, metrics and corrective actions large and small are discussed and reviewed. ME
This article was first published in the November 2012 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. Click here for PDF.