The latest UK manufacturing statistics suggest that the foundations for a successful 2014 are underway with manufacturing output rising by 1.1 per cent, following an initial increase of 0.7 per cent in February. Guest post by Graham Earl, Exhibition Manager, Reed Exhibitions The figures, released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), revealed that UK production
The concept of zero-defects is at the core of everything we do, in development, manufacturing, engineering, operational processes, logistics and all support departments. Everyone benefits: we have less wastage, our suppliers have fewer (or no) returns, and our customers get quality products. And, incidentally, our suppliers’ other customers also benefit from quality improvements. Everyone is happy.
Kaizen: continuous improvement
One interesting side issue to the zero defects concept is that it should be largely invisible to customers. They get quality products delivered on time and as expected: no fanfares, no fuss. Of course, behind that is a detailed and carefully planned process of which they know nothing. Our approach is based on a production philosophy called kaizen, which originated – as we did – in Japan. The word means “continuous improvement” but my personal translation is “from good to great!” It revolves around continually looking for ways of doing things better, and it involves everyone from the CEO through production staff to suppliers. This latter is, of course, vital to my role in managing suppliers and subcontractors and helping them work to this Kaizen philosophy.
Muda: avoiding waste
A lot of it is to do with getting it right from the first time: this avoids (another Japanese word) muda which means waste – in particular, waste which is unproductive and lacking in value-add. In our quality information processes, we work with quality complaint forms, which can have negative connotations. However, we tell our suppliers that they should see a complaint – as we do – as free information, because your customer is telling you that his expectations were not met: a complaint that you can do something about is much better than a lost customer.
Complaints can be major or minor, but as part of the kaizen process it’s important to insist on a constructively critical relationship between supplier and customer. Open communication and ownership are vitally important in achieving the final goal of zero defects, but we have a very pragmatic and down-to-earth attitude: if suppliers can recognise an issue, they will see it as an opportunity to make improvements.
It’s a philosophy we adopt ourselves, so I like it when our suppliers and partners visit our European manufacturing sites and EDC warehouse. In this way they can experience – “feel, smell and taste” – how we work, and how seriously we take zero defects and kaizen. This openness is really important because we can mutually feed-back on things that go well – and on issues that needs improvement.
It works both ways: we’re more than happy to help suppliers to find solutions if they are having quality issues. There’s a neat story in our magazine Technology & Trends about how we worked with our packaging supplier, Smurfit Kappa Vandra (SKV), showing them how to achieve zero defects using the “8-D problem solving process” – it’s explained in the magazine. Interestingly, it worked so well that SKV extended the process across their entire plant. As I said: everyone wins.