Quality – The final pillar of the Manufacturing Triangle

by | Jan 28, 2020

This is the final continuation post of a previous article that dives into the Manufacturing Triangle: Cost, Schedule, and Quality, as described by Scott Miller of Dragon Innovation. While the first and second article focused on strategies to reduce the cost-of-goods-sold and enforce a tight schedule, this post dives into the importance of maintaining quality during manufacturing.

I, like many other engineers engaged in product development initiatives, have been at fault for not focusing on quality nearly as astutely as engineering or design. Quality is hard to think about first. Early in Scott Miller’s career when they were tackling the first Rumba, all they cared about was engineering, and nobody really knew what quality was or placed much importance when there was engineering that had to get done. When recounting this experience, Scott admitted that they got super lucky so many times before catching on that quality will make or break a company.

“For me it all comes down to the bottom line... you and the factory will build this product, you’ll have a lot of product sitting on the loading dock (could be tens of thousands of units) and you’ll get the email: Do you accept the goods or not?”

This is a simple question with an immensely complex answer. If you accept them then they are going to leave China (or wherever you are), enter the market, and they are not coming back (or if they do come back it is going to be super expensive). So you want to get it right. But if you don’t accept them then are you going to rework them? Are you going to engage in more testing? Are you going to jeopardize missing your schedule?

Quality is all about answering this question with confidence: Are the products good or are they not good?

Instead of a final random inspection of goods (ex: MIL-STD-105), Dragon Innovation has found that the best way to answer this question is to be involved in the whole birthing process of the production of the entire product. By having feet on the ground you have visibility into minute issues such as new workers being introduced into the line at random times and even challenges workers are having with putting certain parts together.

There are always going to be holes in your net and often it is extremely difficult to know what to test for, visibility is the most important aspect here. There are many tests that you can put together throughout the production, including:
  1. Functional tests
  2. Abuse tests
  3. Transportation tests (to make sure the product isn’t damaged)
  4. Temperature and Humidity test
  5. Repetitive motion test (can a button surpass 5,000 presses?)
To conclude, quality is extremely important. It is something to plan for and be very rigorous about and will ultimately make or break a company.
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