With Australian manufacturing facing tough economic times, some of the really hot topics today are ‘lean manufacturing’, ‘six sigma’, ‘kaizen’ and Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE). The concepts are all inter-dependent, and all have ‘quality’ as the lowest common denominator.
Quality: one of the biggest issues in food manufacturing
Every food and beverage manufacturer knows they need in-built checks and balances to ensure their product is shelf ready before it reaches the end customer. This includes the smooth flow of your product right through the supply chain. Any defects, rework, waiting times or motion times are all examples of waste or non-value-adding activities that ultimately add cost to your product — and which the end consumer has to pay for.
A simple example — and one we see a lot — is the quality of bar codes on shipper cartons and pallets. Coles and Woolworths (along with other retailers) scan-receive products at their distribution centres (DC), which means suppliers need to be compliant for the DC to operate at its optimum efficiency. If the barcode quality is poor and can’t be scanned, then the shipment has to be manually processed at the retailer’s end. This never makes retailers happy. A severe case is when the barcode is not right; this can cause shipments to be rejected at the DC, resulting in supply delay and loss of goodwill.
Another type of example we come across is when manufacturers ship incorrect packaging to the retailer and it reaches the consumer. Sometimes these errors are only discovered when the end customer opens the product and finds the “wrong” one inside. And that never makes those customers happy either!
Quality is about more than a product simply “working properly”. Quality is about meeting the needs and expectations of customers, which may include performance, appearance, availability, delivery, reliability, maintainability, cost effectiveness and price.
Using quality-control solutions is one way to reduce wastage and errors on one hand, and increase your automation and efficiencies on the other. They could be something simple (a barcode scanner on production lines to ensure that every barcode placed on an item is scannable — before it leaves your facility). Or it could be something sophisticated, like a machine vision inspection solution that can check physical products, dimensions, packaging, appearance and more.
Next time I’ll cover what tools you can use to meet the ‘quality’ expectations of retailers and end consumers.