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Navigating Contract Manufacturing: My Journey in Quality and Delivery

Introduction

Contract manufacturing has been a pivotal part of our business strategy. While it offers cost savings and flexibility, it also presents challenges related to quality and delivery. To achieve the baseline quality and delivery performance, we planned to work closely with suppliers.  In this blog post, I’ll share my experiences and strategies for achieving the balance.

Quality Performance

The Challenge

When we decided to outsource manufacturing, we knew that maintaining product quality would be critical. However, giving up direct control over the production process was a significant risk.

Strategies for Improvement

  1. Clear Expectations: We communicate our quality requirements explicitly to our suppliers. Frequent product inspections and audits help reinforce these standards.
  2. Continuous Vigilance: Regular monitoring of the manufacturing process at the supplier’s end is essential. We identify areas for improvement and collaborate with our suppliers to address any deviations.
  3. Shared Understanding: We work hard to ensure that our suppliers understand our specific quality needs for each delivery. Transparency fosters alignment and ensures consistent results.

Delivery vs. Quality

Striking the Balance

Balancing quality and delivery timelines is like walking a tightrope. Sometimes, pushing for top-tier quality may lead to delays. On the other hand, compromising delivery schedules for quality isn’t always feasible.

Our Approach

  1. Prioritization: We evaluate each situation individually. Some deliveries warrant prioritizing quality, while others require timely fulfilment.
  2. Open Dialogue: Effective communication with our suppliers is key. We discuss trade-offs and collaborate on solutions that strike the right balance.
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Supplier Improvement: A Learning Journey

Learning from Mistakes

  1. Iterative Learning: Mistakes happen, even with the best suppliers. The key is to learn from them and prevent their recurrence. Continuous improvement is our mantra.
  2. Systematic Evaluation: We assess our suppliers based on QCD (Quality, Cost, Delivery) parameters. Regular audits and supplier rating cards help us identify areas for enhancement.

Building Strong Partnerships

Contract manufacturing isn’t just about outsourcing—it’s about building strong partnerships. By emphasizing clear communication, vigilance, and supplier improvement, we maximize the benefits while maintaining quality and meeting delivery commitments.

Remember, it’s a journey—one where we learn, adapt, and grow together.

AUTHOR

Arun Kumar V

Senior Engineer - QA/QC, Srushty Global Solutions

Certified Six Sigma Green Belt Quality Engineer with extensive experience in CNC machining, assembly, fabrication, and special processes such as powder coating and anodizing. Proficient in IATF 16949 and ISO 9001 auditing standards, with proven expertise in establishing and maintaining Quality Management Systems (QMS).

Implementing-the-Problem-Solving Process

Implementing the Problem-Solving Process (PSP) in the Engineering Environment

Leveraging the Why-Why-Why Technique

In today’s fast-paced and competitive engineering environment, quick and effective problem-solving is essential to maintaining operational excellence, driving innovation and capturing market share.  The Problem-Solving Process (PSP) provides a structured approach to addressing complex engineering problems, from identifying and defining problems to selecting, implementing and verifying solutions. By utilizing the Why-Why-Why Technique, engineers can dig deeper into issues to uncover the root causes, leading to more robust and sustainable solutions.  This method improves the problem-solving capabilities of engineering teams, ensuring that challenges are addressed comprehensively and systematically, resulting in successful outcomes for various engineering projects. “Fix it Once, Fix it Right!”

Let’s look at it with a simple case study.

Step 1: Identify and Define the Engineering Problem

Let’s assume we have designed a new electronic device enclosure.  During testing, it was found that the device overheats, causing performance degradation and potential damage to internal components.

Problem Definition:  The specifications require the device to operate within a temperature range of 0°C to 50°C, but it overheats, currently reaching temperatures of up to 70°C under normal operation

Step 2: Analyze Possible Failure Modes in the Engineering System

Failure Modes Analysis:   Engineers analyzed the enclosure design and identified several contributing root causes that gave rise to the overheating issue:

  • The power consumption of internal components generates heat.
  • Inadequate enclosure ventilation leads to poor heat dissipation.
  • Heat sink orientations and locations are not optimum for cooling.
  • Poor thermal conductivity materials are used in the enclosure.

Using the Why-Why-Whys Technique,

Continue to ask Why until you reach the Root Cause, don’t be fooled by Symptoms!

Why is the device overheating? Because the internal temperature exceeds the safe operating range.

Why does the internal temperature exceed the safe range? Because the heat generated internally is not dissipating efficiently.

Why is heat not dissipating efficiently? Because the enclosure lacks adequate ventilation.

Why does the enclosure lack adequate ventilation? Because the design did not include sufficient vents or cooling mechanisms.

Why did the design not include sufficient cooling mechanisms? Because the initial design focused more on aesthetics, noise levels and compactness rather than thermal management.

Step 3: Generate and Analyze Potential Solutions through Creative Thinking Potential Solutions:

  • Use additional heat sinks and thermal conductive materials to enhance heat transfer and dissipation.
  • Orient the finned heat sinks to take advantage of natural convection.
  • Redesign the enclosure to include additional vents for convective cooling, for both cool air in and heated air out.
  • Add an active cooling system (e.g., small fans) to supplement natural convective cooling.
  • Optimize the power consumption of internal components to reduce heat generation.
  • And, if necessary, incorporate phase change materials, taking advantage of the thermal duty cycle and PCM’s ability to absorb, store and release heat over time.
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Step 4: Solution Set Critical Parameters Optimization and Verification Testing:

Analysis led the engineering team to redesign the enclosure to include additional vents and integrate a small, efficient fan for active cooling.  They oriented the finned heat sinks to take optimum advantage of both the natural and forced air flow within the enclosure.  They also replaced some internal materials with better thermal conductors.

Sequential Validation:

Bench Fixture Testing: The new enclosure design was tested in a controlled  worst case environment to measure temperature changes and ensure the cooling system functions correctly.

Sub-System Testing: The enclosure was tested as part of a larger assembly to ensure it interacts well with other components.

Full System Testing: The complete device, with the new enclosure, was tested in real-world conditions to verify overall performance.

These tests showed a significant reduction in the operating temperatures, keeping the device well within the safe range of 0°C to 50°C.

Step 5: Implementation of Changes and Manufacturing Try Out:

Once all of the enclosure changes were successfully validated, tooling was modified, assembly fixtures updated and the new enclosure assembly was tried out in the production environment.  The production team was trained on the new assembly procedures and quality control processes were updated to ensure consistent implementation of the new design.

Step 6: The Change is Cut-In, introduced into the Field and the Performance is Monitored:

Field performance is continually monitored to confirm that the Problem is Resolved.

In Summary:

     By following the Problem-Solving Process (PSP) and leveraging the Why-Why-Why technique, we effectively identified the root cause of the overheating issue and implemented a sustainable solution. This structured approach ensured that the problem was comprehensively addressed and quickly resolved, leading to the improved performance and reliability of the electronic device.

 

 

AUTHOR

Srushty Subject Matter Experts

Henry T. Bober

Subject Matter Expert, Srushty Global Solutions

A seasoned expert in Mechanical Design Engineering with 40 years of experience at Xerox Corporation, where he specialized in Product Development and Integration, Cost-Effective Design, Project Management, Technology Development, and Product Architecture. Holding a Bachelor’s degree from West Virginia University and a Master’s degree from the University of Rochester, Henry has been instrumental in Media Handling and Feeder Technology Development, amassing 30 US and 5 European patents. Post-retirement, he founded Fast Forward Engineering, consulting for industries such as copiers, ATMs, and medical devices, with clients including Xerox, Diebold, NCR, Siemens Medical Products, Abiomed, Sycamore Hill Designs, and Impossible Objects. Henry is currently a Subject Matter Expert at Srushty Global Solutions. Residing in Fairport, NY, with his wife Leslie and their numerous pets, he enjoys Western-style horse riding, Japanese garden landscaping, woodworking, studying naval warfare history, and advocating for animal welfare.