The processes of manufacturing have changed radically to help achieve total quality. Four related process oriented notions tend to dominate the manufacturing environment: (1) group technology, (2) statistical process control, (3) zero defects, and (4) continuous improvements. While these four concepts do not fully convey the effort to upgrade manufacturing, they are reflective of the key points of managerial emphasis.
The basic idea of group technology is to design overall manufacturing work flow in a manner that minimizes material handling distances, eliminate unnecessary or unproductive movement, sequences, production steps to reduce required handlings, and focuses responsibility concerning who performs selected tasks in the overall process. So that group technology can be fully implemented, traditional first line supervision is eliminated in favor of group or team leadership. Thus, process design to focus group responsibility reflects the integration of equipment layout, material handling, and procedures and has pinpointed responsibility for high quality performance to the level of the individual worker.
Statistical process control (SPC) is a technique used to identify and resolve potential or developing product quality problems. It is based measurement of trends in manufacturing variance. The implementation of SPC permits the elimination of output quality inspection. With the application of SPC comes continued monitoring of manufacturing variance to assume that each step of the process remains within tolerance. When variances begin to track toward tolerance limits, corrective action is taken and verified as part of the basic manufacturing process. As a result of continuous monitoring and correction, the cost and quality of the manufacturing process become highly predictable.
The concept of Zero defects means that there is only one acceptable way of manufacturing – the correct way. The correct way in modern manufacturing is to assume that all aspects of the process will be in tolerance and that total quality is essential. The managerial mind set required to implement a zero defect program is significant different from one that assumes that goals will not be achieved a given percentage of the time. A program designed to do 100 percent of the time what is expected will require a far different style of managerial than one designed to achieve 98 percent compliance. Implementation of a successful zero defect process means that the traditional quality department can be eliminated.
Continuous improvement initiatives represent one logical conclusion of the total quality initiative. The idea is to introduce a program to seek out and implement ways to achieve zero effects more efficiently. Manufacturing firms are reporting continuous improvement in productivity and controllable plant costs up to 40 percent per year. The key to continuous improvement is to identify and implement innovative work concepts to manage productivity breakthroughs. The traditional perspective of the United States manufacturing firm has been a place two thirds of its overall effort into product development and one third into design of the manufacturing process. The typical Japanese and German firms reverse ratios. The traditional allocation of effort among United States firms is now being revised to assure that continuously higher levels of productivity are achieved.
The final aspect of total quality deals with the actual design of products. The traditional product design approach has been to follow a sequential path or development track. Each group of specialists, such as engineering or marketing, has been expected to perform specific tasks in sequence with the overall design process, progressing through required stages to ultimately bring the product into production. Thus, marketing’s responsibility has been to hand off the ideal design specifications to engineering which completes the blueprints, which are turned over to packaging, which designs the container and so forth. Finally the product plan is given to the manufacturing people who are expected to figure out if and how the collage of ideas can be designed into a workable product. At the end of manufacturing, the completed product is turned over to the logistics group which then must begin panning for specific transportation and storage requirements. The inherent fallacy of the sequential design approach is at least twofold.