Let’s face it. In the fabricating industry, everyone requires flawless products, on time and at a fair price. Re-do’s cost customers time, and vendors, money. That’s why WMI has always emphasized quality…But there’s always room for improvement.
So last year Traci Tapani added new continuous improvement methodologies to improve quality. It’s working wonders. In the welding department, alone, defects decreased by 60 percent from 2013 to 2014. Overall, from 2012-2014, non-conforming materials (NCM) decreased by 24%.
As a percent of sales, in 2013, NCMs were 1.58 percent. In 2014, WMI reduced this to 1.13 percent. According to a recent survey by the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association, WMI’s quality percentage ranks in the top 20th percentile of manufacturers and fabricators.
Traci sees this as a long-term approach. “I see the changes I made as taking it to the next level. In the earliest stages we were just monitoring and measuring. We’ve now reached the point where our employees are ready for more, which is why we are working on accountability.”
How does the program work? Traci began with company meetings to explain the initiative and its increased employee accountability. As a result, everyone understood how—and why—quality would be measured.
Each project’s paperwork documents worker productivity. When a defect occurs, the employee and his/her lead and Adam Peterson, production manager, are notified, and the defect is recorded. Department leaders and/or Adam review the defect with the worker. Together they document cause(s) and solutions—which may include other departments—to prevent future such defects.
Adam sees remarkable improvements. “Now employees understand their impact on the quality numbers much better. We also look at the big picture—‘what else could have contributed to this?’ It’s not just, ‘You made a mistake.’ It’s ‘Let’s look at this from all sides.’” The results are not only higher quality, but improved morale. “People have opened up, so when something does go wrong, they know I’m here to support them. We’re talking more,” says Adam.
Luke Hatfield, second shift forming associate, and Mike Wilcox, second shift lead (forming) agree. As the new system documented more NCMs in Mike’s work, Luke and Mike strategized about how to reduce them. “Luke and I created a step-by-step routine for forming. We listed every single action we must take to successfully do the job from start to finish. With our new system in place, my NCM rate dropped by 80 percent. Now we look at each other’s ideas together to find the best ways to solve a problem,” says Mike.
This documentation and strategizing not only improve performance, they provide for data-based annual reviews. As Traci Tapani says, “It’s not only improved our quality, it’s improved our annual review process, too. It’s not fun to tell someone they’re performing below average. But if you have the data, reviews become factual and not personal. So employees view data-driven reviews as a tool that accurately measures performance while providing insights for improving. It’s good for our employees and our company.”