Quality vs. Production
Window Manufacturers’ Internal Battle
by Sean A. Middleton
How many times have your heard “What do you want—quality or quantity?” “Don’t have time,” or “Let service fix it.”
As much as we have all experienced this, it does not have to be that painful. Since there is limited amount of space for this article, let’s focus on the small guys out there with limited resources and technology to tackle this problem.
Cost of quality will always be a concern of a manual/people-driven production company. It includes the cost of the rejected item to be reworked and reviewed, the cost of checking a piece of machinery to see if it is the cause of the rejected item and the production time lost reworking the item. It also includes the cost of quality control auditors.
Quality control is overhead. This department does not add value to the produced item. In my experience, the quality control department, whose main function is to audit product, develops processes with the assistance of production and usage of root cause analysis, metrics and trends in conjunction with industry standards, as a benchmark to ensure the company is producing a quality product according to those
Sometimes the standards we follow are difficult to use especially when dealing with our customers. How many of you have had issues with scratched glass? We all have of course. We have all referenced the ASTM standard on glass defects to accept or reject a piece of glass or a finished door or window. Try explaining those standards to the homeowner who is in the process of closing on their house and upon inspection of the home, finds that a door or window has a scratch in the glass. Do you utilize this standard or, to ensure proper customer service, do you bypass those standards and have the glass repaired?”
Inspection vs. Auditing
I have had a number of discussions pertaining to this topic. In a 100-percent inspection environment, it is easier to catch defects since you may have a designated person at the end of the line inspecting product. While you may think you are doing so, you are not building quality into the process. At this point you are inspecting it. You are not providing some accountability to the leaders of the production lines and the employees. Providing accountability will do two things:
• Let every production worker know that if they produce a poor quality product, they will be held responsible; and
• Move every production worker to look at the item more closely and, in a sense, develop pride in the fact that every item they individually produce is a top quality item.
Every time an employee walks into the front door of a plant, no matter what position they hold, they must wear their internal quality hat. Let’s make it a habit for ourselves when passing through the production floor on our way to a department, lunchroom or even to the parking lot on our way home. Take a little time to look at product. Inspection of a product does not require a lot of time. Picture a manufacturing company with its total staff of 400 serving as quality auditors. This is the type of environment where quality is totally supported. This is the type of environment for which we should all strive.
What ever tools or methods you use to achieve zero defects or set goals, you have to have a plan, implement procedures and follow through. All quality reports, graphs and studies must be shared.
Most importantly, quality has to start at the top. We window manufacturers have a difficult time balancing quality and quantity. As discussed earlier, quality does not have to be painful, it should not be arbitrary. It should not be “the flavor of the day” and it does not need to be an internal battle. If not utilized and bought into by everyone, it will lose your most valuable asset: your customers.
Sean A. Middleton is the quality control manager at NuAir Manufacturing and a member of the Fenestration Manufacturers Association. He may be reached at
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