When employees report quality issues on your production floor, what happens to their reports?

On many shop floors, the reports are deposited into a pile of papers that never get entered into a computer. Or, if they are logged, they end up in an Excel spreadsheet that is impossible to analyze.

The defect tracking report usually looks like this:

defect-tracking-spreadsheet

This is a series of parts and a list of possible issues, with tallies to represent the most common issues by part. It’s really just a list of combinations between parts and issues, and this pattern can be seen in other manufacturing processes as well.

If you can’t analyze the data from these reports, you will be forced to rely on anecdotes and guessing to make decisions. You might need to decide whether a specific operator needs to be re-skilled, or if a part needs to be re-designed to reduce defects.

A solution to this issue would be to use an “automated defects report” to collect production issues in real-time. An automated quality report works best if you have an employee dedicated to tracking defects over the course of the day, like a quality specialist. This operator can input their data into a ruggedized tablet (or laptop at a workstation).

You can build a manufacturing app in Tulip for this defect report and then automatically store all the data. Here’s an example flow of that information:

reject-report-diagram

This will require some process changes in order to work with all members of your manufacturing team. So here’s how to plan and execute your first automated defect report in a Tulip app.

Step 1- Track Data Flow On Your Floor

Here is the typical flow of quality reports:

  1. Quality manager prints out a defect tracking sheet
  2. Quality specialist carries sheet around factory
  3. Specialist adds to sheet when they handle an issue
  4. Specialist deposits their sheet in a central location at end of day

But, if you are using a manufacturing app, it looks something like this:

  1. Quality manager updates app with common defects
  2. Specialist completes the app whenever they handle a defect

Here is an example of an app that would be created in Step 1:

quality-report-example

The date, time, and name of inspector are automatically attached to every individual defect. So the app itself needs just two screens:

  1. The name of the part that is being reported, chosen from a pre-selected list.
  2. A way to choose a defect from a pre-determined list

Both of these steps could change a little bit depending on your manufacturing environment.

When selecting the defective part, you might ask a quality specialist to scan a work order or part instead of choosing from a list. You can use a step like this to prompt the operator instead of a list of parts.

scan-barcode-step

When selecting the defect in Step 2, if there are different types of defects associated with different products, you will want to use dynamic logic to route your specialists to the correct list of defects. Fortunately, in an app this can happen without asking the user to flip through multiple pages to find the correct place to report an issue.

Step 2- Making It Easy To Enter Data

When a quality specialist spends time manually typing in a work order or transcribing a reading from calipers, time is being wasted, and the operator is getting distracted from their real job.

You can integrate devices with your Tulip app to reduce this waste. For example, you can use a connected barcode scanner to automatically add a work order number to the defect report.

If a quality specialist needs to take a series of measurements as part of their report and then manually transcribe the results, you now have an opportunity for error: the specialist could misread the reading on the measurement tool and write the wrong number.

This can even affect the way that you design the report in the first place. If the issues are hard to describe, it may be easier to use pictures with arrows rather than text.

Step 3 – Communicating the Value to the Operator

Writing tallies on a piece of paper is pretty easy for the operator. So, they may be skeptical when you ask them to use an automated tool that will log the date, time and name with every defect report.

You will need the operator’s buy-in if you want an automated system to succeed. We have seen quality leaders and supervisors accomplish this through a personal conversation.

The operator’s main job isn’t adding tallies to a piece of paper when defects occur. Instead, their goal is to improve the manufacturing process and lower the defect rate. If your team struggles to crunch the data at the end of the day, then the operator’s reports aren’t accomplishing the goal.

So, you can share the ways that the new automated app will make their hard work more helpful to the whole team.

Step 4 – Choosing Data To Analyze

Tracking defects in your manufacturing environment creates some pretty straightforward analytics opportunities.

Common Defects by Part: Perhaps your process encourages certain errors on the production floor. Or, maybe you need to redesign your product to make it easier to manufacture. If you dig into defects for each part, you should be able to learn which station are creating defective parts. You can turn the overall defect rate into a series of more specific issues.

Defects Trend Over Time: Let’s say that you are making adjustments to your products or process. You will want to see a before/after picture. Or, if you are spending money on re-educating operators, you will want to see the impact on quality. You can graph this data over time to prove the ROI.

Example- defect rate over time

Common Hours When Defects Occur: Perhaps operators are losing focus early or later in their shift. This could be a sign that your product needs some simplification, or you need to invest in a few tools to make their jobs easier.

Step 5 – Sharing Data Throughout Your Organization

Quality data impacts multiple departments. Members of the finance team need quality data so they can project expenses and revenue. Product team members need quality data when they want to evaluate the impact of their product designs on manufacturing.

In order to share with them, you can choose:

  1. Emailed reports
  2. A real-time dashboard
  3. Printed charts
  4. Integration with an ERP system or database
  5. Real-time alerts

You can even choose different means of reporting for different members of your organization. An executive may want to view high-level data on their phone while they are traveling, while a quality manager may want a daily summary via email.

How To Get Started

You can build an automated defect report in Tulip for free. Here’s an example of a form that allows quality specialists to add detail on each defective part.

defect-report-step

You can build the app yourself, and then share a read-only version with operators. Once operators start using the app, you can share data with executives and other engineers.