Whether they come in the form of customer complaints or failed quality checks, quality escapes can have a major impact on your company’s bottom line: directly through the cost of materials and labor in the reworking process — and indirectly through the loss of customer satisfaction and trust.

Plant managers in every sector strive to prevent scenarios in which defective products leave the factory or finished products go through constant rework. But for luxury goods manufacturers, preventing escapes is even more critical.

After all, some unique characteristics of luxury goods manufacturing are the costly materials involved in the production process and the high-mix, low-volume production line. Product rework wastes resources, slows down the production line, and delays releases.

On top of that, it's particularly critical for luxury goods manufacturers to maintain a reputation of producing high-quality products. In this sector, anything short of perfection poses a risk to retaining customer trust and satisfaction.

With a 76% increase in the cost of raw materials, looming supply chain disruptions, and a changing workforce, luxury goods manufacturers are under more pressure than ever to reduce scraps, waste, and reworks — while also strengthening their customer base. In the journey to achieve operational excellence, a simple first step is developing a strategy to prevent quality escapes.


How Do Quality Escapes Happen in the Production Process?

There are two main causes of escapes. The first is a quality issue in a manufacturer's production line — and the second is a lack of material and production data to detect and mitigate these quality issues in real time.

Quality issues occur in your production line when your workers follow inconsistent processes and turn out variances of the same product. This is extremely common in luxury goods manufacturing — where digitization is still low and operators rely on paper-based instructions, which are slow to update. Due to the high degree of manual labor involved, operators sometimes keep their own version of instructions. They may learn a certain process from the person sitting next to them or the one who trained them during onboarding, and then they may pass this set of instructions on to the next operator when it's their turn to conduct the onboarding. A lack of control and standardization of work instructions breeds inconsistencies, limits visibility, and circumvents process improvement efforts.

Another reason why escapes occur is the inability to detect quality issues early on, most commonly due to a lack of operational and material tracking data. Without digital tools, operators go through the inefficient, error-prone process of recording production data manually. The lag between data capture, transfer, and analysis eliminates any opportunities to detect quality issues in the moment without the involvement of a quality-control role. On top of that, the limited amount of production data prevents process engineers and plant managers from identifying bottlenecks and hot spots for quality issues in the production line — rendering them unable to make the much-needed process adjustments in time.

Unlike many other sectors, luxury goods manufacturing has a highly manual production process. After all, it's the handmade quality that attracts buyers and justifies the premium price. While manufacturers need to maintain the human element in their production process, they also need to solve the challenge of inconsistent quality and late detection of defects. By adopting digital tools such as digital work instructions, luxury goods manufacturers can start building human-centric operations in which technologies serve to augment their employees’ skills — enabling them to work faster, better, and more efficiently.

Error-Proof Production With Digital Work Instructions

Digital work instructions are the most efficient way to keep your manufacturing practices standardized and up-to-date. Unlike paper-based instructions that are prone to errors and loss, dynamic instructions can easily sort out your new sequences — and ensure operators are always seeing the latest tasks.

Digital work instructions simplify instruction management in high-mix environments like luxury goods manufacturing. They eliminate the need to manually arrange tasks for each build — and instead allow you to create a ‘bank’ of tasks, pull them into sequences, and work up to building your final product.

With the help of visual indicators, such as rich media materials included in the work instructions, operators have more references to complete their build and a better chance of catching defects during the work process.

Digital work instructions also work as an in-line quality check for operators. Automated data capture and processing means your system can verify that the tasks have been completed correctly before moving on to the next step through integrated hardware, such as a barcode scanner or digital scale. This will allow manufacturers to truly error-proof their operations.

A frontline operator using a digital workflow to guide product assembly.

Identify and Mitigate Quality Issues With Full Traceability

Automated data capture with digital work instructions also provides another layer of error-proofing by creating a combined source of truth throughout your multiple systems. No more inconsistent production and materials data; connected machines eliminate data silos and reduce data entry burden on humans. Moving away from manual data entry with the help of devices such as scales, sensors, and machines ensures that the right data is captured at the right time — providing full traceability for any audit or root-cause analysis.

Full traceability also means plant managers can identify where and when actions take place — allowing them to catch any quality bottlenecks on the shop floor. This is critical to learning how errors occur and what changes need to be made to prevent such errors from happening again.

Traceability from raw materials to finished products also opens up opportunities for operators to get involved in decision-making. With data readily available, operators now have another tool to communicate with both plant managers and system engineers — and propose any improvements to existing processes.

A citizen developer building an application for operators.

Replacing paper with digital work instructions is the most popular use case of digital tools in luxury goods manufacturing, but it is only one of the many apps that can help up-level your production line. When built on a single operations platform, a system of apps can connect machines, humans, and systems to augment your workers’ abilities; increase productivity and efficiency; and most importantly create a continuous improvement loop within your operations.

In this type of environment, your workers remain at the center of any digitization effort — they are both the drivers and users of technology, and systems are built around resolving their most critical pain points. Free from the burden of manual data entry, frontline operators can engage in more critical, impactful tasks that drive process improvements.

Achieving Operational Excellence in Luxury Goods Manufacturing

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