Four Steps to Superior Quality Control on a Small Business Budget

If you can’t afford to hire a team of lab-coated quality control experts to nit-pick every part and scare your team into process compliance, you’re not alone – neither can I.

But that’s ok, because we don’t need them. Here are four simple steps to achieving excellent quality control on a small business budget.

Adjust your mindset.

Quality control is not a burden. It’s not meaningless red tape. Done right, it’s a time (and money) saver, and it benefits everyone, so embrace it. If you make it a priority, so will your team.

Find your person.

Your quality control manager should not be an outside hire. Find the person in your shop who has spent meaningful time in every department, and put them in charge of QC. The industry veteran will do a much better job of identifying issues and mentoring their colleagues through the rework process than a stranger in a lab coat ever could.

Invest in the tools.

This will depend on your industry, but here’s what we use at Kaser:

  1. The human eye (and maybe a magnifying glass). Blasted parts should look like near-white metal. Coated parts should not have any sags, runs, or pinholes. Take the time to look over every surface.
  2. Press-O-Film. We use this sticky substance on blasted parts. Simply press it on to the part, peel it off, and use a micrometer to measure the depth of the indentation. This lets us know whether the blast profile meets the spec.
  3. Film thickness gauges. I’ve blogged about this before – gauges are the only way to know for sure that the film thickness lives up to the spec.
  4. A flashlight. We use very bright ones (some people call them color lights) to reveal areas where the coating may be transparent, indicating that it isn’t thick enough. Angling the light also reveals whether the coating is truly uniform.

Get ready to audit.

If you’d asked me a couple years ago, I’d have told you to hire competent people who don’t need auditing, because audits are too time-consuming.

I’ve changed my opinion.

You can create thoughtful processes, hire talented people, train them thoroughly, and things will still trend toward entropy. Audits are the only thing standing between you and inevitable chaos. Take the time – at regular, preset intervals – to observe your team. Are they following the best practices you’ve laid out? If not, why not? Does the team need more training, or does the process itself need revision? Be open to either possibility.

A couple of caveats here:

  1. Auditing works best when processes have been written out. If you haven’t yet, take the time to create process documents, and then use them as a checklist.
  2. A good audit requires fresh eyes. Don’t ask your pretreatment operator to audit your pretreatment processes – find someone with some distance from the task, who will question everything.

Managers, the time we spend on quality control will pay off in avoiding rework. Don’t wait to learn this the hard way.

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