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How to solve your China production problems

By Renaud Anjoran

As I wrote many times in past articles, it is difficult for most Chinese organizations to improve quality. And yet, simple tools have been widely known for several decades and can help greatly with improvement.

Amazingly, most Chinese quality managers, be they working in a factory or in a procurement office, are unable to point to an example where they applied a proper root cause analysis, implemented corrective actions, and got positive results.

In several instances I have coached a quality engineer or a quality manager to do just this. I gave him/her a template to fill out, as well as the required training in how to use that template, and it has been quite helpful. In this article I am sharing two templates:

• How to CORRECT a problem in the short term

• How to implement CORRECTIVE ACTIONS to prevent a problem from coming back over and over.

 Both approaches are necessary. Grasping the difference between them is important.

 CorrectionCorrective action
When to use it?A batch of products is found to have problemsA problem was detected (usually a quality issue).
ObjectiveMake that batch acceptable for shipment.Make sure a problem does not happen again in the future.
Acts on…ProductsThe factory’s systems and processes
Time horizonQuick! Ship in the next few daysLong term improvement of systems and processes
Needs training?Not muchYes (most people are very bad at identifying root causes)

 

How to implement corrections and maximize the chances that the problem is fixed? The process to follow is relatively simple. 

StepWhat to do?
1. Clarify the ProblemWhat is the problem, how was it found and with what method, etc.

Make sure people working on the process know about this problem. If the same problem keeps happening in production, should they stop production?

2. Think of Correction(s)What can be done now to make this batch acceptable? (Examples: rework, sort and scrap…)

Get the opinion from the production staff. Do you see risks in the method they are proposing?

3. Implement Correction(s)Are they doing something to make this batch acceptable? If not, do they promise to do it soon? Note what you see and what you are told.
4. Verify ResultsAre correction(s) well applied?

Do they have an impact on the products? Are you finding an improvement? Detail your method and how many samples you checked.

 

How to implement corrective actions and maximize the chances that the problem won’t come back in the future? The process includes more steps and it can take quite a long time if the problem is complex. But it is the basic process that drives substantial and sustainable improvement.

StepWhat to do?
1. Clarify the ProblemWhat is the problem, how was it found and with what method, etc.
Should more data be collected?
2. Break Down the ProblemAnalyze your findings. Is this due to only 1 problem? Or to several problems?

Use a tree diagram and/or a Pareto chart if appropriate.

3. Set a TargetWhat level of improvement do you (and the production staff) think is sufficient and realistic?
4. Analyze the Root Cause(s)Observe the process, the components, the products, etc. carefully. Ask the people who worked on the process for their opinion.

What is/are the root cause(s) of the problem?

Use a fishbone diagram if appropriate. Or use the flow chart that can be found here.

5. Think of Corrective Action(s)For each root cause, what should be done to avoid this problem in the future?

Make sure to address causes at the root and to get the opinion from production staff.

6. Implement Corrective Action(s)If the factory agrees, have them apply the corrective action(s). Otherwise, have them promise to do it later at a certain time.
7. Monitor Results and ProcessAre corrective action(s) well applied?

Do they have an impact on processes? Are you finding an improvement? (Compare to target in step 3.)

8. Standardize and CongratulateIf step 7 is positive, is the factory ensuring that the corrective action(s) will always be applied in the future?

If they have done a good job, say thanks to the team who did it.

But let’s be realistic. If the person filling out this form is “moving paperwork” or is not trained in the basics of a root cause analysis, few good results will come out of this process.


Renaud Anjoran has been managing his quality assurance agency (Sofeast Ltd) since 2006. In addition, a passion for improving the way people work has pushed him to launch a consultancy to improve factories and a web application to manage the purchasing process. He writes advice for importers on qualityinspection.org.

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