In order to produce quality plastics with no defects, the manufacturing process needs to begin and end with stringent quality control measures. Choosing quality raw-materials suppliers launches the process, and then we ensure our in-house manufacturing has all the right checks and balances. Once we vet and choose a supplier, we place an order and receive the materials. From the moment the shipment arrives, a strict protocol ensures quality control.
1. Initial inspection: We first look for obvious damage to the sheet or skid, but in order to inspect the material accurately, we have to use it. The moment the masking is pulled off for a visual inspection, the sheet must be used immediately and can no longer be stored for future use. That means that one or two pieces from every pallet load have to be tested to see if the material meets all the requirements. If it does, we proceed with running the whole load into production.
2. Identifying and reporting flaws: Sometimes defects appear in the middle of a production run. For example if an operator gets halfway down a pallet load of sheet, only to realize that a wiggly line is now appearing down the middle of the mirror, that is almost certainly an issue with the raw material. The report back to our raw-materials supplier must detail the exact nature of the flaw, when in the process it occurred, where the defect is located in the sheet, and what likely caused it.
With many years of experience making mirrors we can usually quickly determine the root cause of the problem. This constructive input to the supplier helps the vendor identify the root cause of the issue, fix it permanently, and get replacements out as quickly as possible. Corrective action that eliminates the problem at the level of the root cause is key to prevention of similar defects in the future.
3. Quarantine the balance of the raw material: The remaining sheets in the defective load need to be separated from the rest of the shipment. All of the finished parts that were made before the defect was caught must be 100% inspected and any defective mirrors must also be quarantined. Both raw material and finished goods are be placed in a secure area and clearly tagged with red quarantine tags so everyone in the facility recognizes right away that they are defective. The goal of the quarantine process is to ensure that no defective finished goods ship to our customer.
4. Reach resolution with the vendor: Will the defective material and parts be sent back to the supplier? Will it be scrapped? Is it recyclable? The defective batch is held and isolated until these questions are answered and final disposition of the materials are agreed upon.
Issues Are Inevitable—But Can Be Easily Solved Through Solid Relationships
It is important to note that problems with raw materials will invariably arise. When they do, the question becomes: how will the vendor handle those problems? Will the vendor properly solve the mistakes? Will the vendor offer credit if there was a negative financial impact? Does the vendor behave honorably and make good promises? Manufacturing is a business based on relationships above virtually all else, and the surest way to solve problems is to establish strong ties with trusted suppliers who stand by their work.
The four steps listed above are a summation of a meticulous process that contains more than a dozen points and protocols for identifying and dealing with nonconforming material. They key is to begin inspecting the shipment for flaws the moment it arrives, and continue inspecting it throughout the entire manufacturing process. If flaws are found, we catalogue and report every detail, quarantine the problem materials, and work out a resolution with the vendor. Most importantly, we work with honorable suppliers who take quality, no-defect plastics as seriously as we do.