Supply chain Variations beyond the manufacturing facility Part 2

Before a product is sold to the end users, the product must be stored along the supply chain in warehouse which could induce product failure. The usual types of failures which are associated to storage in warehouse are:-

1. Storage environment could cause deterioration of the part
After the products leave the factory, there is almost no consideration being given on storage environmental requirement esp. in full assembly consumer product.  Manufacturers tend to focus only on the storage requirement of whole assembly and neglect that some components in the assembly could be very sensitive to ambient temperature/humidity/sunlight.  Normally parts which are sensitive to environment are chemical/color base component such as battery, capacitor or plastic resins etc. 
Another chemical base material which is often overlooked is adhesive film which use for labels or protective films.  Manufacturer would normally source the cheapest available label with poor quality adhesive film that will deteriorate very fast.  The consequences would be label will not attach and leave a sticky stain which is very difficult to remove.  Ironically, many suppliers fail to find the source of the sticky stain.  They never thought it comes from the harmless sticker!

2.Control of short shelf life material
Control of expiry date for short life component along supply chain is often neglected by manufacturers.   Some electronic products derive from chemical materials such as solder paste, battery cell have short shelf life that need to be controlled.  There was a case where a computer peripheral supplier needs to scrap parts  which expired while storage in distribution chain warehouse because the planning system did NOT take into consideration of shelf life of part in a compute system.  Worst still some of the expired part had been to send customer which cause bad customer experience. 

3. Handling of parts in external warehouse
Many would have agreed with me that a lot handling damage of are from external source such as transportation or cause by warehouse during storage.  There are not many organizations that bother to track the handling damages cases from external warehouse set up by logistic company.  I have known cases where external warehouse management would request for extra packaging material to replace damage packaging material.  If the packaging damage is severe, then the content could be damage as well. This again is an unseen quality issues.

Even if the product manages to make it safely to the consumer, this does not mean there will not be further quality problems.  End user or consumer could be the contributor of variation beyond the manufacturing facility.  When I was working for a computer company, we have to establish a defect category for customers induce damage.  Examples of customer induce damage are physical damage due to mishandling, spillage of drinks to the system keyboard etc. 

Hidden variation beyond the manufacturing process

By now, some of my readers are wondering if there is any good solution to address those potential quality issues which happen beyond the manufacturing facility.  The answer is yes.  The most effective tool would be Failure Mode and Effect analysis (FMEA) from design to the process outside of manufacturing facility.  FMEA is a technique use to predict potential failure or risk related to each process step follow by having mitigation plan to address the risk identified.  It must do by a team who are expert in product, quality management and process.  Most of the organization limit the FMEA to manufacturing process and had never bother to setup a system which includes human resources which are capable to establish FMEA beyond manufacturing.  In fact a lot of people are not clear on the process flow after the product leave the factory much less of creating an effective FMEA to address risks along the supply chain.  Adding insult to injury, most the design FMEA never venture into end user realm to understand how end user deploy the product. 

Variation beyond manufacturing facilities is broken link between producer and consumer and it is a gray area.  Most organization did not put enough focus to control variation from process beyond manufacturing facilities throughout the supply chain.  As a consumer goods provider or manufacturer, the accountability for quality part does not end when the product leave the factory door.  If we recall the definition of quality in my earlier articles, it also means consumer is able use the product for its intended function beyond warranty period.  Therefore organization should think out of box beyond manufacturing facility as all it takes is for very small part as harmless as label sticker to fail along the supply chain. This could lead to an organization to lose a customer.

Supply Chain Variations beyond the manufacturing facility Part 1

All the process input (4Ms, 1E) variations except material which I have wrote about for the past few months are confined to the manufacturing vicinity.  Most of the products get VIP treatment during their product life cycle in manufacturing facilities.  All people involve in the transformation process are taught to handle the product with Tender Loving Care and sometimes there are custom made carrier to transport product  in production floor.  However there are not many thoughts had being given to the external factor which can contribute to the product quality.  As quality engineering professional for the past 30 years,  I have resolved more quality issues related to the root cause contributed beyond the manufacturing process than root cause due to manufacturing process 5Ms. 

There are 3 major source of variations beyond manufacturing facility :-

Variation beyond manufacturing process
Main contributor
Major issues
Before product is made
After product is shipped before solde
Logistic Transportation
Handling damage
Shelf life expire
Product changes
Easy to damage
After product is being sold to consumer
Poor manufacturing control
Handling damage

Product must be designed before it can be made into reality. Design of the product should not only focus on ground breaking feature which will delight customer,  it must also take into consideration whether it can be mass produced with realistic specification to get consistent good quality product. The design must be robust enough to withstand handling throughout the supply chain before reaching end user.  The major culprit for quality issues is poor design.  No matter how well a manufacturing process is controlled, it can never compensate for the poor design of a product.

There are not many thoughts being put in to what happen to the product after it leave the manufacturing facilities.  Definitely the product will not get the VIP treatment it is getting in the factory.  Logistic company who knows about quality engineering hardly exist,  there will be a uncontrolled process input exist in transportation process and storage.  All those uncontrolled process inputs will potentially impact the product such as damage packaging and parts.  The most common action to mitigate the risk contributed by transportation is packaging design to protect the goods.  A good protective packaging design should be a basic requirement,  however it should not be the only mitigation plan. 

For some companies  facing chronic  issues contributed from product movement thru supply chain,  it is advisable to set up a dedicated team to work with the logistic service provider.  This would include data collection to track the current issues which serve as quality metrics and use quality planning principle to minimize issue.  Design of experiment methodology can be used for this purpose as well.

Manufacturing facility within an organization is the visible tip of the iceberg  and the supplier chain beyond the manufacturing facility which hidden underneath could be a major contributor of quality issues and waste.   More to be uncovered in the next article.

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