Six Sigma Quality Improvement

Six Sigma Quality Improvement

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Achieving Quality through Continual ImprovementThere exist two troubling trends faced by the plastic beverage container division or Riordan Manufacturing. The overall results of the trends are lowered levels of customer satisfaction, and higher overhead costs. These trends are to be measured and analyzed in order to recommend a viable solution. This analysis of the process is very important to Riordan Manufacturing's strategic plan. An outline of the quality improvement for this process will be fully explained. Recommendations and basis for further investigation also accompany the analysis.
Target ProcessRecent developments have led to focus on one particular area of the plastic beverage container molding process. A marked increase in bottle rejects due to fluctuation in finished volume has lead to a heightened level of scrutiny on the process. A recent increase in the level of customer complaints due to the same inconsistency found to be inherent in the volume of the finished product. Our engineers have been directed to implement a new system by which to identify the root of the inconsistency. This will allow for the mitigation of the inconsistent volumes and provide for the most cost effective solution while maintaining the highest level of customer satisfaction.
Process DescriptionThe following is a high-level breakdown description of the blow molding process by which the plastic beverage container division manufactures the subject containers.
Raw materials arrive at storage facility.
Quality controls samples each shipment before offload occurs to ensure condition of the raw materials.
If the samples are not adequate shipment is rejected, if acceptable the raw materials are offloaded to a controlled storage facility.
Blow molding process is commissioned and started.
Raw materials are fed into the blow molder at a controlled rate and climate.
Quality control samples the raw materials as they enter the blow molder to ensure condition at time of manufacture.
Blow molding process is executed.
Final machining of the beverage containers occurs.
Quality control takes random samples to assure levels of expected quality.
Automated measuring systems measure each bottle to a finite level of accuracy.
Substandard products are rejected and recycled to the front end of the production line.
Acceptable products are moved to the cleansing areas.
Beverage containers enter the cleansing unit to be disinfected.
Containers are packaged for distribution to the customers.
Containers are shipped.
As-Is Flow ChartImportance of Analyzing a ProcessContinual development of a process requires continual analysis and adjustment. Looking at the process step by step allows for reasoning to lead the charge to demanding that the processstand up to analysis.

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The process must be continually challenged by the standards to which it is held. Specifications change, customer demands evolve, and the process must be able to adapt to these changes. A robust process can be conceived but must be tailored to allow for custom applications and stringent specifications. In the beverage container industry, the increased automation of the facilities demands more precise measurements. This precision allows for rate of the process to be increased resulting in substantially higher production. Increased production results in lower overhead costs and higher revenues.
Additionally analyzing a process allows for measuring elements to be implemented. If the measuring elements are placed at the right locations within the process, then the uncertainty of the process can be revealed. Hence, a set of contingency plans can be enacted to mitigate the source of the uncertainty. Finding the exact location of the error and exactly what the error is, will allow for the process to be improved and the overall quality of the product to increase.
Quality Assurance Program (QAP)Riordan Manufacturing already has an excellent QAP currently in place. This QAP employs two of the more modern quality systems in use today. Certification of these programs is part of the marketing strategy, as customers recognize these programs as an indication to the company operation philosophy as a whole. Not just the manufacturing process, but the management of the company. The following are descriptions and histories of the associated QAP's.
Six SigmaSix Sigma was originally developed as a method to maintain manufacturing tolerances. The name "Six Sigma" refers to a statistical method of measuring fabrication tolerances over large populations. The defective units are removed from the main group leaving a population of units that fall within a very tight manufacturing tolerance.
Originally attributed to Motorola, many large companies have employed Six Sigma with great success, resulting in better quality products, and enormous cost savings realized from design, to manufacturing. In essence, Six Sigma is used to refine the tolerances of the manufacturing process. These tighter tolerances result in an overall increase in the quality of the product. This enhances the customer experience and usually results in increase customer satisfaction. Six Sigma is also unique in the fact that the program, by nature, continues to adapt to new technology and can still be applied to the very tight tolerances required in very high speed bottling plants.
ISO 9000ISO 9000 was developed from the British Standards Institution's BS 5750. Also bread from manufacturing bloodlines, ISO 9000 was first intended to apply to the process of production and also relates well to other various disciplines within a company. With regard to whole business applications, the analogy from the manufacturing sector contends that a product is produced with the best business processes being utilized.
ISO 9000 includes a large bureaucracy that Riordan Manufacturing has managed to tame and maintain an acceptable amount of usefulness while not being overburdened by ISO 9000 staff and paperwork. The bureaucracy allows for excellent record keeping and auditing of the QAP as a whole. The benefits of ISO 9000 can only be realized upon stringent adherence to it guidelines and record keeping.
Process VariabilityIt has been determined that there exist two main influences upon the recent decline in quality of the product. The first influence can be attested to the newest supplier of the beverage containers' raw materials. The number of rejected shipments is notably higher than past suppliers'. Also the material does not seem to hold up as well under the current storageconditions. However, the drastically deep discounts provided to Riordan from the supplier make further investigation a necessity.
The second contributing factor to the uncertainty observed in the plastic beverage container manufacturing division is the residual internal stresses that remain in the container after blow molding. This inconsistency in volume is amplified when the residual internal stresses react to the rapid cooling when filled with a cool liquid. There exists new technology that can be applied to resolve this issue.
ConclusionThe issue of the lower quality raw materials warrants further investigation. The reason that it warrants further investigation is due to the fact that the new supplier has a far better price than previous suppliers. Rejection of a certain number of shipments or an occasional shut down of the process is still more cost effect over the long term. Additionally, the effects of climate on the storage life of the raw material should be further investigated. A proposed set of experimental guidelines can be provided if deemed necessary.
Residual internal stress is not new to the plastic bottle manufacturing sector. Technology exists that provides a process to relieve the internal stresses resulting from the blow molding process. The removal of residual internal stress is referred to as annealing. These "bottle annealers" are inline ovens that heat the bottles just to the moment of plasticity. At this point the residual stresses are relieved. This results in a more uniform volume that does not change with a change in temperature.
Relationship to Riordan's Strategic PlanThe resolution of the inconsistency of the internal volume of the plastic beverage containers directly effects the company's successful realization of the goals of the strategic plan becausethis inconsistency directly affects the company's revenue. Riordan Manufacturing has a goal of realizing $50 million in yearly revenue in five years. This cannot be achieved if Riordan continues to lose orders due to an inconsistent product. Inconsistency in the product provides for inaccurate overhead estimates within the customers' budgets. The customers demand certainties by which they can declare operating and production budgets. They have indicated that there exists enough uncertainty in financial forecasting without the added uncertainty of loosing their customers due to inconsistent product.
Referenceshttp://www.motorola.com, accessed January 28, 2007http://www.iso.ch/iso/en/ISOOnline.frontpage, accessed January 28, 2007
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