Lessons often come in many forms. In my experience, I’ve learned that if you just stay humble and ask questions, then you can learn more than you ever imagined.
We once had a local customer that ordered some cabinet boxes and decided to have us assemble them in our shop so that the customer could then self install them. After delivery, the customer needed a little assistance in getting started so I offered to help.
After going onsite and helping, I had a great conversation with the homeowner, who turned out to be a retired quality process engineer.
I had hit the jackpot!
We had a great conversation that day which led to him eventually visiting the shop for a walk through. Long story short, he kicked me into overdrive in terms of thinking about quality and building great processes.
What every shop owner wants
In our recent article Quality: Set it & Don't Forget it, we discussed a recent failed job and what we are doing to correct it. My meeting with this engineer helped us build on what we had already learned with this fail.
Between our corrections and his input, we are building a foundation of excellent processes and quality control that produces reliable, consistently high quality product, day in day out.
Systemizing your own processes and prioritizing quality will result in three things every shop owner wants: happier customers, the ability to provide products on a schedule, and few defects, if any.
What if I told you that just changing how you approach processes and quality control could not only give you those three things but that it could significantly increase your profits too?
Let’s dive into the key takeaways I gained from our visit with the engineer.
Tips for transforming processes & quality
Here are the 3 takeaways that are transforming the way we approach processes and quality and that can transform your shop too.
- Get customer feedback
- Make ‘kits’ sooner
Get customer feedback
Customer feedback seems to be the hardest thing to get because when we finish a job we are already 5 more jobs down the road.
However, before we set or adjust our quality standards we need to establish a benchmark. We need to ask the very people that we are creating value for about the product they received.
*HINT* If this scares you a little, then you should immediately quit reading and call 5 past customers for feedback now. Whether it is good or bad, you need the feedback.
Look up Net Promoter Score (NPS) and start there for a quick easy survey. It doesn't need to be anything fancy. The customer will give you the feedback you need.
Try to get at least five as quickly as you can and don’t just cherry pick the good ones! Get a good mix so you can make an accurate assessment of where you are starting from. If you don’t know the truth about where you are starting, you can’t make a plan to get where you need to go.
Make ‘kits’ sooner
For our component business it is easy to visualize a ‘kit'. A kit would be everything that goes with a particular cabinet. Panels, doors, drawers, accessories, hardware etc. Think about a kit as all of the necessary components for one unit being all in one pile ready for assembly.
Effectively, by making the ‘kits’ sooner in the process you are gaining more opportunities to catch problems before it's time to build.
This thought can be applied to about any process. Maybe your shop struggles with getting all the information to the shop floor and that is creating a flood of questions every day or maybe there's just issues popping up repeatedly.
If there's a flood of questions, take notice. Every time there is a question, there is a flaw being exposed in the system that needs to be repaired. For example, "Where is this missing toe kick?" That problem or question has just taken someone out of their job and put them on a hunt for the elusive toe kick.
Look at these questions as an opportunity to make your systems better. Once flaws are revealed through questions, make a 'kit' in the system to make sure that type of flaw is prevented or caught before its time to actually build.
If its just issues popping up, craft that issue into a question. If you look at any process that is linear you can look at an issue as a question.
Here is my favorite takeaway from our talk. This is such a simple thought, but one I never thought of this way before.
Let’s run through an example to highlight this thought process. Your saw man cuts parts and stacks them on a conveyor to be pushed down the line. On the last sheet he finds a bad part that needs to be recut and let’s say the cost is $1.
If that same part makes it to the build area when they have the box partially assembled it will cost $10. The reason for the 10x jump is because the product is almost near the end of the value stream. It is as close to a paycheck as it has ever been. Then you stumble onto a defective or missing part and everything has to be stopped, rework done, fire it back up and continue on.
This may sound exaggerated but I assure you that every time this happens it costs the company a lot more than if it would have been caught earlier in this process.
Now, let’s take it a step further. That same job but instead of a missing box part, let's say it is a drawer. The job is late and the customer is only 20 miles down the road so the decision is made to ship it and have the service guy go fix it. $100. You effectively just spent 100x what it would have cost at you $1 to fix it at the beginning.
Simple but the implications are huge. They are beyond huge, actually. They are astronomical. Plain and simple you must push your problems/questions farther up hill and farther away from the end of the value stream.
This one point executed correctly could put your business on the fast track and ready for take off.
Watch your work pay off
Start practicing these concepts by asking your employees everyday what kind of questions they have. Then figure out how to answer them sooner in the process. Your quality going up will be a bi-product of this exercise and it will pay off in spades.
UCC provides high quality cabinet box components by following the practices in this article. How do you control quality with your processes? Maybe we will implement your ideas and write an article about it!