5 Steps Improve Manufacturing Quality

quality defects

5 Proven Steps

Improve Manufacturing Quality in Your Plant


 Manufacturing quality matters more than ever, and not simply because it keeps customers happy. In fact, manufacturing leaders have found that quality pays for itself — and then some. Why? Because implementing processes that generate high-quality products avoids both obvious and hidden costs of defects:

  • Rework and scrap costs
  • Warranty and repair costs
  • Discounts to retain upset customers
  • Legal costs and penalties due to product harm
  • Scrap/rework rates at manufacturing plants are approximately 5 percent (median), with approximately a quarter reporting scrap/rework rates in excess of 15 percent or higher.(1)
  • Finished-product first-pass-yield rates at manufacturing plants are approximately 90 percent (median), with roughly a quarter reporting yield rates of less than 80 percent.(2)
  • Warranty costs as a percentage of sales at manufacturing plants are approximately 7 percent (median), with approximately a quarter reporting warranty costs of more than 15 percent.(3)

In short, even minor quality problems can alienate customers, drive up production costs — scrapped product, reworked product, warranty and replacement costs — and erode profits.

Why such terrible quality performances? Perhaps high production volumes at some manufacturers make it difficult to maintain quality levels. Many executives believe that some quality problems are inevitable, merely part of doing business. That simply is not true – executives who understand manufacturing quality’s financial and human impact invest in it — building a foundation that allows employees to execute for quality. Few companies have done that as well as Milliken & Company, which has received the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, European Quality Award, British Quality Award, and Canadian Quality Award. Milliken & Company embedded systems, tools, and a culture within its operations to prevent quality problems from occurring, and, if defects do occur, the means to rapidly identify and resolve them. The result is a culture of zero defects, zero scrapped work and zero dollars spent to clean up the result mess. Below are our five key systems to reach this goal:


Standardized work

Establishing standardized processes and work procedures can prevent variations that result in manufacturing quality issues. With tools such as 5S shadow boards and job instruction sheets, frontline associates know precisely what to do and how to do it, freeing them to think about how to improve what they do. Improvements in a model area within a facility create a proving ground for standardized processes. Once target results are achieved in the model area, all standards and practices are replicated in other areas of the facility. Overtime, all processes are standardized.


Zero loss thinking

Instead of assuming that problems will inevitably occur, zero loss thinking sets perfection as the goal — i.e., perfect quality. Zero loss is difficult (if not impossible) to achieve for many production measures, but using it as a goal keeps employees striving for perfection. Over time as they incrementally reduce the number of quality problems, the gap between the current condition and perfection becomes exceptionally narrow.


Daily Team Maintenance (DTM)

Maintenance isn’t just for maintenance staff. Frontline operators can be trained to perform basic maintenance tasks — machine startup, performance checks, cleaning, lubrication, etc. — to help ensure safe, continuous equipment operation. Operators often intuitively know when a machine is running properly (or not), and can serve as a defense against minor stops or equipment breakdowns. But to leverage this opportunity, companies must train operators to handle such tasks and support them with systems and standardized procedures that guide daily frontline maintenance activities. Overtime, DTM can improve production performances (including quality) while extending the lives of production assets.


Continuous Skills Development (CSD)

Zero defects starts with educated, engaged, and empowered production employees. Every production employee can prevent poor-quality product from moving beyond their work station or area of responsibility. But to do so, they must know what constitutes poor quality. Even more important, workers must have the skills to assess why the problem occurred and how to fix it (technical and problem-solving skills). Performance Solutions encourages manufacturers to adopt standardized training processes that educate employees in doing the right things, the right way, every time — and then assess and upgrade their knowledge and performance levels.


Quality Management (QM)

Perfect quality begins with prevention, but also requires a rigorous program for detection and measurement. Adherence to a quality management system, such as ISO 9001, provides routine tracking and documentation to ensure that quality parameters are met throughout production, and that goods comply with regulatory and customer requirements. In fact, in many industries, such as aerospace and defense, the ability to verify high quality is almost as important as quality itself. The discipline of Performance Solutions quality management principles can help manufacturers meet and exceed quality standards.

Perfect quality is possible when executives and workers build a new production culture focused on zero defects. Performance Solutions by Milliken can help. We have helped more than 400 operations in a variety of industries and in over 25 countries adopt these same quality systems and practices, developing processes that ensure high quality. If a quality foundation is missing in your plant, sign up here to receive more news and analysis, and to learn more about how Performance Solutions by Milliken can help.



[1] MPI Manufacturing Study, The MPI Group, March 2018.

[2] MPI Manufacturing Study, The MPI Group, March 2018.

[3] MPI Manufacturing Study, The MPI Group, March 2018.