How to Reduce Defects in Manufacturing [ 2023 Edition]
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In 2023, manufacturing defects remain a pressing issue for businesses. There have been several cases worldwide where companies have witnessed product defects that cost them dearly.
Whether it’s food, automobiles, or consumer electronics, manufacturing defects can severely harm a company’s reputation and finances. According to the most recent “U.S. Product Safety And Recall Index” report by Sedgwick, manufacturing defects are the leading cause for product recalls in 2023 through the month of March. The report shows that in the first quarter of 2023, there were almost 5% more medical device recalls than in the last quarter of 2022. These recalls affected a lot more devices, with the total going up by over 34% to 83.3 million units.
These numbers are scary and clearly elaborate on the need for quality control. In this blog post, we will delve into the art of reducing defects in manufacturing factory operations and how it can be a game-changer for your business.
What Causes Defects in Manufacturing?
Manufacturing defects are mainly caused due to errors in the creation of a particular unit of a product that cause it to not meet the quality standards the product is designed to meet. As per stats, 73% of the customers related their experience with product quality. Therefore, it is crucial for manufacturers to drill down the key cause of the defect.
Here are some primary causes of product defects in manufacturing:
One of the primary causes of defects in manufacturing arises in the design. Design defects can be due to an issue in some material, chemical or process used to produce a product. An example of this can be the use of incorrect material in making charging or AUX cables.
Though manufacturers take a calculated risk to try the material, it may become a defect if the product fails in the customer’s possessions. This may look like an intentional thing, but it is not. A real-life example of this is the Apple iPhone 15. The phone has a titanium body that has questioned its durability.
A careful insight of the design team is necessary to ensure optimum design quality.
Defects in products are not always direct. They can be indirect, too. An example of this is marketing defect. The products could be of fine quality. However, the way they are marketed can make them defective for your customers.
Some products in the market are marketed in an incorrect way by the manufacturers. For example, for a cleaning chemical, it should be described how to use it and which material can be cleaned, or it may cause damage. On improper use, it leads the customer to think that the product is defective. Hence affecting customer experience.
Such products should also have warning signs on them for customer guidance.
An example of such a scenario is Frosted Mini Wheats by Kellogs. The company claimed that their product increased attentiveness in children by 20%, which was not true. The company ended up paying a $4 million settlement. The ads were also stopped.
In the manufacturing process, there can be several causes of defects, and most of them are unintentional. It can be due to human error, machine malfunction, frequent process changes, etc.
As these defects may go unnoticed along the entire production line, it can lead to several operational challenges in the end, like product recall from the market, extra production or rectification costs, dipping customer retention, etc.
Therefore, manufacturing processes should be empowered with technologies like AR, 3D printing, and ERP. AR for quality testing, 3D printing for prototyping, and ERP for automating routine tasks.
Human error can cause 80% of quality defects in manufacturing. But, humans are not the only weakest link in the process. Several environmental factors lead to product defects, like humidity, temperature, and other environmental aspects in the plant.
Therefore, it is necessary to check the machinery and its data regularly. IoT sensors can be used to capture and analyze such data from the machines.
Human error is one of the primary contributors to defects in manufacturing. Therefore, without any proper training, it will be a great risk to land new workers on the factory floor. Whether it is machine assembly, repair, maintenance, or remote assistance, workers must be trained to handle tasks.
Not only the new workers but the older staff should also be trained on the new technology-backed machines.
What Are The Various Types of Defects in Manufacturing?
Before we answer the question, How to reduce defects in factory operations? It is necessary to identify the type of defect in the manufacturing process. As of today’s time, there are several types of defects in manufacturing.
Minor Manufacturing Defects
If we talk about minor defects, they go unnoticed by the manufacturers or their staff on the floor. Usually, minor defects do not affect the functionality of the products. Therefore, it is less likely that you will receive a complaint from the customer.
Some examples of minor defects in a product are:
Scratches: Scratches and minor blemishes on the surface of products made of plastic or glass are classified as minor defects. These defects often go unnoticed by the manufacturers.
Inconsistent Labeling: There are labels on each product today, especially food products. If there is any labelling inconsistency like typos or misalignments in the non-critical information, it is a minor defect as it does not impact the product quality.
Smudges or stains: While packaging products, it is possible that some smudges or stains, like finger marks are left on them, especially on glass products. As these marks can be cleaned without affecting the structural integrity of the product, these defects can be classified as minor.
Major Manufacturing Defects
Major defects in a product can render it slightly useless for the customers. These defects are the ones that may not be caught by the manufacturer, but they are definitely pointed out by the end users. This may result in product returns and unnecessary hassle for the producer.
Here are some examples of major defects!
Structural damage: These damages are in the product’s structure, like cracked glass or bent frame of the product.
Electrical defects: The defects in the internal wiring or electrical components of a product are also major defects.
Contamination of the product: Contamination of products or the presence of foreign elements in the products like food comes under major defects.
There is a very slight difference between major and critical defects. Unlike major defects, where products may not perform slightly as intended or may still have some functionality, critically defective products will be of no use at all. A critical defective product can even harm a user.
Here are some examples!
Chemical defects: Products like skincare or food products that may cause health issues to customers can be classified as critical defects.
Broken defects: Products that are entirely broken and useless to the users are critically defective.
Well, the impact of quality defects can change the way customers perceive a brand. There are several examples to consider, including the brand Samsung. The worldwide popular smartphone and consumer electronics brand was in big trouble in 2016.
The brand recalled over 1 million Galaxy Note 7 smartphones from the market, considering its harmful effects, including burns and fire hazards. The defects in the lithium-ion battery cost the brand around $10 billion.
The first effect that a business can witness due to quality defects in a product is downtime. For instance, if the product has defects in dimensions or structure, there may be a machine malfunction.
For example, if a machine is experiencing abnormal vibrations, it may cut the product unevenly, leading to differences in dimensions. Therefore, it becomes necessary to repair it. The repair and maintenance of the machine will require the brand to shut down the operations, leading to downtime.
Bad Customer Experience
Customer experience is one of the most crucial aspects that every business should keep paramount. If we talk about product defects, they can significantly affect customer experience.
As per stats, 30% of online sales end up being returned. This is almost 3.5x more than compared to brick-and-mortar sales (8.89%). The top causes behind these huge numbers are defects, customer dissatisfaction, and shipping errors.
If we study the customer experience stats, 73% of customers relate customer experience to product quality.
Decline in Brand Reputation
In the age of social media and lightning-fast internet, any news can travel at remarkable speeds. Therefore, if any of your products becomes defective, the news about it can travel worldwide in no time, tarnishing your brand reputation significantly.
In such a scenario, a brand has no choice other than to recall its products from the market. There are several examples to support this. A recent one is the Apple iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max.
A dip in productivity can be a deal breaker for any business. Stats suggest that lost productivity costs employers $1.8 trillion every year. With the production of defective products, your business may miss delivery deadlines and the demand for rework increases. This directly boosts lead time and, in the end, reduces customer satisfaction and ROI.
More Labor Time
Connected to low productivity, defective products cannot be discarded in all cases. In some cases, like metals, they can be remolded after correcting the defects. Employing your workers to produce the same products adds up to more labor time that is not productive. Thereby affecting the efficiency of the production process.
In the end, it is obvious that if your defective products reach the customer, they may not purchase from you anymore. Statistics suggest that a customer is four times more likely to defect to your competitor if the problem is related to the product. And if this happens, your return on investment will be at stake.
How to Reduce Product Defects in Manufacturing?
The way we see it, the cost of product defects in manufacturing is super high. In today’s brilliantly connected world, one small product quality defect can destroy a business’s market image.
In light of this, strict methods, strategies and technologies are required to monitor the production process and handle the defects.
Define Quality Standards
Before you can reduce defects, you need to set clear quality standards. Understand what defines a defect in your specific industry. These standards will serve as your benchmark for improvement. However, only establishing standards want does the work. You need to ensure that everyone in your manufacturing company adheres to those quality standards.
Collect and Analyze Quality Data
In order to reduce defects, you need data. Collect and analyze data to identify patterns, trends, and recurring issues. This will help you pinpoint areas that need improvement. Identify the time since those defects appear and what made them occur. Understanding these patterns will make sure you don’t reinvent the wheel every time the product gets manufactured.
One of the key things to do to reduce product defects is to automate tasks. Almost every manufacturing business has some routine tasks that are handled by humans. These tasks can be tool cutting, material handling, drilling, picking, and packaging.
To ensure that the manufacturing process produces super fine products, these tasks need to be automated. You can automate the inspection part, too. However, some sort of human intervention is necessary.
Introduce an Interactive Training Program
As human error is the primary cause of product defects, machine downtime, etc., it is necessary to provide appropriate training to manufacturers. Just like Boeing uses AR and VR to cut 75% of training time and boost manufacturing speed, you can also integrate AR training solutions into your production process.
It will help your staff learn better and faster, ultimately leading to zero product defects.
Frontline workers are like human sensors in manufacturing. They can spot quality problems, but fixing them is often a slow, manual, paper-based process. This means less data, delays, and no feedback for workers.
Create a workforce culture, where workers can have access to device-agnostic digital tools along with curated knowledge.
Level up the Repair and Maintenance Procedures
Let go of the traditional ways of repairing and troubleshooting the machines. Empower your remote technicians with smart devices and glasses. With advanced AR remote assistance software, you can let your technicians fix issues seamlessly by interacting with remote experts via video assistance.
Porsche is the brand that uses the technology.
Impart technologies in the manufacturing processes like 3D printing, AR, VR, IoT.
A Manufacturing plant includes a lot of minor processes. If you want to make these processes faster and smoother, integrate technologies like AR, VR, IoT, etc. AR can be used to ensure quality as an AR overlay of the product can be superimposed on the actual product to test its quality accuracy. If there are any defects, they will be detected here.
IoT can be used to capture live performance data from the machines, helping in ensuring smooth operations with no downtime. Furthermore, technologies like AR and AI can help bridge the gap of labor shortage in manufacturing by efficient training of workers
To make them more efficient and effective, invest in AI.
Digitize Operations and Reduce Production Defects with Plutomen
In conclusion, reducing defects in manufacturing is not just a goal; it’s a commitment to excellence. It pays off in happier customers, a stronger brand, and lasting success.
Digitizing and standardizing quality work instructions is the key. It ensures compliance through a clear quality management system, granting workers access to precise procedures and expert guidance. This maintains standardized task execution, reducing production floor errors and cutting down on rework.
To refine your manufacturing methods, you need the right tech. Plutomen’s connected worker solution simplifies and optimizes your production and quality processes. Contact us for a live demo today and see why manufacturers are choosing Plutomen to digitize their quality control checklists for improved efficiency.
Common types of product defects in manufacturing include Design Defects, Raw Material Defects, Visual Defects, Functional Defects, Assembly Defects, Construction Defects, Electrical Defects, Harmful Chemical Defects, Printing or Packaging Defects, and Marketing or Sales Defects.
The major causes of manufacturing defects can be categorized into Design Defects, Manufacturing Defects, and Marketing Defects. Design defects result from faulty designs, manufacturing defects occur during the production process, and marketing defects relate to how a product is marketed to consumers.
Reducing manufacturing defects leads to increased productivity, lower overhead costs, better time and resource management, greater customer satisfaction, higher return business, fewer complaints, improved company performance and reputation, increased product quality, increased productivity, and lowered downtime.
Excess manufacturing defects can negatively impact a company's financial cost, reputation, and consumer trust. Product defects that reach consumers can result in complaints, product recalls, and damage to a company's reputation, especially in the era of social media.
Companies can reduce defects in manufacturing by implementing strategies such as proper quality management, maintaining a positive work environment, aiming for continuous improvement, investigating solutions for every issue, embracing technology and automation, focusing on compliance, gathering employee feedback, monitoring progress, upholding maintenance schedules, and performing testing to ensure product quality.
Chirag brings with him 15+ Years of experience in Digital Transformation, and IT Leadership. At Plutomen, he holds deep experience in business with a track record of customer-centric approaches helping them build business transformation.
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