The more technological a manufacturing process becomes, the greater the human error in that process becomes apparent. Today’s goal is to reduce those human-generated errors, even if it is not possible to completely eliminate them. Let’s take a look at why errors happen, and how we can increase precision manufacturing.
Why Errors Happen
Humans make errors for one simple reason – because they can. Humans have a natural unreliability in their actions, which can cause problems in a manufacturing process. Some systems fail to account for this human characteristic in their design.
For example, having a person verify the quality of a produced object as it comes down the assembly line will have an expected failure rate because the worker didn’t happen to catch a problem. Adding a second inspector dramatically drops the chances of a missed inspection, but it is still impacted by some margin of human error.
Instead of relying on human inspection, the process should be designed to avoid the errors found. This should be the goal of a successful manufacturing design attempting to prevent human errors. There are steps that we can follow to make this possible.
Step 1: Human Management Systems to Increase Precision Manufacturing
Company-spanning management systems should be developed that track all aspects of the manufacturing process. The system should identify and monitor process performance as part of its ongoing risk management. Modern technology design should be a natural part of the system.
Project management should be a part of the overall system since this impacts the final result. The more cohesive the picture can be of the entire process, the more integrated it all becomes. This makes it easier to manage since all of the factors are tracked by the system.
Human workers should be part of the tracking system to be able to judge the current manufacturing performance. Correction can happen only if this overview is known and is measurable.
Step 2: Training and Qualification
Training should not be thought of as how to do a job with what tools are at hand. In order for a worker to understand the impact they make to the overall process, they need to be educated on the WHY of their job.
By understanding why their job is important and how it fits with the overall manufacturing process, they will be able to see that a mistake on their part could have serious ramifications in the manufacturing process.
Training should not be limited to a classroom or online videos and tests. Instead, training should include as much on the job experience as possible. The exact conditions of the job can be difficult to reproduce in another setting, and worker response to an unknown condition could create a mistake that gets repeated every time the situation reproduces.
Only with actual on the job training can these variables be addressed and handled without leaving it up to the worker. By eliminating the guesswork on the part of the worker, a source of potential error is avoided. Nothing beats actual on the job training.
A manufacturing position should require some form of qualification before a worker can be assigned to it. Qualification should include training, testing, and a trial period of station worthiness before full responsibilities can be assigned. Proper qualification is an effective way to increase precision manufacturing.
Step 3: Human Design Engineering
The manufacturing environment design should take into account any human factors that may apply in the performance of the required task. Systems that are designed for constant human monitoring are in essence designed to fail since humans will fail in their attempt to be constantly watchful.
The mechanical layout of the process needs to be suitable to the capabilities and limitations of people. A process that requires multiple steps in a specific order needs to be designed with a failsafe system that prevents incorrect usage. Award-winning designs take this requirement into account.
A system should be designed so that mental calculations required by the human worker is kept to a minimum. Constant calculations on the part of the person will eventually cause fatigue, which will lead to errors.
The design of the system should account for the physical characteristics of the person. If the system requires a strenuous effort of the worker, it should not include delicate control operations that could be impacted by muscle fatigue. Otherwise, errors could be introduced.
Step 4: Universal Communication
Communication is one of the best tools available to reduce human error and allow for corrective feedback when it does happen. Communication should be based on a universal model, and it needs to take place across the entire system as part of the goal to increase precision manufacturing.
Groups and shifts should have an identified means of communication, and protocols should exist that keeps the communication effective and timely. Training should be established on communication, and it should be part of the everyday work process.
A line of communication should also exist between the manufacturing business and the individual worker. Every employee should know exactly what they are to do, and how to do it. A communication channel should exist in the case that this is not clear. This will help to avoid introduced errors based on a judgment call.
Step 5: Complimentary and Immediate Supervision
Supervision should exist for all facets of the manufacturing process. This supervision should complement the work being done, and seen as a helpful force instead of a commanding one. Supervisors should work to create a presence on the floor, and systematic walkthroughs through the process should be incorporated.
Supervisors should make it a habit to have pre-job briefs for employees, and it should incorporate any special instructions or concerns for the day. A supervisor should see their job as one to mentor their workers, offering correction if an error appears, and doing everything they can to increase precision manufacturing.
Step 6: Individual Situation Evaluation
A method of evaluation for an individual worker and their position needs to be established that can verify that the process is remaining error-free. The assessment needs to look at both the person and the task to determine if a change is needed.
Some processes could have a high cognitive load that will lead to errors before a shift is finished. Such a process will need to either be redesigned to lessen the load or have shorter work shifts. But this requirement will remain unknown unless some form of evaluation is in place to catch the problem.
Individual performance should also be evaluated for a given job. Human performance is often impacted by factors outside of the manufacturing facility, and this can introduce errors into the process. Individual fitness for the task should be evaluated on an ongoing basis.
By reducing human error, manufacturing increases its productive throughput while creating better products. Better products allow the creation of a better way of life. Contact us for quality products to make your work more error-free and productive.