Eight Tips for Implementing a Defect Management SystemDefect Management is one of the most effective methods for improving manufacturing operations because it is so simple. Everyone understands the idea of defects, and the statistics are simple and intuitive. People understand a Pareto Chart at a glance.

But implementing a Defect Management System takes thoughtful planning. Here are a few key ideas we’ve learned over the years:

Begin with the end in mind

Before you get started, think about what questions you want to ask in two or three months, and how you’ll want to use the data. It is a great idea to come up with two or three use cases, based on past experience. These will help you think through this question. Getting clarity on this will make the rest of this process easier.

Get everyone to agree on what is a defect

Often we see people with a hodge-podge defect naming system that has evolved over time, and across geography. It gets really interesting when new facilities are added to the business, each with their own experiences and legacy naming conventions. If at all possible, bring key stakeholders together in one room and don’t let them out until they have a list of defects that meets everyone’s needs.

This can be contentious, but work from the assumption that everyone is operating in good faith. If it is contentious it is probably a sign that people care, and they have insights that the group needs to pay attention to. That is good news because it will make the solution all that much better.

Don’t make your lists too long

Avoid creating long defect lists that account for every conceivable variation of the defects. Long defect lists leave you with tall Pareto Charts. Nothing bubbles to the top. Better to start with a finite list, even if it throws a couple of the less common defects together. Some experts argue that you should keep your list to no more than seven or eight defects. That may be impractical in your situation, but short lists are easier to manage and easier for the human mind to keep track of.

Avoid a miscellaneous category

When you’re trying to keep the defect list short, it is tempting to use “Miscellaneous” as a defect category. Don’t. Almost inevitably, Miscellaneous ends up as the top bar on the Pareto. This is a situation that you really want to avoid.

Of course if you end up with a Miscellaneous category, and it always falls to the bottom of the Pareto Chart, you’re probably OK. But in our experience, that almost never happens. Miscellaneous typically ends up near the top, and you end up with useless data.

Track defects to where they are created, not where they are found

If at all possible, track the defects back to where they are created, not where they are found. This can be challenging, but you want to do everything you can to avoid creating a Pareto Chart where the top bar is “Final Test.” While it is possible that Final Test does create defects, in most organizations Final Test is just where they are found, not where they are created.

Assigning defects back to their point of origin points to what you can do to address the problem, which is the ultimate goal of a defect management system.

In addition to defect lists, think of processes and traceability

With a modern defect system like GainSeeker Suite, you’re not confined to only defect definitions. You can also record both process information (such as Machining, Paint Room, Assembly) and traceability information (operator, defect family, product family, material supplier, defect location, and so forth). Consider how you can model your business using these additional pieces of information.

Expect it to get worse before it gets better

When you first start collecting data, expect that your defect levels will actually increase for a while. This phenomenon can be disconcerting for everyone watching. Don’t panic – you’re actually pretty normal.

This is another case where what seems like bad news is actually good news. It takes a while to get those kinks ironed out, and the fact that defects are going up means that people are seeing things in new ways and you’re getting better, more accurate and reliable information.

And knowing what is really going on – instead of what you think is going on – is always good news.

Plan on change

Finally, hold all this lightly and expect that your defect system will evolve over time. You might create a sandbox (a separate user name and a separate set of database tables) to play in. The goal of a defect management system is continuous improvement. That means you’ll want and need to overhaul your system from time to time as you get better and better at reducing defects. You will probably eliminate some defects completely, and find that others need to be split into finer categories. Don’t create a rigid structure that you can’t adapt as your needs change.

Defect Management is a powerful tool

Defect Management is a powerful tool for continuous improvement. We’ll be happy to share our experience helping hundreds of companies implement defect management systems in a wide variety of industries. Schedule a call today to see how we can help.