Wednesday, December 8, 2010

MODULAR FACTORY'S FORGOTTEN HEROES

Every modular home sales rep has had a house shipped to their builder that just begs the question..."What the H*** were they thinking when they shipped this house?"

In the long run however, most homes that leave the factory are solid, well built units that when craned into position become a great looking product. 

So who keeps these homes looking good and why are some homes shipped with obvious problems?  The answer is the Quality Control Manager.  



Over the years I toured over 30 factories and I usually ask what their quality control consists of, both on the floor and in the final stages before shipping the house.  The answer was different in every factory and I have never found a factory that the QC Manager could stop the line to correct problems.  Maybe I have never visited your factory and saw this happen in yours but after visiting plants in the east, south, north and midwest, the reality is that these QC guys and gals are the unsung heroes of the industry but they really don't have the authority that they should.

Here are a couple of examples of what I've seen over the years:

  • A factory in the northeast uses an "inside QC" to walk the line all day inspecting not only what is being put into each house but also looking for ways to improve workmanship and quality.  The line foremen work with him in developing new methods of production.
  • An after-production QC in the midwest works exclusively outside in all sorts of weather.  He opens every floor after it has been prepped for shipment to insure that the builder will receive a great home.  The day I was there it was 90 degrees outside and it had to be 120 inside those sealed modules.  With sweat pouring, he meticulously went over everything on his checklist, just like Santa looking for naughty and nice children.
  • I'm not sure if they still do this but a factory in PA took digital pictures of every floor for each house using individual flash cards.  When the house was completed, they stored these cards in the file along with all the pertinent information for the home.  If a production problem came up in the field, they simply went to the flash card and looked at the particular photos for that section while it was on-line.  This is a great QC solution.
  • A QC guy in another PA plant went over every order for special order products, unique designs and color selection sheets before the house went to the line.  He knew where each item was being installed and made sure that he was there when it was.  Preventive measures!

So how do obvious problems (missing faucets, wrong windows, shortages, etc) sometimes get past them?  One way is for factories to cut back the QC personnel on the floor and final stages.  They cost the factory money and when they are running tight, they tend to let line foremen do their own quality control.  Another reason, and this one I found in an Indiana factory, is that the QC job is given to an older production person that can no longer keep up the pace on the floor.  He was working in extreme heat and cold including snow storms and just gave each house a cursory inspection.  Nobody had trained him for the job and nobody reviewed his work.  He's probably still sending out houses with missing parts and wrong product.

I've often said that our industry needs a more professional sales team.  What they also need are more QC heroes that make the factory look good when the wrapper is removed at the jobsite and the home owner looks at their house for the first time.  This should make home owners feel good about their decision to buy their new home from you.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Coach, what surprises me at the examples you wrote about ARE NOT STANDART in EVERY modular plant.
I can tell you my plants do EVERY ONE OF THESE ITEMS. We have a separate QC department that reports directly to the GM. I know this is different than most plants where QC reports to the production mgr. That is like having the fox being in charge of the hen house. No wonder so many errors in fabrication, ship loose, etc. occur. The production mgr is charged with "getting them off the line" and bonus is paid on volume not quality. POOR POOR POOR way to operate.
Our QC mgr has the authority to STOP THE LINE if she finds an error that needs correcting and the foremen and production mgr will not make corrections. If the stalemate continues the only person that can override the QC mgr is the GM.
I will not go into all of our QC policies but they are WAY more extensive than the few you list. My thought process has always been it is cheaper to build it right than to ship problems and fix them in the field. I will say our QC policies includes purchasing and engineering as they often are reasons for failures in the system. All are penalized for any problems and all are awarded for excellence. I am proud to say quality bonus' are the norm.

Anonymous said...

The QA manager's job is to put the Service Manager out of a job.

Anonymous said...

In our plant the service manager has to walk every module before it's shipped for obvious things that could cause problems during shipping and setting. He catches one or two things in every house before it is shipped.