Standards – do they help or hinder?
Across industries, manufacturers have a common goal: Improve process efficiency while adhering to industry standards. But those two sides aren't mutually exclusive - in other words, manufacturers can leverage those standards to their benefit. By aligning their processes with the top standards, these organizations will instill a culture of continuous improvement and develop the techniques necessary for sustained efficiency.
It's important for manufacturers to resist the urge to view industry regulations and other guidelines as impediments to progress. While some standards require sweeping changes that might set back production in the short term, by and large, they are aimed at improving practices from the top down. Once certain standards are implemented with efficiency in mind, manufacturers will reap their benefits and exceed prior production benchmarks.
The standards that affect performance the most exist on four levels:
- Quality control
Adhering to best practices in each of these areas can bring manufacturers into a new realm of efficiency and success.
1. It starts with strong management
This first area is certainly not limited to manufacturing - any organization benefits from better management. But to implement better processes, it helps to have leadership that reflects best practices itself.
Part of that happens from a structural standpoint. Manufacturers should define the chain of command, recognize exact measures for promotion and contingency planning, and create explicit responsibilities for leaders and other individuals. When there is a sound, stable architecture in place, it becomes easy for managers and executives to make the correct decision. There is more transparency and better recourse when mistakes or transgressions occur.
Outside of organizational structure, manufacturers can leverage ISO standards to build better resource management, risk awareness and customer satisfaction. In many cases, manufacturers don't have these sorts of organizing principles laid out in the first place. While there might be a general awareness, or a "way they've always done things," it's important to set clear expectations that can influence action going forward. ISO 9000 standards provide a detailed guide on how to get there.
2. Commitment to safety prevents downtime
While workplace safety is something we, as empathetic individuals, should always care about, it's also something that can drastically affect productivity. For every accident that besets a manufacturer, the upshot is multifold: When a worker is injured, production in that area and by that employee halts. It may remain halted for some time, depending on the severity of the event. Often, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will investigate workplace conditions and safety protocols. If they find fault with the manufacturer, there are fines and audits to consider. It can get messy.
So it comes as no surprise that manufacturer safety standards often come as requirements, not recommendations. Still, there are those who do lip-service to safety and there are the best-in-class organizations. The latter lean on safety standard protocols set forth by industry committees, OSHA itself and other agencies that help instill a culture of safety into the company. That requires everyone in the organization to regard safety as a mindset.
3. Quality control is a cause and a result of high standards
Safety also applies to the products manufacturers create - malfunctions that affect consumers can be even more costly for a company than internal workplace incidents. Not only that, but those cases also impact public opinion, which can be a difficult thing to recover. Look at the controversy from late 2015 surrounding hoverboard explosions - bad, foreign battery manufacturing was ultimately to blame, but now the industry will have to undergo significant rehabilitation to convince consumers their products are safe.
Certain industries are more prone to quality control scrutiny than others - again, items that can result in an injury automatically fall under greater scrutiny. Still, quality control goes beyond preventing products from blowing up. On the other hand, quality control is both a byproduct of adherence to standards and the means of achieving standardization. In other word, practicing quality control might be the activity that helps manufacturers meet with certain guidelines, while other standards help bring about better quality control.
Manufacturers can start with regular audits from independent certification companies to provide an unbiased, objective and experienced perspective on how quality control practices are maintained.
4. Continual diagnosis keeps performance high
Part of the idea behind the top manufacturing industry standards is that process success isn't something companies achieve once and for all, and forget about. To put it another way, manufacturers cannot achieve performance efficiency and think the job is done. Standards help those facilities stay honest and commit to continuous improvement by focusing on processes rather than results. They assume that results follow from best practices - and therefore the goal should be to instill best practices first and foremost.
That may mean making hard decisions - taking one step backward and multiple steps forward. Taking shortcuts to help improve productivity, like ignoring safety issues or overworking employees, are short-term solutions that ultimately increase the risk for more problems down the line. On the other hand, working toward excellence from an organizations, safety and quality control standpoint can bring about continuous improvement and set the bar high.
To that end, it's crucial to partner with an independent certification group that can accomplish several things manufacturers can't do on their own:
- Provide a trusted, internationally recognized label
- Train manufacturers on best practices and standard requirements
- Provide an unbiased look at potentially harmful practices
Manufacturers' best shot at success is through adherence to standards and commitment to continuous improvement. By understanding the underlying reasons behind the standards and requirements, and leveraging their intention to align with corporate goals, companies can remain profitable, successful and compliant.