Can quality be determined by examining the environment of the facility manufacturing the product? It seems like the two are unrelated, but, after evaluating hundreds of facilities, quality seems to be proportional to the environment of the manufacturing. By this, I’m not saying that brand new plants make better products—that’s not true. The environment I am talking about involves the overall surroundings, settings, and especially the atmosphere of the truss plant. Even more esoteric, the culture of the facility is a great indicator that the plant manufactures quality products.
In order to discuss this concept further, we need to clarify two terms that are used almost interchangeably: Quality Assurance (QA) and Quality Control (QC). While these are definitely related, the terms are not interchangeable. The difference is: QA is the process and QC is the product measurement. When we are talking about QA, we are talking about culture. While the QC procedure helps the company make quality products, it is only part of the story. It is the QA that ensures products are meeting the demands of the industry.
The four steps in a solid QA program are Establishment of Standards, Measurement of Actual Performance, Comparison of Actual Performance, and then ultimately Corrective Action.
Establishment of Standards
Most plants in the US rely on the Standards developed and referred to as the ANSI/TPI 1–2014. Quality is discussed in Chapter 3. It provides a process and standard for measuring quality. When quality is discussed with plants that do not follow the TPI standard, they almost always state, “but we are building a quality product.” Even so, with further discussion, it becomes apparent their program lacks standards, measurement, and inspections. Without these elements, a true QA program is not possible.
Measurement of Actual Performance
A solid QA program must measure actual performance. This means physical inspections, measurements of critical elements, and documentation of these elements. Without the paperwork, the inspection information cannot be transferred and used to improve the process, and evaluation is not possible.
Comparison of Actual Performance
Using the TPI program, multiple inspections are made throughout the work week. A sampling is made of all structural components. An excellent QA program will compile this data to identify trends as well as illustrate and identify areas in need of improvement. This is where the SBCA In-Plant Wood Truss QC program is beneficial. Using this program, or using one internally developed, is vital to improvements in QA. Using this program is a good indicator of culture. Management at all levels needs to be engaged in the process, and its reports make this possible at a reasonable cost.
Corrective action always seems to be part of a company’s response, and it’s the spot owners often point to as proof of their quality program. Even so, this alone will not fix quality issues. Obviously, problems have to be corrected, but the point is that the process needs to change. Genuine improvements in quality will only occur when the facility implements process improvements along with error corrections.
A solid quality program will improve product while reducing call backs and liability. It will also improve worker motivation as workers have more ownership and recognition of their work. Fully functioning equipment in a clean environment with leadership engaged and involved will develop a team approach to quality. This will create this culture of quality that is essential to a high level of performance.
Glenn Traylor is an independent consultant with almost four decades of experience in the structural building components industry. While he is a TPI 3rd Party In-Plant Quality Assurance Authorized Agent covering the Southeastern United States and performs 3rd party safety auditor services, these articles represent his personal views, knowledge, and experience. Glenn serves as a trainer-evaluator-auditor covering sales, design, PM, QA, customer service, and production elements of the truss industry. He also provides project management specifically pertaining to structural building components, including on-site inspections and ANSI/TPI 1 compliance assessments. Glenn provides new plant and retrofit designs, equipment evaluations, ROI, capacity analysis, and CPM analysis