We live in an environment of automation. Everywhere there are new developments in systems for making our lives more convenient. Our smartphones have become “smarter” with virtual assistants that have the right answer at the right time. Casual dialog is filled with terms like “virtual reality”, “artificial intelligence” and “the internet of things”. People are more connected now than any time in human history.
As the plant floor is automated how do we mix people decisions with those made by machines? Do we continue to trust the good but perhaps biased intentions of a worker. Or do you free them from routine decisions with the assistance of machine based systems?
We will dive into this topic and specifically in the crimp validation process. What is the decision process for the wire termination your worker has in their hand before they start producing wires? That decision has far reaching implications. Here are a few points for consideration.
Good information is critical.
Quality standards are derived from the source of the material. In the case of electrical terminations the terminal supplier is your source for measurement standards. Factors such as crimp height and width for wire and insulation crimps, pull test and visual standards. Also associated tolerances. This information should be collected for each process setup and can be stored into a server computer.
Although not a core part of this discussion, the proper tools are also critical. For Crimp Validation, use only Crimp Height Micrometers for measuring conductor crimp height and calipers or blade micrometers for conductor crimp width as well as insulation crimp height and width. Pull test as a secondary measurement of crimp secure-ness and Cross Section Analysis to verify the internal crimp shape.
A system to pass that information to the personnel on the plant floor.
Good information is useless unless it is available for proper pre-production validation. Connecting client computers at locations on the plant floor or data entry modules on the processing machines provides provides an access point to retrieve the validation standards required. Also a potential portal for entering validation data for trace-ability and analysis.
A process that removes subjectivity from the decision to start production.
The operator of inspector has a pre-production crimped wire in their hand. At this point how do you verify the wire has been measured and meets all of the established standards. Or a few measurements pass and a few do not.
Without adequate controls, subjectivity be the plant floor personnel can creep in. Perhaps the rush to get into production can pressure personnel to cut corners and accept parts which do not fully meet quality. No matter how well trained personnel are, they are the last line of defense in pre-production and opinions can affect judgement.
Locking the equipment out of production until pre-production samples pass quality test is an important move. It is important to assure your personnel that this is not personal against them. Rather it protects them from fall out in failure conditions.
A properly configured network system with modules on production equipment can perform the dual function of production validation and release of the processing equipment for production.
In-Process Changes affecting Quality
Any change during production is an opportunity to introduce variation into the process. In the case of a wire termination, changing wire (reel or barrel) and terminal (reel) can change the process. In the case of applicator tooling, when the applicator is removed for maintenance like crimp tool changes, this is also a possibility for variation.
This presents you with two options: you can continue without validation or validate when the process changes. Not validating represents a risk which is hard to quantify. Material suppliers and tooling can have varying effects. The safer option is to perform a validation to confirm the changed process matches the initial validation. Having the ability to lock out the process equipment after a material change or maintenance and forcing a validation is a good practice. This removes any subjective opinions from creeping in.
Measure, analyze and improve.
What gets measured gets improved. Having good information as a baseline is a good first step. The next step is analysis. Considering the strengths and weaknesses. Focusing on those areas that can contribute to long (or short) term failure in a product. Then acting on the analysis. This is fundamental to any quality improvement process.
There is a great amount of information that can be pulled from validation and in process monitoring of production. The important factor is the system. You can pick a manual method or automatically collect data from production machines and other measurement sources. Choosing an automated method removes a significant amount of manual data entry not to mention the potential of transposition error.
Tying it all Together.
You likely have most of the piece in place to automate the quality process. From production equipment to the measurement tools to validate and monitor output. Having a central server with validation standards and production data is a gateway. Connecting the components together provides the pathway for good two way communication between the plant floor (people and machines) and the server with the data collection and analysis capabilities to turn raw data into useful information for analysis and quality improvement.
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