The word "quality" often is misunderstood by many people, regardless of profession, education, geographical location or marketplace. This includes the industrial marketplace as it relates to plant floor problems.
The question of quality is best approached using some of the common definitions that literature on this subject has offered. As referenced in Wikipedia, the most progressive view of quality is defined entirely by the end user’s evaluation of the entire customer experience. That’s the aggregate of touch points customers have with a company’s product and services, and is, by definition, a combination of these.
Another question is how to achieve it. Flooring product manufacturers achieve quality by adherence to a standard such as ISO 9001:2000. The International Organization for Standardization developed it so companies can compete in a global marketplace using identical quality requirements.
Manufacturers should seek a quality-management system (QMS) certified to the ISO 9001:2000 standard. They do this to better fulfill customers’ quality requirements and meet applicable regulatory requirements, while enhancing customer satisfaction and achieving continuous improvement of its performance in pursuit of these objectives.
On the plant floor
The ISO 9001 standard is of significant help in applying a quality approach to an existing floor problem. Specify 9001 or a similar quality standard when choosing companies that will be addressing your flooring problem. They should show demonstrable proof that they’re focused on the standard, not just on some glib, loosely defined definition of quality.
Understand exactly whose customer you are. End users often rely on contractors to resolve problems and might unknowingly remove themselves from the manufacturer’s customer-satisfaction process. Contractors lacking a QMS might be unable to provide a quality approach to problems when the manufacturer isn’t directly involved in the project. Manufacturers with an established QMS shepherd end users through a quality process that helps them recognize, dissect, prioritize and identify the actual floor problem.
These manufacturers typically provide a trained installer and follow-up to verify installation effectiveness. Manufacturers have the in-depth knowledge of the problem identification and root-cause analysis process that comes from training and experience in meeting their QMS requirements. Your supplier’s purpose in using a quality approach is to help you address problem causes and potential problems while removing knee-jerk reactions and unjustified assumptions.
A quality approach (also known as “Corrective and Preventive Action” in the ISO standard), typically involves seven steps you should be looking for and be able to identify:
- Problem identification
- Immediate action
- Interim action
- Root cause identification
- Solution implementation
- Follow-up verification
- Preventive action
The manufacturer should help you prioritize floor problems, which are multidimensional and based on certain criteria:
- Impact: The seriousness of the current situation – its effect on your goals.
- Urgency: Health or safety threats; deadlines (legal, regulatory, contractual); complaints, returns, reputation or market share; costs (corrections, adjustments, rework).
- Trends: The consequence of leaving it alone – probability of remaining stable, getting worse or becoming recurrent.
Some floor problems occur during design and construction where chemical and physical abuses often are overlooked. A few years later, the following problems of an unprotected or insufficiently protected concrete floor might then arise:
- Physical destruction: Impact from falling drums, power trucking, wheeled traffic, heavy loads, fork lifts.
- Chemical attack: Spillage, bacterial build-up, leakage, penetration and thermal shock.
- Worker safety: Unevenness (defects, holes, depressions) and slippery surfaces (hot oil, grease, continuously wet).
- Environmental: Pollution leaching through concrete.
- Compliance issues
- Loss of work time
Also known as the Band-Aid approach, immediate action isn’t necessarily applicable to every problem. It might include shutting down an area to maintain worker safety or product quality until the root cause can be identified, or it might require shutting down production altogether.
Take temporary measure(s) until the problem cause can be solved, such as installing metal floor plates to cover damaged areas; eliminating potential health, safety and welfare hazards; or repairing the floor with a concrete repair kit until you can implement a long-lasting solution.
Root cause identification
Discover what can be changed to make the problem go away forever. It’s the most critical step. If your supplier gets it wrong, the solution will most likely be wrong.
The quality approach to decision-making saves you time and aggravation, and precludes the quick result that leads to preconceived solutions based on assumptions instead of facts. Perfect planning and execution can’t make up for a wrong initial decision. An thoughtful root cause analysis eliminates jumping to conclusions, wild speculation, more possibilities than probabilities and inefficient investigation.
Your product supplier needs to coordinate your problem-solving team to better analyze the floor problem root cause. A typical team includes the product supplier, along with top management in your organization. This includes an operations supervisor who has knowledge of practices and the authority to direct the workforce, along with a manufacturing engineer with knowledge of facility equipment and authority to modify tooling and work methods. Lastly, another important member of this team is a trained installer, recommended by the manufacturer, who has extensive knowledge of the product being applied and years of application experience.