“Quality” is a word used often in the business world. Seen frequently in advertisements, companies love to boast that their quality can’t be beat. But what does the term actually mean? With its broad, intangible definition and constant usage, the word “quality” risks becoming white noise in a sea of business jargon. CEOs know without quality, customers will soon disappear, but they’re often far less sure of the processes required to maintain and improve product quality. Defined simply by Mike Diermeier, Badger Sheet Metal Works’ Quality Manager, quality is “meeting or exceeding internal and external customers’ requirements.”
Badger Sheet Metal Works’ (BSMW) quality team has refined a robust set of quality control measures to take its high standards to the next level. The company’s quality management system (QMS) is based on the standard principles of ISO 9001:2015. By outlining concrete steps for quality from start to finish of a metal fabrication job, BSMW can meet the mark, even when the metrics of success are not static. By treating quality as a matter of continuous improvement, BSMW can adapt as needed when changes to the process are warranted.
BSMW’s QMS is Integrated into Every Step of the Metal Fabrication Process:
To produce an accurate quote, a BSMW team member reviews a package to ensure the proper materials are quoted and the requirements of how to make the part are understood. The Quality Team also confirms it is a part BSMW can build, including whether the proper welding qualifications are in place.
When a quote is accepted and the part order is received, it is forwarded on to order entry.
All new part orders received by order entry are entered and the routings are built. Prior to that, the account representative re-reviews the entry to make sure it is complete. This includes proper drawings, revisions, materials listed, gauge of materials listed, and confirming routings and times are correct.
“One way we make sure everybody’s aware of what’s happening on a part is through a color-coding system,” explained Diermeier. “The job packets of new parts, repeat orders, rush orders and sub-outs are all different colors to allow for quick identification of any special requirements.”
Quality Control of Design Records
Once entered, the job packet is sent to Quality to review all customer-supplied drawings and design records. This additional check within the QMS is a redundancy to ensure design records and prints from the customer are 100 percent accurate.
“If the right information isn’t received, or the requirements are unclear, we won’t meet the customer’s expectations and get them the parts they need,” explained Diermeier.
Programming then creates the programs that run the laser/waterjet cutters and press brakes as needed. Every plot generated is reviewed by the department’s team lead to catch any discrepancies between the design records and drawings submitted by the client.
Team Lead Review
Job packets for new parts are submitted to the fabrication team leader to review all information. This review includes acceptability, manufacturing ability, material routing, and job operations.
“One of the key processes in any quality system is making sure you only take orders for things you’re capable of making to specification,” said Diermeier. “Sometimes we’ll find the requirements within a drawing are impossible, because heat would destroy the part if it was welded as drawn.”
Nearly 100 percent of the parts made by BSMW receive a final inspection before being shipped out. Of the three full-time inspectors on staff, two are certified weld inspectors.
Final inspection includes a review of a part’s dimensions, material, finish, ID stamping, and all other requirements.
Paint inspections follow a customer’s requirements and can include adhesion testing and reviewing the dry film thickness of the primer or topcoat. Temperature and humidity within the booths are also monitored.
At the final stage, the team tasked with shipping ensures the right part is being shipped and packaged appropriately to prevent damage while in transit.
Maintaining the ISO 9001:2015 compliant QMS is the priority of BSMW’s internal Quality Control Auditing Team. Every process and system within the company’s QMS is audited at least once a year, with corrective or preventive actions being audited quarterly. Conducted with impartiality, all audits ensure operations are following the established processes and functioning as intended. Every audit finding results in an internal corrective action request that helps identify areas for improvement.
The most significant finding recently helped guide improvements made to the flow of information and control of design records.
“There are always issues within a project you can’t control, but you can find ways to mitigate their impact,” said Diermeier. “A perfect example is that we can’t control what the customer supplies us within a design record, but we now have more checks in place to verify their information before we begin producing a part using incomplete or incorrect information.”
The Importance of a Reliable Quality Management System
The most direct measure of a company’s success is the satisfaction level of its customers. The structure of a formal QMS helps produce a product that meets or exceeds their expectations.
Every business, whether aware or not, is either closing in or falling away from the goal of total customer satisfaction. Sometimes these shifts are subtle, but a business is never truly static. Quality control is either active and improving or it’s falling by the wayside, stuck in a manual off in the corner collecting dust.
“To me, I can’t imagine operating a business efficiently and continuing to grow without having a good quality system in place,” said Diermeier. “It just makes everything else possible…in the most efficient way possible.”
BSMW has been the area’s premier metal fabrication business for nearly 100 years. These decades of customer-first work created a culture that clearly defines success as exceeding expectations. By checking–and double-checking–the little things, BSMW employees are positioned to accomplish big things for the customers they serve.
Contact BSMW today to learn more about the company’s QMS or to request a production quote.