All new machines get tested … eventually. The question is whether you’d prefer your vendor to test it, or whether you end up doing the testing on the production floor. With the machine in full use, you will run that machine more hours in one week than any vendor will be able to replicate at their facility. Custom machines in particular, by their very nature, will experience at least some issues upon start up. The question is: Does your vendor do everything they can to minimize these issues and their potential impact on your operations?
Great engineering is the first step toward a machine that does exactly what you need it to. But testing is what gets a machine ready for production. The better the testing process, the less likely you will find problems once the machine is running on your production floor. Unfortunately, this part of the process often does not get enough attention.
All too often, companies receive machines that are built but not tested thoroughly. And if you’re facing tight delivery schedules for your products, relying on an untested machine could be a risk – to your production as well as your own reputation.
The trick is that you can’t tell if a machine has been tested just by looking at it. From the outside, a tested machine looks exactly like an untested machine. Even a run off won’t catch every potential issue. Here are three questions to ask your vendor so you can be sure your machine is thoroughly tested and production-ready.
1. Do you have a documented risk assessment process?
The strongest vendors take the time to identify potential risks every step of the way, from the moment they receive your order to the moment your machine leaves their dock.
The goal of risk assessment is to identify the potential failure points in every process. Once a weak point has been identified, it can then be rectified and solved. Many times, however, these weak points aren’t obvious. Therefore, smart vendors rely not just on an individual to conduct risk assessment but a team of experts, each with their own areas of specialty and experience, focused solely on searching out weak points that need to be addressed, so they can proactively be solved.
2. Do you have a documented testing process?
When it comes to testing, a documented process will ensure that every machine is tested in exactly the same way. Because many individuals may be involved in the design and production of your machine this documentation will ensure that no matter who conducts the testing, the results will be consistent and comprehensive.
Ideally, the provider’s testing process will also include a documented problem solving process. When engineers encounter a problem, their natural inclination is to immediately try to find a solution. But if the engineer hasn’t first identified the root cause of the problem, the solution may be simply addressing a symptom of a larger problem. And solving a symptom will never be the true, long-term solution you need. Sound problem solving processes require root cause analysis to take place first, to ensure that every solution is solving the right problem.
3. Do you have a documented and systematic project management process?
A natural outcome of designing and testing a custom machine is that problems will be identified. This is good, but this process needs to be managed by your vendor to be certain they are minimizing any delays in your overall schedule. Surprises on your end can have significant negative impact on your project. You certainly don’t want to find out three months into a project that your vendor is two months behind.
One of the keys to great project management is great communication. This means having a transparent process and immediate access to someone who is accountable to you for your project. Additionally, the vendor’s management team should be involved in your project, ideally reviewing your project status at least weekly. All dates and milestones for your project should be clearly laid out and shared with you, and you should always know who is involved in the process at any point in time.
Ultimately, the lesson here is that great engineering is only the first step to a great machine. As you ask your vendor about their risk assessment, testing and project management policies, for your own peace of mind have them show you their documentation, so you can be confident they are using solid, time-tested procedures every step of the way to ensure that the machine you receive is ready for your production floor.
At Haumiller, we put into practice some of the most meticulous, rigorous policies in the industry. And because we believe in trust and openness, we proactively share this documentation with every customer. To learn more, contact us today!