Tips to Reduce Human Error in Manufacturing

Human errors in manufacturing can be more costly and serious in the cannabis, dietary supplement, and pharmaceutical industries. While conducting customer complaints, corrective and preventative action investigations, out of specification reports, and other investigations, it can be easy to begin tacking errors in production to human error.

Problem is, if someone was able to make an error, perhaps the system is created tightly enough or explained properly.  Perhaps the workers do not have the tools, space, or training they need to succeed.

Instead of just ending an investigation with “human error”, it’s important to keep digging if your company is dedicated to Quality and Continuous Improvement.  

Since these are all performance issues, one part of GMP is to understand why these situations happen, and how to better deal with them in the future.

Error Analysis

Often mistakes are made because people are human and the current systems in place allow for human error. Even though specific systems may be in place, most do not consider that human error prevention should also be a part of the design.

Human error is basically explaining human behavior, which can be tricky. Perhaps human error can be defined by an action that has been performed by a person which results in something different than expected. For instance, perhaps a step was skipped on the production line to save time. Or, perhaps they fit an extra step in because it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Reducing Errors in Manufacturing

Once it’s been determined that human error has occurred, the error investigation requires an explanation of what happened, and who was involved. It must be determined what is the root cause of the error.

It’s also essential to not blame the individual for the error. While companies may feel that writing-up an individual as punishment will be enough to prevent the fault in the future, it can actually worsen the situation to have a stressed out and angry worker in the plant. Having a blaming environment will also create less trust between workers and management, at a time when everyone should be working together and contributing to the system.

It’s also important to address the error, as many companies fail to adequately correct errors. Generally, the typical response to errors is retraining, but this can often fail to produce the expected results. It’s been determined that lack of training really is only responsible for 10% of the human errors that occur.

Direct Ways to Reduce Human Error

In order to reduce human error it’s important to address the conditions where a team works, as well as the systems in place and operation control. While monitoring of workers is good, a certain level of trust can also provide workers with confidence. Adequate training should be done, with regular refreshers.

Good record keeping needs to be done. There should be a good procedures manual in place that can be referred to if there are any questions.

Keeping a neat and tidy work environment will help to reduce errors, as well as having adequate calculators or work tools on hand to do a job.

Communication is important between all groups and teams. Frequent team meetings to discuss everyone’s thoughts and needs on the floor can be very eye-opening to Management.

Appropriate budgeting is key.  If new or updated tools and equipment can increase quality and decrease worker fatigue, they should be made a priority.

Individual performance evaluations can also be done which can also clue management into when there is cognitive overflow or fatigue on the site.

While human error is a common occurrence, with an effective and clear systems in place, it can be prevented. This means a better-managed and  successful manufacturing plant in the future.