Top 5 Ways to Reduce Risk During Manufacturing

Let’s face it.  Accidents happen and people make mistakes.  That being said, a good Quality System and Safety Program will continuously seek out potential areas of risk and patch the areas by implementing change control and process improvement.  These practices are widely known throughout the compliance-world as HACCP – Hazards and Critical Control Points. While there are external factors that you may have little control over, the more you consider risk ahead of time and what procedures to put in place to prevent them from happening in the future, the less likely there will be large financial losses for your company.

Here are the top 5 ways to reduce risk in manufacturing, which include improving the systems people use, where they work, and what systems they employ.

1. Training, Courses, and Refreshers

Training of all workers needs to be done before they head onto the production floor. If they’re new, they need to be supervised by an Area Expert until they are proficient in the tasks and can safely be allowed to lead tasks alone.

There should also be adequate courses and materials available throughout the facility and with one’s co-workers.  In some cases, it helps to develop a training program through an eLearning portal, but person-to-person training should always be the primary type of training.

Regular refreshers should be scheduled and occur at least one a year.  These refreshers should cover core concepts of the quality assurance system employed at the facility. During the hustle and bustle of daily duties, everyone begins to forget or fall out of small compliance details.  A refresher can help to correct this behavior in a non-judgmental and respectful manner.

2. Document and Data Management Systems

Document systems include having a good system in place to store reference materials, including the recording of processes and batches.  Through good document management systems, a company is able to reference materials in the future, conduct investigations, and implement process improvement.

Along with good record keeping should come good data management.  Every manufacturing process collects data over time.  This data is priceless when attempting to improve processes, design new products, develop timelines, and improve the company throughput. 

By taking advantage of the data systems available the company maximizes resources for process improvement. All of these systems will set the baseline for well-managed operations.

3. Good Process Control

The processes set in place in a manufacturing facility need to human-engineered and in place before the plant even opens so that workers are trained as they are onboarded.  This is the best way for quality assurance to become a culture.

The processes expected by team members need to be accurate and should be enforceable.  Standard Operating Procedures should be thorough, reflect actual practices, and be written by subject experts.

Training on Standard Operating Procedures should commence prior to implementation of a new procedure.  A procedures manual should be within handy reach of the workers in case they need to reference information.

Critical control points and specifications should be determined prior to beginning a new process.  These specifications should be based on historical, scientific, regulatory, or a similar knowledgebase to ensure quality of the material.  Testing of materials or processes should be conducted in the most unbiased way possible for the process to ensure answers reflect actual conditions.

4. Active Supervision

A supervisor isn’t doing their job if they’re locked in their office all day long. They should have an active presence on the manufacturing floor.

Supervisors should participate in daily operations by scheduling a pre-job brief to the workers for that day’s work.  This will ensure employees are kept in the loop concerning priorities for each day.

Supervisors provide walk-throughs for other workers, management, or inspectors, which helps to avoid disruptions on the production line.  Without an active participation on the floor, it will be difficult for a supervisor to lead a walk-through accurately.

A supervisor will generally be keeping an eye on operations, looking for faults on the production line, areas of potential improvement, mechanical failures, or fatigued staff.

5. Establish Better Communication

An employee should know exactly what needs to be achieved for the day, and the proper procedures to do their work.  For any employee to succeed, they need to know what their goal is. 

Communication between teams needs to be clear and concise. New systems and rules will require training before implementation. Each side of the team should be treating the other with respect, so lines of communication are always open.

If there have been errors on the production line, they need to be dealt with quickly, through retraining and better processes.  Playing the blame game will only lead to closed lips and will hurt the company in the long-run when Management is unable to learn the actual practices and hardships on the floor.

Once a company has made a commitment to reduce risk in their manufacturing processes, the workers and management team can work together to follow good manufacturing practices. A manufacturing facility will be more successful when it can identifies potential errors and prevents them from occurring in the future.