"Painful as it may be, a significant emotional event can be the catalyst for choosing a direction that serves us more effectively. Look for the learning."
~ Louisa May Alcott
If you’ve ever endured a large customer return, you probably also vividly remember the impact that it had on your organization and the impetus for change that it brought. Anything that could prevent that from ever happening again was on the table.
Unfortunately, this situation also often results in one or more knee-jerk reactions that may, or may not, address the situation, and may be as expensive as the return itself.
The financial integrity of your business, and your credibility with your customer are both on the line. Action is important, to be sure. But this is perhaps the most important time to keep your cool and make sure you make good decisions.
Get the Right Help
The natural reaction is to turn inward for a solution. After all, you and your team know your process and your line better than anybody. The problem is that you may be “too close” to the problem to accurately identify it. Often, a “second set of eyes” is a good thing here. As objective observers, they may be able to help you to pinpoint what you may have missed that caused the problem in the first place. This is a great time to turn to those who have served you well in the past – there’s too much at stake to trust someone you’ve got no experience with.
We have been fortunate over the years to be that trusted resource for many of our customers. One, in particular, called us after they experienced such a customer reject situation.
Identify the Real Problem
Their problem was with their end liner process. We had worked with them to resolve a coating void issue in a different facility on an entirely different process.
This is an important point.
When choosing a resource, someone with related experience across a diverse set of applications is a good option.
Because this depth of experience can often result in solutions you may have never been exposed to, and therefore would never have come up with on your own.
In this instance, we analyzed their process and one fact stood clear: 70% of all quality rejects were due to improper coating weight! Following that lead, we identified an issue with temperature instability causing viscosity variation in their compound as it was being dispensed. Working with their material supplier, we identified the magnitude of the variation and correlated it directly to their reject situation – compound weight (see the graph shown above).
Another important point.
They were already aware that variation in temperature would affect the outcome of their liner process. Furthermore, they had already spent considerable capital on addressing the problem. Unfortunately, all of their efforts were focused on the process upstream of the nozzle.
Though a subtle difference, our examination of their liner process at the point-of-application revealed that the actual temperature of the compound being fed to the gun was almost exactly the midpoint between ambient, and the outlet temperature of their heated hose, which, as is shown in the attached data plot, was also not as stable as they had believed! This means that, as the ambient temperature varies from hour-to-hour, day-to-day and season-to-season, so did their compound viscosity – and therefore, so did their weight!
A Problem Identified is a Problem Solved
Armed with this newfound knowledge, and driven by the desire to never experience the pain of another customer reject, it was easy for them to abandon the temperature control system they had created on their own in favor of a new system, designed by specialists in the field, and focused directly on their specific set of issues.
And that is exactly what they did.
Implementing a new temperature control solution, designed to control the viscosity at the point-of- dispense, they were able to realize an increase in Cpk >40% and a 47% reduction in HFI’s.
And this “new reality” gave them the confidence that they would not soon see another customer reject for compound weight. And as they said, “Avoiding just one customer reject makes it all worthwhile!”
Download our free case study to see how temperature control improved operational quality and efficiency for this manufacturer.