How Does American Products Ensure Quality?
American Products has always been known for producing quality enclosures for the telecom industry, dusty manufacturing facilities and more.
But did you know that in 2018, the company initiated a five-year undertaking to add a number of quality systems to enhance product quality even further?
In that year, Gary Lee joined the team as Quality Manager. He has a PhD in quality systems, an MBA and a bachelor’s degree in business administration. In addition, his certifications include being a Six Sigma Black Belt, Kaizen Facilitator and Chrysler Process Improvement Green Belt. He has also spoken nationally and been published. And, he is serving on the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) 176, which advises ISO in Switzerland on the U.S. positions on the Quality Management Systems Standard ISO 9001. So, it’s safe to say he knows his stuff in regard to quality assurance.
He came to American Products, did a thorough look into the processes and began implementing a number of new systems to ensure the enclosures we produced met your–and our own, for that matter–high standards.
Here are some of the systems in place, and how they help assure you that the enclosure you’re purchasing is built to last.
How American Products Ensures Quality
“Poka-yoke” is a Japanese term meaning “mistake proofing.” In manufacturing, it’s a physical mechanism that ensures a process is done the right way every time without exception. It assures consistency in design and assembly.
Kaizen is a business practice that involves all company associates–from the CEO to the assembly line workers–working together to improve processes. This is exceptionally helpful because it empowers everyone in the organization to use their first-hand knowledge and make things better. By working together, the team can optimize productivity, safety, quality and working conditions. Ultimately, this improves working conditions, which then improves quality and efficiency at American Products.
Layered Process Audits
Like the Kaizen process, layered process audits involve team members from a variety of levels of the company. In this case, though, it’s where team members and leaders take a look into certain processes at the manufacturing level. This is a great tool for quality and efficiency improvement, because it means American Products gets a variety of viewpoints on a particular process. And it means we have more opportunities to uncover an issue–including systemic issues–and fix it.
Defective parts per million (PPM) is the number a company uses to measure how many defective parts it encounters. The goal is to continue lowering this–the lower the defect rate, the better we’re doing on a manufacturing level! For this, we gather and review the data monthly. Then, every quarter, we review it for patterns and instigate corrective actions.
In the first three years of the five-year plan, Gary was able to help American Products reduce its PPM defects by 96%.
Return material authorization (RMA) is when a manufacturer agrees for a customer to return a product. At American Products, we measure this to track the number/type of returns we receive. We can then cross-reference this to the previously mentioned PPM. This helps us understand and track any issues we have–no matter how big or small–and instigate corrective actions.
Another helpful tool in creating quality products is PFMEA, which stands for process failure mode effects analysis. Unlike the previous acronyms, this doesn’t focus on the product–instead, it identifies and evaluates potential process failures. Also unlike the previous processes, this is a preventive measure designed to catch process failures before they happen. Quality materials can’t become quality products if the process fails. So, we go in, look at all our processes, and make sure they work. Then, we make sure we train our associates in the correct processes.
Previously, we used paper checklists. This required inspectors to check everything against the paper, then go to the computer and input the data, as well as scan in the paper for reference. Now, we only do inspections via tablets. This cuts out the chance of human error in transcribing data and takes out a step in the process, ensuring the data is more accurate and up to date. That means we can see the analysis faster and make adjustments quicker.
National Quality Month
In 1984, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed October as National Quality Month. At American Products, we take advantage of this month now to educate our associates on quality processes. During the month, we set up a number of stations where they can educate and test themselves on various quality processes. The stations are changed weekly, and associates receive rewards for participating!
Training & Certification
Of course, quality materials and quality processes help make quality products–but quality workers are also necessary. You can rest easy knowing our enclosures are built to the highest standards because we employ all of the above. In regard to our craftspeople, we hire skilled workers and ensure they’re properly trained and a good fit for their position.
One example is our fiber optics installers–they are all Fiber Optic Association (FOA) certified.
Speaking of making sure people are trained and qualified for their position–all American Product inspectors are certified by the American Society for Quality (ASQ) and are Certified Quality Improvement Associates (CQIA) and Certified Quality Inspectors (CQI).
It seems like a lot of work and complexities–and it really is. But the quality of our enclosures is definitely worth the effort. Because at the end of the day, we want to make sure the enclosures we build and send out will protect your equipment in the harshest environments.
In 2021, Lee was promoted to Director of Quality for AmProd Holdings, the parent company to American Products and DustShield. He is initiating a similar five-year plan for quality systems at our sister companies, Ensight Solutions and Press Room Equipment.
Our facility has been Certified by UL DQS Inc. to the International Organization for Standardization ISO 9001:2015 Standards for Quality. View the certificate.