Bespoke Machinery Process Control

Good afternoon,

After lurking these forums for some time, I've decided to register and post here in the hopes that I might be offered some insight from the fine experts here.

I work at a small (<10 employees) bespoke machinery manufacturing company. I was tasked with getting the company its ISO 9001 certification. For the most part, I've had no problems with this. Though I have had no prior experience with it, I've been quick to learn and equally quick to implement what I've learned into our business organisation methodology (though naturally I still have a lot to learn!).

The only thing I've been struggling with is finding a suitable means for process control for manufacturing. In your typical manufacturing environment, you'd have job/route cards wouldn't you. However, we deal with bespoke machinery, and almost every single machine/component/tooling assembly is going to be different, so a route card would not really work well in our case since we're not dealing with a single part repeatedly.

My solution was to combine all possible information into one document, called an 'Activity Sheet,' which details all the drawing numbers of all components, split into categories (workstation benches, bench tops, tooling, electronics, miscellaneous), what type of machining is to be done, what type of surface treatment, when were they inspected, by whom, what nonconformances, and so on. I've had one of our customer's quality representative come in and tell me it was revolutionary!

Unlike a normal job/route card, you wouldn't really be able to print this document on the shop floor and fill it in since it's so large (25+ pages, it would get very dirty very quickly). Keeping it electronically and filling it in after an 'activity' has been completed is better. The trouble is, people aren't really filling it in. Now, I understand the obvious solution would be to insist on having it filled in diligently etc., but since we're a small company, organisational attitude towards procedures etc. is very laid back. I just wanted to consult you all to ascertain whether there would be an 'easier' alternative to this process control document we have. Route cards wouldn't work since we're doing bespoke machines, with complexities ranging from a couple dozen components to hundreds. I feel that the 'activity sheet' I created is broad enough to encompass all possible complexities; I tried creating something that was practical, but that would also not bog us down in too much paperwork.

I've attached a copy of our Activity Sheet below, with company name, document id etc. taken out.

Any insight would be much appreciated.

Many thanks in advance.



Not out of the crisis
Staff member
Super Moderator
Hi Q Tornado, welcome.

Having been in manufacturing for both small and large companies I see where you're coming from. I also see where the resistance can come from.

On the surface it looks like there are a couple issues here.

The first is defining the process for your organization. Now by "bespoke" you mean that everything you do is essentially a custom work, correct? This will certainly work within in the requirements of the standard. I think you are heading in the right direction, but I can also see what your colleagues may be thinking... this is a 26 page document. That's pretty intimidating in any organization. I might suggest you consider breaking it down into more bit seize pieces base on most general flow. That might be easier for people to swallow. And provide instructions for completing it.
So, just tossing it out there... I see the form is broken down into sections... make each section a separate form. When setting up project, only include the forms needed for each particular job. If a job doesn't require welding, why include that page, right?

The second issue us culture. It's often our job as Quality Professionals to "sell" the QMS. The 10 or so people in the company need to understand the benefit of doing this extra documentation - opening doors to new customers, being able to address future problems more quickly, to be able to reproduce a previously made machine exactly, etc.
And it usually takes repeating this... just showing up with a new form for people to fill out won't really work, they need to understand the "why".

Is the company owner behind this effort 100%. If that's not the case your job just got infinitely harder.

Top Bottom