Gauge Management - with ambiguous requirements & no support

#1
Hello - what I'm about to expound on is rather graphic, I hope your sitting down....and send any small children out of the room.

For over 30 years I worked in the OEM automotive supplier sector. I recently left that rather stressful world and now work at a company that makes products for the material handling and components for consumer appliance industries. To say this is a "whole nother world" is a massive understatement.

This facility has had numerous gaps in the management team, particularly in quality - over the last 3 years. Consequently any systems that were in place have deteriorated significantly are no longer exist at all. During my interview & tour, we walked through what I assumed was a hallway / storage area that happend to have a granite surface table and Height Stand in the middle of it....I was told "this is our QC Lab"....at which point I froze in shock.

Many of our material handling products do not have tolerances on the customer's blueprints, so we apply what has historically worked - and use tape measures to check product. Our consumer components do have tolerances on the blueprints, most of which we are not capable of achieving. Often times when we reject product, I am over-ruled by the general manager and the product is released to ship. The phrase "that's good enough" is applied to the majority of these cases...I've never seen anything like it.

We do have some gauges, most of which are aluminum plates with grooves milled into them, or they have 1/4" pins in various locations that sort of allow us to check part "shapes". There are no gauge blueprints available, so we have to compare them to the customer drawings. I did manage to measure pin locations on one of the gauges using the surface plate and height stand (X & Y coordinates), but most of the gauges are too large to measure using this method. I did have an opportunity to ask a management team member who previously served as quality manager in years past - "how did you calibrate gauges?" He said they simply measured the 1/4" pins for wear and visually looked for any physical damage, and then stuck a "calibrated" sticker on the gauge.

As for support - we are VERY limited. We do have a tool room machinist, but he does not have the ability to make or repair gauges. There is also no financial support for the refurbishment / replacement of gauges. We are truly in the dark ages.....I'm sure you have a sense of that by now.....

I am trying to come up with a rationale regarding our calibration system. I am trying to justify why our sloppy gages are sufficient to meet our customer's needs. We never really get any customer rejections for dimensions & tolerances, more for poor welds and paint finish. Can an argument be made based on quality history....meaning the lack of issues related to dimensions? Could I classify our gauges as "visual aids"....?

Thank You for your input....
 
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Ninja

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#2
So many different directions to answer from...so let's start with one question to get perspective.

How many customer complaints have there been in the last year that fall anywhere near the bucket of "This isn't what I ordered" or "This doesn't work"?

You posted in the ISO 9000 area. Is your company ISO9001 certified? Or are you trying to apply auto standards to a company who doesn't play there?

(Yes, I can count...that was two questions...three, technically, oops)
 

Ninja

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#3
FWIW, I'm a business owner...previously an Assistant Director managing multiple product lines for auto and aero.
If no one ever complained about our products...I would have stripped down the tool crib, the cal system and personnel checking stuff too...
One only knows where the line is when you hit it...then you maximize long term profit on the good side of the line.

From what you've posted, it looks like they haven't found the line yet and that your customers are perfectly happy with "Good 'nuff".
Begs the question why they hired you, though... but you've got to enjoy the much lower stress (except for the huge culture shock).

Welcome to the Cove...you can revisit the glory days here by helping others with your experience, and feel 'normal' for a little while.
Glad to have you.
 
#4
Hello Ninja...

This company was ISO-9001-2015. Their recert audit was in February of 2020 - with 3 minors found. One of the minors was never answered (blamed on Covid, etc...) and eventually the certificate expired. In my view, both the auditing body and this plant share the responsibility for allowing the cert to expire. The auditing body did not follow their own terms and conditions, and never notified the plant in writing of the pending expiration, and when requests went unanswered, they did not escalate communication to another contact person, etc. Also the plant never notified the auditing body when the previous 3 quality managers just up and quit, or followed up on any the corrective actions, etc. It was a tragic comedy all around. I am working with the auditing body now, hoping pick up where things left off....waiting on their technical team's response.

We do get some complaints from one customer about parts not meeting "fit & function" and have corrective actions in the works. We have formally submitted capability data to this customer requesting tolerance relief on all of their parts - no success. Our general manager states this customer has violated whatever agreements existed, and he is about ready to pack up all of their tooling and ship it to them - just as their previous supplier did I'm told.

You hit the nail on the head Ninja....I'm still trying to "find the line". And yes...I sometimes wonder why they hired me too! In automotive my whole life could be turned upside down at the next phone call. Nothing like that here. What amazes me most about this place is, that it's about the same size and staff as the automotive plant I was at, without all of the potential safety and recall risks....and yet the annual sales are actually more!
 
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Mike S.

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#5
Our consumer components do have tolerances on the blueprints, most of which we are not capable of achieving. Often times when we reject product, I am over-ruled by the general manager and the product is released to ship. The phrase "that's good enough" is applied to the majority of these cases...I've never seen anything like it.
Due to time limits I'm just gonna comment on this one aspect....

While you say it is consumer products, there may still be personal risk here, especially in today's litigious society. I would CYA, always. Continue to reject it if it is bad and let someone else above you sign-off on it if they wanna ship nonconforming stuff.
 

Ninja

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#6
FWIW, I've had my back yard landscaped three times now...

1. I was young and dumb, but smart enough to require to be present when they graded the place.
Done way wrong, without me present...but I paid them anyway (young and dumb).
2. I was a bit smarter...and made the second place do it over with me present if they wanted to get paid.
3. Told them up front that if they touched my yard without me present I would sue them. They did it right, with me steering them.

All three companies no longer exist, and I know all the owners and they made millions, all three.

The point: If the customers don't push, no employee has a single weapon at their disposal.
Money talks...people just make wind.

...the 3ton concrete diving board mount just started surfacing and killing the grass...#1 got paid extra to haul it away, but they buried it and lied.

Such is life. At least you don't have to fiddle with auditors. Enjoy the relaxation if you can stand it, and keep an eye on the complaint log. It's the only thing that can start the fire you're used to.
 
#7
Thanks to ALL for your input. Getting back to my original issue regarding gauge calibration. Our gauges do not correlate with the customer's drawing tolerances, yet they function well enough to determine that product is acceptable for fit & function based on quality history. In the past, the calibration method was never documented - just a sticker applied to the gauge. I can hardly believe an auditor didn't ask about how calibration was performed, unless they didn't really want to know....if you get my drift.

So I'm thinking of writing a calibration standard (that our QC Techs can follow) stating that gauges are to be checked for condition issues, and if any pins are missing, worn, or bent. I will put in a list of criteria such as "Pin Dia. below XXX = replace"....and so on. But how can I rationalize using our gauges in the state they are in?
 

Ninja

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#8
Sounds to me like you need to establish acceptance criteria first...not based on the customer's drawing, but based on what they have accepted based upon reorder pattern.
Then you can establish working tolerances based on the acceptance and reorder pattern...then base your gage system off of the tolerances needed for the new "real, this generates no complaints" drawing.

Until you establish what is 'functionally needed', establishing calibration acceptance criteria is just pushing sand around the sandbox.

If the customer doesn't care what size it is, and the workers know that it doesn't matter what size it is, and the customer orders more no matter what size the previous ones were...set the calibration acceptance criteria to "it looks like a tape measure" and you're good to go. Even better, stop measuring stuff and wasting your time.

In order to track and manage gages, you first need to establish what the gages need to do. It doesn't sound so far like that has been established.
 

Mike S.

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#9
In a past life we called such gages "inspection tooling". It was made from a drawing, deemed fit for use, given an identification sticker. Before each use it was checked for damage, FOD, etc. It was not calibrated, it was periodically (i.e. annually) recalled and verified against the drawing it was made from.

If you have no drawings for existing gages (hopefully you will in the future) I guess you define verification criteria, get Engineering to sign-off on it, and go forth.
 

Sidney Vianna

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#10
Our gauges do not correlate with the customer's drawing tolerances, yet they function well enough to determine that product is acceptable for fit & function based on quality history.
Assessing (my understanding) of the situation, vis a vis ISO 9001:2015, I think the organization could make a strong case for 7.1.5.2 not being applicable. However, 7.1.5.1 is applicable and, it seems that the system has a significant gap in terms of complying with

7151.JPG
 
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