From the food we eat to the products we use, quality is very important. In fact, the success of any company depends on the quality of the product or service it offers. For manufacturing companies, factors such as safety, efficiency and reliability all affect the quality of a product and ultimately influence overall customer satisfaction.
Quality can be defined and measured differently depending on the audience. For example, a parts manufacturer, original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and an end user may assess quality in different ways. From a manufacturing perspective, many companies define quality as a product exceeding customer expectations. In order to surpass these expectations, companies must understand their customers’ needs and measure quality in numerous ways at each phase of a product’s lifecycle—from early product design all the way through the product reaching the market.
Quality & Standards in the Household Refrigeration Industry
Quality levels in the household refrigeration industry have improved in recent years with the widespread attention on having the most efficient products possible. Much of this demand is driven by government regulations and Energy Star requirements. While Energy Star is not required by law, it is the most successful voluntary energy efficiency movement in history, and many household refrigeration OEMs strive to meet these standards.
Legislation and programs like Energy Star are constantly evolving, with the last household change implemented in 2014. In order for OEMs to keep up with these changes, they need to stay on top of the latest trends and technologies such as new compressor designs, more efficient fans and LED lighting. Not only have these innovations helped increase the efficiency of the equipment, they have also helped improve other areas, such as reducing noise and vibration.
As a compressor manufacturing company, we validate performance and reliability prior to a compressor ever entering production. Before a compressor reaches a product line it goes through in-depth testing to evaluate its startability, efficiency, capacity and reliability. Having processes in place to determine the quality and characteristics of the compressor ensures that we are providing OEMs with a reliable product they can depend on.
Importance of Quality Measurement
While the quality of refrigeration equipment is measured and held accountable through environmental and legislative requirements, there are also a number of industry standards and tools that help measure and improve quality systems. Common industry standards and certifications include ISO 9001 and World Class Manufacturing. Within these there are many tools and methods to maintain or improve overall quality such as Six Sigma methodology, 8D investigative process, Design of Experiments, Ishikawa diagrams and others. These tools help validate and track a company’s quality processes, as well as develop standard guidelines to drill down to the root cause when there is an issue with a product.
When manufacturing companies take a proactive approach versus reactive while evaluating quality in the early stages of product development, it helps ensure that they will meet customer expectations. This also helps eliminate issues prior to final production, ultimately providing the end user with a smooth, exceptional product experience.
Additionally, taking a proactive approach streamlines any actions that need to be taken once the product is in production, as the employees responsible for quality assessment are already familiar with the product, its components and its functionality. Through this process, they are able to quickly determine any potential product issues, failures and/or corrective actions that need to be taken to address them.
Internal Processes to Measure Quality
Many manufacturing companies develop quality processes that involve employees across disciplines, such as engineering, R&D and IT. When employees in these different areas of expertise collaborate before a product hits the market, they are able to provide a more comprehensive quality assessment and help ensure a company is providing an item that customers need and can depend on.
The compressor is an integral component in any refrigeration system. It can be considered the “heart” of the refrigeration system and if the heart fails, the rest of the system cannot function, which is why it is imperative that the compressor perform flawlessly. In order to guarantee a compressor’s quality throughout the development cycle, we follow a process called Advanced Quality Planning (AQP), which requires quality to be deeply involved in new product development or product changes that are being considered. This allows our company to approach development not only with a product performance mindset, but with a quality mindset.
Processes such as AQP help predict and prevent possible quality issues before the compressor enters production. For any manufacturer, the ultimate goal is to provide customers with the best quality possible in regards to performance, reliability, efficiency, and ease of use. It is crucial that a manufacturer has effective testing for its production line to prevent any product issues from reaching the end user. Good troubleshooting and diagnosis both at the production line and in the field are vitally important to determine the root cause of the failure and how to properly correct it. Not only can a product failure lead to a dissatisfied customer, it can also result in added expenses and time in the manufacturing process to correct the issue and retest the unit.
Successful companies understand the importance of investing in a robust quality management process, as it can result in industry-leading products and satisfied customers. Just as technology evolves and improves product development, companies should look at their internal quality standards and processes in order to identify and implement changes that can further enhance the products and services they are providing.