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You Want Good Quality - You Want an Industrial Systems Engineer

July 05, 2019

by Stephen Gibson

A Quality Solution for a Quality Problem

How many times have you purchased a good or service only to be disappointed at how well it performed? The reality is quality can make or break a company’s reputation. Even in B2B operations, businesses are setting higher expectations on the parts they receive. Some businesses now require defects to be measured in parts per BILLION (PPb). To put this in perspective, 1 PPb is 0.0000001% defect rate. While just a decade ago, the expectation was measured in parts per million, and less than 20 years ago they were being measured in percentages. The standards for quality are increasing at exponential rates. Word about poor quality spreads quickly with social media. Companies now must use advanced statistical analysis with superior containment and resolution methods to meet this demand or face the consequences.

Most advanced companies turn to Industrial Systems Engineers (ISE) to accomplish this challenge. I.C. Thomasson’s in-house Industrial Systems Engineer is not only licensed in Tennessee as a Professional Engineer (PE) but also holds a Master Black Belt Certification in Six Sigma. He has demonstrated how his skills in advanced applied statistics can be used to meet the growing industry demands.

Root Cause

One of our Industrial Systems Engineer’s projects while working on his certification proved the benefits of using an ISE to find the true root cause. A company was supplying an electronic component to an OEM which included a small LCD screen to use in their final product. The OEM began to notice the LCD screens appeared to be damaged having black spots with some being completely blacked out. This was occurring at a rate of 520.3 PPM accounting for more than 50% of the rejects for this particular component. A project was initiated to find the root cause and assist in developing containment along with a permanent solution. It was commonly believed the “black spots” were either incoming or damages caused by freezing temperatures in transit as the quality data reflected a spike during the winter. This also brought about large concerns of “What if one escaped to the final user?” or worse, “What if the LCD was not capable of being exposed to temperatures below freezing leading to a massive recall?” The immediate reaction was to begin controlling the temperature of the product throughout the process. This would be an expensive solution including heated trailers and potentially insulated racking. Instead, it was proposed to use statistical data to prove the root cause.

Static Shock

Data was collected at various points in the process quickly eliminating the possibility of poor incoming quality. Rejects were found at various points at the OEM after the components left the company’s assembly process, but none were found after the final product was assembled. It was as if 100% of the rejects were being contained through manual inspection which typically proves to be only 87% effective at best. Given the data, our ISE determined the actual cause was not the cold temperatures but rather a triboelectric effect charging the LCD triggering the screen to light up without connection to a power source. This effect was able to be replicated and proven statistically to be the root cause. This was also proven logically as during the winter cold air allows for a buildup of static electricity while during warmer months humidity prevents this accumulation. The reason no rejects were found in the OEM’s finished goods was that after installation the LCD was grounded dissipating the static electricity in the unit, and the LCD returned to a normal/blank state. This study allowed the company to implement ESD protection at a very low cost within their production line to prevent static charge of the LCD. As proof, another statistical analysis concluded a 100% elimination of the issue throughout the process. Had one of the original plans to insulate the racks been implemented, the issue would have potentially been exacerbated rather than resolved. The risk for a recall, risks of issues in the field, improved customer satisfaction along with a significant cost avoidance were all achieved with this project.