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Playing Russian Roulette

Luckily, I have a natural aversion to gambling. This doesn’t come from a bad personal experience and I haven’t personally seen the effects that compulsive gambling can have on people. I guess it comes from the feeling of the potential for loss. I buy lottery tickets from time to time and in the name of British culture have been known to put a penny or two on the Grand National horse race. I even won once or twice. Pleasant feelings, but overall, the feeling of risk of taking a loss far outweighs any feeling of success.

Perhaps the ultimate gamble is Russian Roulette. For someone making the ultimate sacrifice based on a one in six probability amazes me. It still seems to happen though.

Regular gambling, for example at a Casino, pretty much everyone knows that on average the house will always win. It is a statistical fact. The belief is that luck over the short term can result in a gain. How long though does the luck last? Can you do it time and time again?

Take traceability. The customer needs to be safe. Whether the product is automotive, medical, aerospace or military, the consequences of a fault can be catastrophic. The principle of traceability is to ensure that the defined production method is followed precisely. The production method will have been devised and checked to ensure that it does not introduce any reasons or causes of failure. Deviation from this plan introduces unknowns which may lead to defects. Traceability protocols, operation training and systems are introduced to record and measure the production process to ensure the conformance of the operation and generate the traceability data as a result. Should anything ever go wrong with any of the products produced, then the traceability data will be critical to find and assess the cause of the defect in terms of responsibility, but much more importantly, to assess whether there may be any other of the products in the market with the same defect. What happens when the traceability data collected cannot deliver this value?  The consequences can be serious for the safety of people, the business of the product owner and that of the manufacturer.

How does the traceability data fail? It can be from a number of very common reasons. It can be a lapse of management on the shop-floor, a fault in the data collected, a flaw in the accuracy or completeness of the traceability structure itself, the loss of some of the data. Who manages and monitors this, who knows about traceability, who is responsible? Traceability is a complex issue, involving materials, processes, machines, people, test results, conformance and compliance.

Without the understanding and appropriate management of traceability itself and the data, it is a gamble, a real risk that something could happen for which the manufacturer would be responsible.

Traceability is not a game where you tick the box, you just get some data, you try to convince your customer that you have traceability in place. It is a real responsibility that carries real risk and real penalties. Taking as much risk out of the equation as possible can be worth the cost of the business. Effective management of all aspects of traceability as featured in our Valor MSS suite is the real thing.

Anyone that thinks that effective traceability can be provided as a simple interface and database from an SMT machine is playing a very dangerous game. For all of our sakes, please take this seriously.

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About Michael Ford

Michael FordMICHAEL FORD SENIOR MARKETING DEVELOPMENT MANAGER, VALOR DIVISION, MENTOR GRAPHICS Michael started his career as a computer software and hardware engineer in 1982. Working for Sony in the UK, Michael became one of the first successful adopters of computer technology into the manufacturing shop-floor, going on to manage in Japan Sony’s global Lean Manufacturing solutions. Joining Valor Computerized Systems in 2008 gave Michael the opportunity to apply his experience into the main-stream of the industry. With almost 30 years’ experience, Michael’s key strength is the instinct of finding solutions and opportunities where there had been challenges and problems. Michael is currently working as part of the Marketing Development team within the Valor Division of Mentor Graphics, focussing on the realisation of real and practical solutions for manufacturing based on the application of Lean Thinking, end to end, from design through the entire manufacturing process. Visit The Michael Ford Manufacturing Blog

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