Our customers expect the fabrications we make for them will fit, function, and last. It’s a reasonable expectation and something that Verne Wiley understood very well. When he set up Wiley Metal Fabricating in 1982, Verne dedicated the business to delivering the highest quality fabricated parts possible, and that’s still in our DNA today.
Achieving and Maintaining Quality
In the early days of Wiley, Verne relied on inspection to find parts that deviated from requirements. As the business has grown, our approach to managing quality has become more sophisticated, but inspection is still an important component.
Today we operate a formal Quality Management System (QMS) that provides Quality Assurance (QA). We also use Quality Control, (QC) to monitor what we’re making and protect customers from non-conforming products. This blog will look at the QC side of our QMS. We’ll explain what we do and how that ensures every part we ship is a quality metal fabrication.
QC involves inspection, measurement, and testing. It’s about looking at the parts being made, and sometimes also the production processes, and verifying they are producing what is required. It differs from QA in that QA is the system we use to ensure quality, while QC is the more hands-on examination and data collection. QC is what finds parts with characteristics outside of the defined limits, and QA helps us decide what to do with them.
More simply, QC protects customers while QA provides the policies and procedures that ensure we perform the right kinds of QC.
Reasons for Performing QC
Let’s dive into the need to protect customers from parts that don’t meet our or their standards.
If we shipped non-conforming parts, our customers would be disappointed. If they found the defects at Receiving or during assembly they’d almost certainly ask for replacements, which would cost us time and money to make.
A bigger problem though would be if they didn’t find the defects and built the parts we made into their products. When the defects eventually came to light we could face warranty claims and even legal liability issues. That would hit our reputation and probably prove expensive.
Performing QC activities ensures this doesn’t happen, but the benefits go further.
Poor quality is expensive, even if it’s found before shipping. If we cut or fold pieces to the wrong size we’ve got to correct or remake them. We may have to scrap the material and start again. Perhaps more important than the material though is the time wasted, and it’s not just the additional hours. Remaking parts could delay other orders, resulting in late shipments and disappointed customers.
A particular challenge in producing quality metal fabrication work is welding. Although sometimes you can tell by eye if a weld is good or not, it’s possible to have a weld that looks acceptable but lacks the strength required. For this reason, there are a lot of QC activities around achieving weld quality.
Quality Control In Fabrication
QC starts with the part print, the bill of material, and the cutting list and extends into purchasing and goods receiving. If there are mistakes in these, if unsuitable materials are called out, or if the materials have defects, the fabrication isn’t going to meet the requirements.
We take care of these primarily through inspection. A second pair of eyes will often find errors or omissions that are easily made and overlooked.
When it comes to materials, we do some inspections to verify we’re getting what we expected, but we also take a more proactive approach. We take care to work with reputable, trustworthy suppliers who have their own QMSs that ensure we get what we expect. This means the companies we buy from have a proven track record and can be relied upon. Where necessary though, we also ask for appropriate material certifications, just to be sure.
Once an order is released into our factory there’s a lot of QC that takes place. Part programs for CNC machines are proven out so we know there won’t be any collisions and the movement paths are sensible. Setups are verified by inspecting the first piece to ensure it’s the correct dimensions.
Calipers are the main measurement tool, although for larger pieces there are rules and tapes. When the sheet gets folded or bent though, things get more complicated. Checking the angles, dimensions, and radii of 3D sheets needs precision metrology equipment like granite tables, height gauges, sine bars, and more, plus the expertise to use them.
We’ll skip over welding here and move on to the finished part inspection. This again requires measurement of complex shapes and visual verification that components are all present. It also adds the complexity of assessing cosmetic appearance. This is where it’s harder to define standards. We have to ask, does the finished job look like a quality metal fabrication?
QC in Welding
Making good welds takes training, practice, and experience. Those are just the beginning though. As welds are difficult to inspect – sectioning or other destructive testing is only suitable for sampling – thorough QC is essential. The main elements are:
- Define the weld requirements
- Develop and document a welding process
- Ensure the welder has trained appropriately and follows the defined process
- Determine an inspection method and frequency
At Wiley, we pay close attention to welding, and you can be sure of the quality of the welds we make.
QC Benefits Safety
The link might not be obvious, but good QC improves safety, both in our factory and wherever our fabrications are put into service. Internally, QC procedures help drive consistency in our ways of working. That ensures every job is done in a proven and predictable manner, which reduces the risk of accidents.
QC also addresses any possible safety risks from a poor-quality fabrication. These range from difficulties with installation due to dimensional errors to premature corrosion or failure.
Effective QC Implementation and Maintenance
There’s a cost to performing QC, and it is possible to do more than is necessary. A good QA team, aided by a well-developed QMS, works out how to do enough QC to minimize mistakes and defects, but not so much that it saddles the business with excessive costs.
Finding defects just before fabrication ships protects the customer, but by that point we’ve invested time and materials in making it. This is why our QMS emphasizes avoiding problems by focusing on their causes – drawing errors, material flaws, and so on – rather than just checking after the event. Likewise, the first article and first-off inspection are important for ensuring our processes and equipment are set up correctly.
The last point to make about QC is that we listen to what our customers want. We will develop inspection procedures to meet their needs. Those are almost always dictated by how the fabrications we supply will be used, which is something they know more about than us.
The Customer Comes First
We’re in the business of supplying quality metal fabrications, and that’s why we take QA and QC seriously. We’ve put an extensive set of QC activities in place to protect our customers and help us minimize waste. If a job requires any additional or special QC checks, we’re always happy to do what we can. Contact us to discuss your needs.