Whenever you are operating any kind of a mass finishing, surface preparation, shot blasting or shot peening machine the only way you can achieve a consistent result is by operating the machine and process the same way each time. Sounds obvious, and yet too often we find people operating machines that don’t have a process sheet or standard operating procedure! Instead processes are run on the basis that the people using them are ‘in the know’; that is at least until something goes disastrously amiss! Please don’t let me send the message though; it isn't that it can’t be done with a skilled, knowledgeable and (expert) experienced operator … it can. The question is though, what happens when they don’t come in for work (sickness / holidays, etc…) or worse still when that person leaves and/or moves on? Invariably that expert knowledge goes missing too!
The good news is that just as Ray Kroc managed to get hundreds of thousands of unskilled and often inexperienced kitchen workers to produce a consistent product quality all over the world in McDonalds restaurants, so you can achieve consistency from various operators using your equipment by creating and using a process sheet.
Simple to create, such a document needs to include all of the information relating to the variables within the process such as (although not limited to):
- Machine type and size to be used
- Operating speed / setting
- Time of the process
- Any consumables to be used (type, amount and condition as well as frequency they are to be replenished or replaced if such a variable is a factor)
- The starting condition of the part and the desired (expected) finishing condition
- Program number or settings (depending on sophistication of the operating system / controls)
- Number of parts being processed at a time
- How the machine is to be loaded, operated and unloaded
- The type of, number of and frequency of checks from the operator to ensure the machine is doing what it should be (unless the machine is sophisticated and has built in operating controls to monitor this automatically)
Just as we have to use photographic identification to cross borders, open bank accounts, etc… to prove that we really are who we say we are so photographs can help an operator make sense of the instructions in your process sheet. Consider if a written instruction clearly describes how something should be or whether it leaves a degree of ambiguity (irrespective how small) in the operator’s mind. Where there is doubt, or even the possibility of it a photograph illustrating how something should look is worth a thousand words. Quick and easy to comprehend a good photograph, or better still a series of them, will leave the operator understanding precisely how something needs to be, how the machine needs to be operated and will improve your chances of achieving the required result through consistently good processing.
If At First You Don’t Succeed …
Don’t worry if you have never done this before; simply set the time aside, document your process and then follow it through (with an unskilled / inexperienced operator following it) and see how they get on. Should they get it right then your process sheet must be good and you can implement it. Should they get it wrong though you will find your sheet needs improving, in which case identify what went wrong, work on that area and test it again; and continue to do so until a new (inexperienced) operator can do it right first time.
Ideas on how such process sheets can/should look can be gained by speaking with a reputable equipment supplier who should be able and willing to help you with this.
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