The Plan – Do – Check – Act (PDCA) methodology, also known as the Deming Cycle, is a four-step model for continuous improvement that can be applied in manufacturing process management with a view to improving the effectiveness of manufacturing processes and solving quality management problems.
The PDCA methodology was popularized by W. Edwards Deming and played an instrumental role in Japan’s recovery after the Second World War. It revolves around the principles of the scientific method, i.e. systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses: once a hypothesis is confirmed, it can be used to further improve the relevant processes.
The Four Phases of the PDCA Methodology applied to Inspection Management
The methodology involves four actionable steps that can be iterated until the desired result is achieved:
The first step is typically to decide what goals are to be achieved and to identify a strategy for achieving these goals.
When applied to inspection management, the “Plan” basically consists of:
• Identifying what materials need to be tested and inspected, based on the Inspection and Test Plan (ITP) and the contractual requirements
• Selecting a suitable date for the inspection, depending on the manufacturer’s workload
• Sharing this information and agreeing on the inspection date with all the people involved, including inspectors and customers
The second step is to implement the plan or solution. When managing an inspection, the “Do” is mostly in the hands of the Vendor, who will need to:
• Make available the component to be inspected
• Pre-test it if required
• Move the component in a suitable testing area
• Prepare the test certificates
Did the implemented actions lead to the desired effect? With enough data collected, one can study the results of the implementation and compare them with the goals and objectives.
During the check phase, the inspection activities are carried out against the applicable testing criteria, and the data and results gathered from the “Do” phase are evaluated. The inspector is in charge of:
• Inspecting the offered materials
• Reviewing the applicable test certificates and preparing an inspection report about the results of the inspection
• Submitting the inspection report to the Customer
Records from the “Do” and “Check” phases help identify any issues with the process. These issues may include:
• minor problems found during an inspection, and any other areas of concern
• opportunities for improvement
The issues are to be followed-up until resolution, while the root causes of such issues are investigated, and reported to the parties involved.
Using NotifyMe to manage inspections in accordance with the PDCA method
NotifyMe provides a centralized workspace designed to enable organizations to manage their inspection activities in accordance with the PDCA method:
• The ITP and the other specifications can be found in the document section, organized by project.
• Inspection dates can be shown in shared calendars, in or outside the organization, making the information about any schedule change available to the people involved in real time.
• The in-built messaging system sends automated Inspection Notifications via email to the people concerned.
• NotifyMe provides customized workflows of tasks that are assigned to the people involved.
• Automated tasks can be assigned to the vendor (such as sending the notification to customer, preparing the material for the tests, or completing the certification on time).
• Automated tasks can be assigned to the customer (such as selecting the inspector, confirming attendance, or reviewing the inspection report and test certificates)
• NotifyMe provides the workflows of tasks assigned to the parties in charge to verify the completion of the “Do” phase.
• Automated tasks can be assigned to the inspectors and inspection agencies (such as selecting the inspector, or submitting the inspection report and test certificates).
• The test certificates can be additionally endorsed by the inspectors using an electronic signature.
• Depending on the result of the inspection, any issue identified can be recorded as an Action Item.
• This enables the related information to be passed on to people who will be in charge for any further activity related to the project (for instance, the inspectors who will carry out the next inspection visits). Managing the issues and action items through software ensures an effective follow-up even when the corrective plan spans over several weeks or months.
• The Action Items will be visible to all people concerned who will follow up the issue, for the entire duration of the project, until resolution.
• When the result of the inspection is satisfactory, the test certificates can be automatically added to the quality dossier or Manufacturers’ Record Books. This helps eliminate redundant data input and allow seamless information flow between departments.