The Importance of Deviation Management in Manufacturing

It’s agreeable that quality is the number one most important aspect of manufacturing. There are numerous quality standards throughout industries and throughout the world. Without them, many products wouldn’t serve their purpose and would be complete junk without them. For instance, without FDA quality standards, the medical devices that are used during surgery could be inefficient causing the surgery to fail. Or without auto industry standards, your car wouldn’t operate the way it’s supposed to.  Another would be if there weren’t FAA quality standards, airplanes could be unreliable and unsafe to fly.

So I’m sure you get the idea of how important quality and industry standards are. Now lets get into a very important aspect of quality and that is deviations. Deviations are manufacturing/production changes that deviate from a customer’s contracted manufacturing specifications. Deviations bare no limit on severity or magnitude. Instead, they can be even the smallest of changes, but regardless of how big of a change, deviation management is extremely important to the quality of the product.

This brings up the main topic of the importance of deviation management in manufacturing. Before we get started, I would like to note that not all manufacturers and fabricators manage their deviations the same or use the same process. Nor is this article meant to be a “how-to” of deviation management. Rather, this is to illustrate the importance of managing deviations and how Vista Industrial Products manages their deviations.

Managing deviations can be very cumbersome for both the manufacturer and the customer, but it’s one of those things where if you don’t do it, or if it get’s sloppy, there could be costly circumstances for both the manufacturer and customer. There are numerous ways to manage deviations, but the most important thing is to document the deviation and make sure there is approval from the customer! This can’t be emphasized enough! If you go to make a change to the material from the manufacturing drawing because it will bring down the cost, but failed to get approval from the customer or even failed to mention it, this could end very badly! The material could end up being completely useless to the application of the product because maybe it rusted from being outdoors, when the customer intended it to be rust free. But because the manufacturing change wasn’t approved from the customer, it is now the manufacturer’s liability and the customer’s product quality is….well junk to say the least. Which is why it is crucial to document all change requests and to get written approval for the change. This diminishes liability to the manufacturer, gives right to the customer for their own product to approve such changes, and most importantly maintains overall quality of the product!

Deviations don’t just fall under material changes. Deviations can be literally any change. This could be paint colors, hardware, method of manufacturing, changing the design…the list goes on forever of the possibilities of changes. But the most important thing is to get approval and manage and document the changes.

Here at Vista Industrial Products, we treat deviations as being any change from the customer’s manufacturing drawings, quality clauses, and other manufacturing specifications. Before we manufacture any products, we first have to quote the product using the customer’s exact specifications. It’s usually during this time that we will be able to determine where we will be making any deviations. When we write up our quotes, we will list all deviations to inform the customer of the pricing and any differences from their specifications. This allows the customer to not only review our pricing, but to also see what we plan to do during the fabrication process if it differs at all from what they requested.

From here, the customer will submit a purchase order. Before we confirm any orders, we have to get written approval for all deviations we list on the quote. If there is any disagreement in the changes, we will work it out before we confirm the order. This ensures the customer is fully aware of the changes and agrees to them, and most importantly, they will be getting the quality product they purchased. Once we get approval, we annotate the changes on the manufacturing drawing and our manufacturing documentation.

Seems pretty simple right? But once you have made the same part at multiple revisions and changes, this is where it can get tricky, and this is why it is so important to manage and track all deviations. You don’t want to fabricate a part for the second time at a new revision, and not carry over the changes (if they’re still needed). Or make it a second time and forget to obtain approval for the deviations.

The easiest way to bypass the deviation management (request and approval process), is to have the customer implement the changes into their requirements. The customer can do this by adding it to their manufacturing drawing, quality clauses, and specifications. This way, you don’t need to request approval for the deviation, add it to the quote, get approval, and have it added to the purchase order since it’s already officially implemented on the customer’s specifications.

If you have other methods that you find useful when it comes to deviation management, please comment below and share!

Thanks for following along!

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