Risk mitigation is one of the most important aspects of the metal fabrication process and is also arguably one of the most undervalued. This encompasses not only post-production quality checks of parts, but also evaluations of the metal fabrication process from project planning to operator improvement and accountability. From developing staff to optimizing hiring practices and improving the efficiency of department operations, risk mitigation touches every nook and cranny of manufacturing. No fabricator, regardless of size, can operate effectively without it. The optimization of the process, and everything that entails, is the most crucial mission of a risk management team.
Development of Managers and Employees
The most important risk mitigation tool is the development of quality staff. This begins with management and moves quickly to the operators themselves. Acquiring the knowledge and the proven tools of manufacturing is a never-ending process for everyone involved. Management’s goals and desires are ultimately pushed to the supervisors. The operators on the floor require three things: 1. knowledge, 2. tools, and 3. authority. Through consistent improvement in hiring practices, manufacturer’s can give operators the development they need to work autonomously and with complete ownership of their craft. Risk management is as much about the development of personnel as it is the process. Employees accept responsibility but should receive recognition for their achievement. This mentality builds quality teams.
One of the biggest challenges for any steel fabricator is taking hard data gathered through analysis of the manufacturing process and communicating it to the floor. Data can inform efficiency and identify problem areas if they exist. Risk management must make sense of the data in order to relay the right messaging. Consistently held quality control meetings are a must for any fabricator to allow for necessary optimization. Top problem areas should be regularly identified and, if conducted properly by risk management, should be resolved promptly. Departments are held accountable for their own performance, but healthy communication between manufacturing departments and management help zero-in where the real issues reside.
Mitigating Risk in MIG, TIG and Robotic Welding
If you sign a contract for any form of metal fabrication, it’s likely the welding department will touch your project in some respect. The level of individual welder knowledge and skill required to consistently execute complex welds makes risk management all the more significant. Typically, with services such as laser cutting and machining, tolerances and finishes can be more-or-less predicted with limited variance. Welds are another story. Even robotic welding requires skilled handling to execute a specific weld. To the untrained eye, what appears to be a cosmetically appealing weld might, in fact, be functionally unsound. The risk of potential human error places more emphasis on training individual employees to constantly improve their processes and knowledge of the skillset.
Certified Weld Inspectors (CWI) present a great opportunity for steel fabricators to mitigate risk through individual welder training. CWIs give manufacturers the flexibility to design customized welds for specific clients or parts. For this reasons, well-trained CWIs are an invaluable asset for any custom metal fabricator.
Cohesiveness Between Manufacturing Departments
The handoff of tasks between departments is among the most difficult tasks for a multi-service metal fabricator. Through a proper planning of workflows, much of the risk associated with inter-department work can be mitigated. Still, with any new product introductions (NPIs), there will be some initial challenges ensuring parts are moved and executed correctly among various departments. Digitized project maps help manufacturing departments understand how a project will move and where a part is in the process at any given time. As more workflows and planning for NPIs occur, the more efficient handoffs between departments become.
Personnel and Process Create Quality
The quality of personnel, the efficiency of the process and the safety of the process are the most pressing tasks of risk mitigation. Quality parts are only made through well-developed employees and management that communicate effectively to perpetually optimize themselves to become better manufacturers. Mediating optimization is risk management, a key component for the success of custom metal fabrication.