Quality Control and Assurance

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In the next few posts, we will be discussing the quality control and quality assurance aspects of thermal spray coatings. While there are several academic treatises on this subject, we will be concentrating more on the practical aspects of running a high quality thermal spray coatings operation with customer satisfaction being the end result. A good quality control manual, good quality control testing practices, good easily retrievable record keeping, good maintenance practices, etc all go into producing good product quality. If you are or planning to get into the aerospace coatings business, then there is NADCAP which is the National Aerospace and Defense Contractors Accreditation Program which has stringent quality systems requirements to be met; automotive quality systems have their own requirements and of course the ISO requirements are quite involved also. In any case, once you develop a strong quality control organization, systems, procedures and implementation, you should technically be able to meet all of the requirements of quality control and quality assurance.

While there are several templates available by third party companies for developing quality control manuals and the like, the best way is to write your quality control manual from scratch that is specifically written for your organization and way of doing things. One Quality Control manager once told me “My job is simple – I have to say what I will do and then do what I said will do !” The problem with smaller thermal spray shops is that they lack personnel to fully support the Quality Control function. They somehow need to address this issue. Nowadays, customers may have specifications for coatings requirements that have to be met; someone needs to keep up with these specifications, changes to specs, revision levels, etc and ensure that the proper specifications are referenced in the process operation sheets. Without all these quality controls and systems in place, the wrong coating may get applied to the wrong part, or the incorrect thickness of coating or metallurgical test standards may end up getting used. While this seems hard to believe, I have seen these things happen in real life; especially when it is the same coating but a different class – Metco 101NS versus Metco 101BNS.

Really, quality control starts with the quotation stage and ends with shipping. The financial aspects of accounts receivables are not really included in the quality control process even though they should really be. For instance, I know of a case where an accounts receivable clerk kept calling and sending reminder notices to the customer for past due invoices when in all actuality, the invoices were all paid up to date and it was actually an error in inputting the receivables data on her part ! We will deal with as many aspects of quality control and assurance in the coming few posts as we can, and hopefully this may be of value to you in addressing some of the quality control issues in your own shop. Remember the ultimate goal is to develop a sense of complete satisfaction on the part of the customer that he received a good quality part in the promised delivery time at a reasonable cost. Of course, there is a certain cost to quality – the higher the quality demands, the higher the cost; rejected parts and re-work costs cost money and should be minimized as much as possible.

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