Stecker Machine Blog

Quality Control For CNC Machining: What Is A QMS? Why Is It So Important?

01/31/2023 | Matt Oswald

Work place photo for Q4 Management Review

We’ve said it before, and we’ll continue to say it: Quality is everything in CNC machining.

It’s the reason why manufacturers use CNC machining to produce precise parts. Of course, every CNC machine shop will say that they highly value quality and meet quality requirements. But, how do you know for sure?

In general, a Quality Management System (QMS) is a quality control process that helps ensure that products and services consistently meet regulatory requirements as well as the customer’s requirements. Quality control for CNC machining is especially important in finding and correcting errors before any parts get to the customer.

Let’s explore the key components of a QMS and hear from the person at Stecker Machine responsible for creating and implementing that quality management system.

What makes a QMS reliable and valuable?

Investing in the latest technology and using the most state-of-the-art inspection tools are vital to a workable QMS that consistently meets the standards set by ISO 9001:2015 and IATF 16949:2016. One aspect of top technology is having a single software system that makes it easy for everyone in the shop to use, smooths the flow of current information, and keeps the audit process simple.

Technology also helps an operation follow the same procedures and processes every time, documenting and keeping accurate records of test results and production data that can help identify issues before they become problems.

A solid QMS also ensures regular maintenance and calibration of equipment and tooling. Again, meeting required specifications is key, which only happens when machines are operating at optimal levels and keeping downtime to a minimum.

Yet another benefit of a QMS is how it drives training. CNC machine shop employees need to have the skills to effectively operate equipment, knowledge to inspect finished parts, and confidence to identify and correct problems. A QMS helps keep training coordinated on the specific procedures and processes that ensure every part shipped from the dock doors is a source of pride.

The ultimate job of a QMS is ensuring a flawless final part 

Perfect finished parts. That’s always the goal, and really how a QMS shines within a CNC machine shop. A part typically goes through a visual inspection, has dimensional measurements taken, and is tested physically.

A flawless part doesn’t always mean a part will never change. In fact, a QMS should include continuous improvement initiatives based on production data, daily audits, and customer reviews. Regularly updating a manufacturing process — when improvements are identified — is a regular part of a shop’s mindset and processes.

It comes down to understanding and meeting customers’ needs, and that includes the entire operation. Yes, a QMS extends beyond the quality department; everyone in the building should know how and where to access information in the QMS and be contributing to make it a success.

Stecker Machine’s QMS is an organization-wide initiative

Kathy Ledwith is constantly on Stecker’s production floor, asking probing questions of everyone involved in the CNC machining process. As the company’s QMS expert, she wants to identify and tweak process issues to improve efficiency and enhance quality. She may also find an opportunity for a teaching moment.

“I like to build awareness of how important everyone’s contribution is to the success of our company,” Kathy says. “Our quality management system involves many steps done by many people in order to ship a quality part to a customer. Every individual is responsible for their contribution to that success,” she adds.

“In that respect, it’s similar to CNC machining, which is more than putting a raw casting into a machine. Numerous steps need to be properly completed, and then verified, to make a quality part,” Kathy says.

Another challenge on Kathy’s plate is creating an internal audit team. These full-time employees — from different departments throughout Stecker — must learn and understand both ISO 9001:2015 and IATF 16949:2016 plus individual customer requirements, which can all be overwhelming.

“During our monthly training meetings, we cover changes in regulations (or a portion of a regulation) and any changes in customer requirements,” Kathy says. “It’s a lot of work for our audit team members, yet it creates a unique opportunity to learn and understand other processes throughout the business and how they interact to produce high-quality parts for our customers,” she adds.

At the end of every day, Kathy has learned something new. “I feel like I’m experiencing the old saying, ‘The more I learn, the less I know,’” she says. “It’s fascinating to handle quality control for CNC machining and implement a highly functional quality management system. There are no dull days at Stecker,” Kathy says.

Quality was the driving force behind our recent mini-case studies. See how Stecker’s willingness to dive into challenging CNC machining situations rescued four customers. Read In a Bind? 4 Projects During Which Stecker Machine Rescued Customers in Need. Click the link below now to get your copy!

Special thanks to John Bichler, a friend and former coworker, for his initial draft of this blog. The marketing team edited his copy for space and flow, but we had to mention his most creative line: “Kathy is constantly on the production floor, asking Columbo-type questions.”

complex CNC parts

Matt Oswald

About the Author

Matt leads SMC's Human Resources and Marketing Team. He has worked for Stecker Machine for over 7 years on projects spanning CNC manufacturing, robotics, inbound marketing, and leadership. He enjoys applying his engineering background to any business challenge.

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