Poor quality tolerated in Britain

UK companies are refusing to admit that they have quality problems that could cause customers to scrap precision components worth thousands of pounds each.

Head-in-the sand UK companies are refusing to admit that they have quality problems that could cause customers to scrap precision components worth thousands of pounds each, according to BADCAD, a Coventry firm that helps clean up ‘invisible’ issues at the design stage.

Sales director Giles Caskell says that ‘problems usually occur during design, when the component is being designed as a solid model on the computer and before it goes to the manufacturing process.’

‘If, for example, a customer changes from wanting a six-holed pepper pot to a salt cellar, and the appropriate alterations to the solid model are not made correctly their toolmaker might unknowingly be sent instructions to make a salt cellar with seven holes.’

‘That’s not a total disaster when the product is relatively cheap – but if the piece of work involved is a rotor for a turbine engine, it matters considerably. The component might already be worth £1 million before it reaches that stage in the manufacturing process’, says Gaskell.

Lincoln based Gas turbine manufacturer ALSTOM, has invested in DesignQA software from BADCAD to ensure that CAD models created by its own employees and contract workers are of a consistent, exacting standard.

Peter Stratton, manager of the core design and assembly group explains ‘at ALSTOM we don’t design for any other manufacturer, but we do employ contracted designers and draughtsmen when necesssary. Whilst highly skilled, they are not obviously familiar with our own best practice systems and so an additional check run by the software will help us to identify potential problems and put them right before the analytical or manufacturing processes begin.’

Underlying the issue is a lack of quality control in the CAD area, says Gaskell, ‘for example, car companies are often multiple CAD environments, which can cause horrendous problems. They’re taking in so much CAD data from suppliers and contractors, in so many different formats, that in effect there’s no overall quality control. What they are receiving can be absolute rubbish, and they might never know it.’

BADCAD claims that the temptation is for companies to place too much reliance on the commonly recognised quality assurance accreditations, in effect placing all their faith in a metal plaque hanging on the wall. The company believes that it could be sitting on £2 million business in the UK.

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