Manufacturers use objective quality evidence (OQE) to ensure that critical-use parts will perform as intended throughout their life, to provide transparency to the customer and to trace the source of a problem in the rare case that a failure occurs in the field. Businesses based on manufacturing parts for critical-use projects must build an extremely high level of OQE into their standard fabrication processes.
High Standards as the Default Setting
Look for a manufacturer whose basic OQE standards are remarkably high, and can be increased even further upon customer request. Even if a contract explicitly states a low standard, the seasoned manufacturer generally defaults to their regular high standard.
This is because OQE practices are so ingrained in their process and day-to-day activity, it would be risky to lower standards for a single project and then raise them back for the next. It is safer and more consistent to maintain an extra-high standard across the board.
The Components of Objective Quality Evidence Standards
Sure, everyone will have some form of quality control. But when standards for a manufacturer’s basic OQE surpass most firms in the industry, they will include:
- 100 percent dimensional inspection: Every single dimension on every single drawing is measured and recorded as acceptable or unacceptable.
- Material heats and lots are tracked to each serial number of each component.
- Special tasks are limited only to qualified personnel, and their qualification records are kept on file.
- Nondestructive Examination (NDE) reports are created for in-process and final inspections.
- All data is recorded, filed and archived whether or not it is required to be delivered with the components.
- Weld maps with unique joint identification can be created so that welding parameters and inspections can be tracked to a specific weld on a specific serial numbered weldment.
- Weld pass records are maintained so the parameters used are recorded along with individual sign-offs for inspections performed on each pass.
When Customers Require Even Higher Standards
Some contracts may require a higher level of OQE. During contract review, seasoned manufacturers flag anything that is not standard or that may require a higher OQE than normal. When they identify these special requirements — or when a customer specifically requests higher standards — they include steps in their process to accommodate.
Instead of just recording each dimension as acceptable or unacceptable, a contract with higher OQE may require their partner to measure every dimension as normal, and then also record the actual value of every single dimension.
For example, say a hole was designed to have a diameter of 1.000", with a tolerance of +/- .005", and the hole measured at 1.001" in diameter. Instead of just recording it as acceptable, the team would take the extra step of documenting its actual value (1.001") for extra proof that parts will function as designed.
Layers and Checks to Assure Accuracy
A thorough OQE process travels through several checks — from design to inspection — to ensure nothing is lost in translation.
First, the person with technical responsibility — usually the project engineer or quality engineer — reviews the project requirements. That person then establishes the check points and inspection points necessary for each of the OQE requirements, which the teams will work off of and record.
Next, it is reviewed by the quality manager, who makes sure the plan includes all requirements necessary to fulfill the contract.
Finally, it is passed to the actual people who will conduct the inspection, so they can see the first-hand, verbatim language of what is required and how to achieve those requirements.
The Value of Strict OQE
High-standard OQE is not just a formality. It protects and insulates both parties, and provides a tracking mechanism should a failure occur in the field.
If a customer is concerned that a piece of equipment is incorrect, the manufacturer can refer to the OQE — complete with inspection reports, signatures, dates and recorded values — during an audit. If the client wants to probe deeper, a seasoned manufacturer maintains supplementary data, including coordinate measurement machine inspections, which saves records from old inspections.
In the rare case that a part fails or breaks in the field, clients need to be able to trace the process from the origin of the material through the entire manufacturing process. If a screw fails, for example, the exact origin of that screw can be traced, as can any other locations where similar hardware was used to prevent future failures.
Strict OQE protects all parties, ensures quality, provides a complete record and tracks the source of a problem should a failure occur in the field. New technology and paperless processes have been applied to control the flow of sensitive information, but the basic principles of sound OQE have not changed.