Ice cream and batteries
My favorite ice cream shop uses a simple method for quality control ...
Whenever I order ice cream there, the clerk puts the cone on a scale before handing it over. They're checking to make sure that I, as a valued customer, get every last bit of ice cream I'm paying for ... Or maybe they're making sure I don't get an ounce more than I'm supposed to?
Either way, it's ice cream quality control 101.
I don't have the data, but I assume most employees, without the presence of the scale, would tend to make cones too heavy. It's human nature – most of us aim to please. And customers are usually happier with heaps of ice cream.
But the folks at corporate HQ see things differently. They know that when you're selling millions of ice cream cones a year, clerks with heavy hands on the scoop or the handle of the ice cream machine are giving away profits.
I imagine it's pretty tough to make a cone that's less than 5% above the target amount of ice cream just by eyeballing it ... And I know it's also pretty tough to run a business while you're giving away 5% or more of your inventory ...
Are you wondering where I'm going with this?
The battery manufacturing business, like the ice cream business, is also a high-volume, low-margin business. You need to closely monitor what goes into your batteries.
And your operators, without the technology to properly gauge the process, are very likely heavy-handed.
Operators who work on the lead strip quickly learn that if they accidently make it too thin, operators at the downstream punching or expanding processes will complain of broken wires. But nobody complains when the strip is a little bit too thick ...
And that's why heavy-handedness is a common problem.
Add a little extra paste and you can avoid the most visible problems. So operators naturally ride the process toward the top half of the spec, just in case. But production volumes are so high that adding a little bit extra to each battery plate costs your company millions of dollars.
Weight scales and calipers are one type of quality check. But these low-tech solutions aren't much better than the quality control method you'll find at the local ice cream shop ...
You could be doing a lot better.
Imagine if the cone stayed on the scale as the ice cream is added, with advanced software and automatic control to stop the release of ice cream once a precise weight is reached. This setup would produce a lot less variation. And you wouldn't have to rely on skilled operators to eyeball it.
This is what we help our customers do (only with lead paste, of course, not ice cream).
Your battery manufacturing process is a lot more complicated than putting ice cream in a cone. We're talking about multi-million dollar equipment and millions of pounds of lead material.
Are you doing enough to measure and optimize your plate production process?