By The Pro QC Quality Assurance Team What is a manufacturing process audit? The purpose of the manufacturing process audit (MPA) is to assess if the factory has taken appropriate measures to control the step-by-step process of manufacturing as tightly as possible and to ensure that the end product meets quality expectations. Each step is reviewed, from the receipt of incoming raw material to each production process to assembly, testing, inspections, and warehousing. The capability of machines, equipment, operators, systemic process controls, and production environment is constantly tested at each of these production process steps, to ensure that the manufacturing is on track and the factory is capable of producing the end-product with, ideally, zero defects. How is the manufacturing process audit applied to the e-bike industry? Improving bicycle quality is the core reason to consider a manufacturing process audit during e-bike production. With current demand on the rise, an increasing number of bicycle and bicycle component manufacturers are following the production standards set for the automobile industry, in order to set a benchmark for quality mass production. The quality standard for the automobile industry is IATF 16949, which sets the standard for continual improvement, emphasizing defect prevention, and the reduction of variation and waste in the supply chain. Pro QC’s MPA follows this methodology, applying it to the steps followed by e-bike suppliers to produce each component, and the final assembly of the e-bike product. What are the benefits for bicycle importers? The manufacturing process control is in place to ensure production capabilities remain stable – so it is not just a benefit for e-bike importers, but also the production factories. Optimized, stable production output can meet customer demands with less chance of critical issues, such as equipment or battery failure. This means fewer quality defects and fewer customer complaints, less delay in production, and of course, less scrap waste due to quality issues. What kind of defects do we usually identify during an e-bike MPA? When Pro QC conducts manufacturing process audits, we generally find we need to address two major concerns: one is inconsistent documentation, and the other, linked heavily to the first, is poor preventative maintenance on the component equipment. In terms of the documentation, an example we may find is that the technical drawing was updated on paper, but the update was not necessarily reflected on the production line. This can lead to a critical product dimension not being controlled during the production/assembly process on the manufacturing line. These are small mistakes but can cause significant issues as they are necessary to maintain the quality level of the end-product. The second issue – poor preventative maintenance, often found in second class factories – can include, for example, worn-out machines, clogged up nozzles, poor calibration on the measurement equipment, which leads to parts/components/products to be manufactured out of the specifications. No matter how tiny, each production error is compounded significantly after going through 10 processes on the manufacturing line, and therefore becomes a major issue when it appears as a final product. The MPA is a preemptive tool to identify and eliminate potential risk, which ultimately improves end-product bicycle quality as well as production capacity for suppliers. Should your e-bike factory or suppliers be experiencing quality or documentation issues, contact us for an assessment and ask about our customized MPA solutions.