Compass Made has a long history of looking for ways to improve its quality, reliability, and efficiency. The company’s latest effort comes with the institution of Plug One Test One at all of Compass Made’s manufacturing facilities that focus on harness assemblies and cable assemblies.

Plug One Test One (POTO), part of the Lean Manufacturing disciplines, means precisely what it says: one at a time build and test process.

The benefits to this process are immense, reports Compass Made Training Manager Stephen Paine.

“POTO enables us to identify and fix any problems right on the line in real time,” Paine says. “We’re using this discipline so we know that by the time a product leaves here that we’ve done everything we can to ensure it’s quality.”

Benefits of Plug One Test One

In addition to identifying and fixing any issues at assembly, Plug One Test One gives Compass Made clients many benefits.

  • Cost Savings — early inspection reduces the need for re-work.
  • Effective Production — assemblers can identify process deficiencies early, so they work more effectively and efficiently.
  • Improved Quality — better testing means better products.
  • Efficient Quality Assurance —earlier testing puts less pressure on downstream functions such as QA
  • On-Time Delivery — early detection means quick fixes and schedule maintenance.
  • Reduces Returns — products are delivered as designed and engineered without error.
  • Continued Education — assemblers learn common issues and solutions.

The Early Results

“We see better first pass yield, particularly when it comes to test failures,” Paine says. “Now most of the failures we find, either in final inspection or through customer RMAs, are not test related.”

Those “failures” are coming from secondary issues, such as labeling, cable length issues, and wrong dimensions, he explains. “I should say that we do not see more of those issues; they’re just rising to the surface because there are less testing failures at this point. These are things that are easier and cost effective to fix.”

Initial Customer Feedback

A handful of Compass Made clients have come in and seen POTO in action, each leaving more confident with the process.

“One of our client’s quality engineers came in and said, ‘I like that you have processes in place to make sure you catch these problems early and fix them; now I know the process is more reliable and the product is going to be of good quality and on time.’”

Beyond the Assembly Line

Utilizing POTO helps beyond the assembly line, especially for a contract manufacturer like Compass Made who has an onsite engineering team.

“Let’s say we experience a test failure,” Paine begins. “We start investigating. Was it operator error or was it something at the beginning of the process like confusing documentation. We can go back to our engineering staff and have them look at the plans before we build the rest of the batch. Our engineering staff is another value add that many other companies don’t have.”

The Future

Instituting POTO enables Compass Made to continue to improve on delivering quality products, especially as working with prototypes and new designs become a regular part of the company’s business.

A recent harness prototype project was designed with a back shell to cover the cable wires. In this instance, POTO meant testing the product twice — once before the back shell was installed and then once after.

“Testing that product twice helped ensure that the back shell was installed properly and that the cable wires weren’t damaged after the shell was installed,” Paine says. “You can see how important that level of testing becomes as designs get more complicated. This is all part of making sure that our clients get a product that meets or exceeds their requirements.”

What that means six months from now is that the QA personnel who had been working in final inspection will move to the front end of the process, verifying designs and documentation to streamline assembly. “The plan is to do everything possible to ensure success throughout the manufacturing process.”

POTO, as well as the experienced Compass Made staff, makes that possible. “It’s important to note that we have people here who been doing this for 20 or more years,” Paine says. “They’ve seen a lot of things and have a good idea of what’s going to work and what might not.

“Adding front-end testing and moving more talent to the front of the line is going to make all of our plants so much more efficient,” he continues. “We are excited for what this means internally, but more importantly, how it’s going to help our clients.”