Plans are worthless, but planning is everything
– Dwight D. Eisenhower
No matter how good your production plan and your people are, disputes will always be a part of the manufacturing process. Designing and making functional parts is a complex endeavor, and organizations (and the people in them) can’t be perfect.
But knowing that disputes are inevitable between in-house design, production and inspection departments, or with external suppliers and customers doesn’t mean you can’t (or shouldn’t) try to avoid them and minimize their impact. And while disputes are evidence that your production plan has broken down, creating clear communication protocols and standardizing drawings during the planning process are what enable you to quickly and effectively resolve those issues.
The needs of every business are different, so whether you’re dealing with internal or external disputes, you can use the links below to navigate directly to the sections most relevant to you:
The dynamics of a dispute between a design engineer and a machinist are different from those you have with a supplier or customer. So, this article breaks down the types of disputes our clients face and how applying Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing to your workflow will help solve them.
In general, the biggest complaint from production and inspection is that the design department doesn’t understand how the parts are actually being produced and inspected. Usually, that results in ambiguous drawings with unnecessary GD&T symbols (which creates unnecessary inspection points) or needlessly tight tolerances that increase the number of deviations and your scrap rate.
Such poorly considered drawings foster confusion and create delays as machinists and inspectors attempt to meet requirements that are unimportant and not functionally required. A good designer adept at GD&T will understand how every given tolerance will be inspected and allot the loosest tolerances possible to meet the functional requirements. Such designs ensure the part is easy to make and inspect.
On the flip side, designers get frustrated when machinists and inspectors don’t understand or misinterpret the GD&T symbols on a print. Because nobody likes admitting they’re wrong, resolving these disputes requires time-consuming meetings and arguments.
One of our trainers used to work for a tier 1 automotive supplier where he faced just such a problem – during certain shifts, they were getting a ton of deviations because a few individuals didn’t understand what was being asked for on the print. The resulting disputes forced them to shut down the line, which cost the company $40,000 per minute.
GD&T provides a uniform understanding to avoid and resolve disputes
The cost of your disputes may not be that large, but every dispute costs you time and money. When your team uses Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing, you create a standardized rulebook for how to communicate that gets everyone on the same page. And training with us not only gives your team the definition of the symbols, but also the context to understand how they’re used on your prints. Our training isn’t about learning the entire ASME Y14.5 standard, it’s about learning the parts relevant to your business and helping you solve your problems.
Our training can’t fix bad work, but it can give you a unified approach to deal with disputes and prevent most arguments. When everyone looking at a print has a common understanding, disputes either disappear or are resolved quickly – and egos are never a problem.
Relationships with suppliers are codependent, even if you have some authority over them – they need you, but you need them, too. When disputes arise with a supplier, it’s preferable (and profitable) to resolve them amicably because it can be a lengthy and difficult process to find and validate a new one.
Typically, disputes with a supplier arise when incoming inspection rejects parts, or the parts pass inspection but don’t fit once they reach the assembly line. In either case, neither party wants to absorb the cost of the mistake, which makes the drawing critical to resolving the dispute. The drawing is a legal contract describing the part being delivered – which is why it’s essential to use GD&T to make clear and accurate drawings.
The critical factor in resolving disputes with a supplier is who has design responsibility – if you do, and the parts delivered meet the drawing requirements, then you have to eat the scrap. When the supplier is design responsible, they’re often functionally responsible as well, which puts you in the clear if the part doesn’t measure up. It also puts you on firm footing in court if the dispute becomes a legal one.
GD&T improves the production process and simplifies switching suppliers
We know that Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing improves communication because it gives everyone involved a common understanding, and improved communication means fewer disputes.
However, some suppliers don’t know GD&T, and charge more for prints using GD&T because they assume that they’ll have to accommodate tighter tolerances. But the main goal of GD&T is to create designs with the loosest tolerances possible to retain functionality – which actually makes the production process easier on your suppliers.
It’s worth explaining the benefits of GD&T, because if your suppliers aren’t good with GD&T and can’t properly read your prints or still want to charge you more out of ignorance, then it’s probably time to find someone better to work with. And because utilizing GD&T results in precise drawings and a standards-backed design, switching suppliers becomes easier because there’s no room for misinterpretation of the print.
That same point holds even if you can’t choose your supplier and are stuck with the one you have. GD&T can’t alleviate your frustration with a low-performing supplier, but it can leave said supplier no wiggle room to escape taking responsibility for their mistakes.
Despite our belief in the power of GD&T, we don’t advocate shoehorning it into existing drawings unless there’s a valid reason to do so. Plenty of companies have created their own ways that work for them. But it’s a risk using proprietary rules in the production process instead of the universally accepted language of GD&T. You and your suppliers may be running and gunning now, but nothing lasts forever, and changing suppliers becomes much easier if you’re using the standards-backed best practices of GD&T in your production process.
Customers are the lifeblood of every business, and disputes with customers are what every business fears. Even though the dynamics are the inverse of a supplier scenario, the codependency of the relationship remains, and so does the need for clear communication.
Being on the same page with your customers ensures that you understand the design and its requirements, so your parts pass inspection and will fit once they’re on the assembly line. Good communication prevents many issues altogether, and makes resolving disputes a respectful and efficient process. And if those disputes go to court, you’ll have a strong legal position.
GD&T builds trust with customers and burnishes your reputation
Using Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing is how you communicate clearly and effectively with your customers, and GD&T best practices can prevent audits and ensure you pass them when they’re required. Using GD&T shows that you know what you’re doing, that your GD&T standards-backed system and inspection standards are trustworthy. It shows that you know their requirements precisely, and will deliver them exactly what they need.
That sort of reputation gives you an edge in business development, too. Even if you’re more expensive on paper, GD&T-backed accuracy and inspection plans make you cheaper in the long run than lower priced suppliers that create scrap and waste time.
Remember, in a dispute, the goal isn’t to just be right. The goal is to make it so that your customer doesn’t question your correctness at all when you explain your side of things. It’s about building a reputation. When you understand your customer’s communication tools, you can demonstrate your domain authority, which breeds loyalty. We have clients in the biomed industry who love working with suppliers that know GD&T better than they do.
And if a dispute arises from a bad customer design, you’re protected from bearing the costs of the resulting scrap because you know you met their requirements. Plus, with good communication, if you spot a problem with their design and tell them about it, they’ll trust you even more.
Train your team in GD&T and reap the benefits
GD&T puts its practitioners in a better place to deal with disputes, but it’s not a cure-all. Misusing GD&T can actually create more disputes, so it’s important to get your people the right training so that they can communicate clearly and accurately with GD&T.
Our trainers have first-hand knowledge of every sort of dispute during their engineering careers, and have helped hundreds of clients work through many more during their teaching careers.
We don’t just teach our students the ASME standard like other training programs, we give them a framework for understanding GD&T concepts. That framework provides an effective approach to solving problems, the confidence to make good decisions, and the tools to communicate effectively with coworkers, customers and suppliers.
Good communication is critical to the training process too, and we want to understand your needs and the challenges you face. An email is great, but a phone call is the best way for us to get to know you and your business, so give us a call today and find out how GD&T can help you!
We want to help you figure out the best approach for getting your team using GD&T. We are here first to help - not sell, so let us know how we can assist your team to get started with GD&T Training.