Quality gurus have long preached the importance of getting to the root of the problem. So why, then, when managers understand this so well, do organizations settle for the quick fix? It’s like taking a painkiller for a headache: the pain goes away for a while, but if there’s an underlying cause, chances are it will return.
Solving Adhesive Bonding Problems
Brighton Science is often asked to help with the industrial version of a headache. There’s a bonding problem, perhaps a failing joint, a peeling coating, or a part that sticks too well and won’t release.
It’s usually possible to recommend process or equipment changes that fix the surface quality issue, but experience shows that bonding problems are insidious. The problem will seem to go away for a while, but at some point, it will reoccur, perhaps in a different way or by showing up later in the product's life. Bonding problems in the factory often result in production pauses and scrapped material, but those costs pale in comparison to the damage incurred when the customer finds the problem.
In-service bonding problems can lead to warranty claims, angry customers, and a damaged reputation. More seriously, if a poor bond causes the product to fail in service, a host of liability issues will likely follow.
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The Alternative to an Adhesion Problem 'Quick Fix'
The way to avoid this game of “Whack-a-Mole” is to find and address the root cause of each manufacturing failure. When understanding surface conditions, specialized equipment and expertise are needed, as these are uncommon in manufacturing; often, there’s no clarity about what caused the problem.What’s needed is Surface Intelligence. But, first, businesses must commit to determining the root cause of bonding issues rather than moving forward with a quick fix. Here are 5 signposts for taking on that journey:
1. Give Problem-Solvers Time and Resources
When an adhesion problem appears, it’s often assigned to newer and less experienced engineers. They may be able to implement a fix that makes the problem go away, but then they’ll move on to the next task. Unfortunately, because these teams lack experience, time, and resources, they won’t have what they need to identify the root cause correctly.
Managers responsible for those problem-solvers must ensure that their workers have the time, resources, and knowledge to drive to the root cause. They should understand the urgency of delivering a durable solution and have the time and resources necessary to find it.
Similarly, managers should be sure to document and share the solution in a bid to increase cross-departmental collaboration.
Better communication = better teamwork = better products
2. Implement Measurements & Specifications
Quality professionals understand the importance of measurement. Unfortunately, the root causes of bond problems are invisible to the eye and, therefore, not measured. What’s needed is a way to obtain a number that indicates the surface condition. Water break tests and dyne pens are inaccurate, unquantified, and repeatable.
For a business that’s ISO9001-compliant and committed to quality, the ability to quantify surface conditions unlocks opportunities to improve product performance, appearance, and durability. This is done by measuring water contact angle. Fast and repeatable, this provides a way to monitor upstream processes and thereby head off bonding problems before they occur.
As the experts at Brighton Science like to say, water contact angle makes the invisible visible.
3. Use a Common Language
The condition of surfaces impacts every aspect of manufacturing. Those responsible for developing and launching new products, manufacturing operations, quality, and even maintenance need to understand how their work will impact surfaces, bonding, and adhesive quality down the line.
To achieve a streamlined approach, everyone involved needs to use the same language to discuss the condition of surfaces. Water contact angle forms that language and provides a common way for people to talk about what's happening throughout the product lifecycle.
Taking this further, a common language and measurement method enables organizations to learn. Organizations that value growth through knowledge enhance their competitive position and are more prepared for success.
4. Integrate Surface Intelligence
Awareness of how the surface condition affects product quality and manufacturing processes will allow a business to identify and resolve the root cause of adhesion and bond problems. However, what it won’t do is prevent those problems. To achieve this, data and knowledge of surface conditions – what Brighton Science calls Surface Intelligence – must be used proactively.
Surface condition measurement – contact angle – should become part of the control methodology for relevant processes. Adopting Surface Intelligence will ensure that drift is detected promptly and corrected, thereby avoiding problems in current production. But what about new products?
With the rise of adhesive bonding, particularly in products where fasteners have been eliminated to save weight or reduce cost, bonding and adhesion are critical to the product’s final performance and durability. If a bond should fail, the manufacturer could be exposed to substantial liability claims with potentially devastating consequences.
This risk can be avoided by including surface condition specifications in every product and process FMEA conducted during development. By identifying where the surface condition is most important, a business can put control and mitigation measures in place, proactively anticipating and preventing problems.
5. Recognize Opportunities
Establishing a common language and incorporating Surface Intelligence into risk assessments and other processes is just the beginning. Once teams understand that surface condition is critical for successful coating, joining, and releasing, they will see opportunities everywhere.
The temptation to implement quick fixes will disappear, partially because the problems do too, and because understanding leads to root cause identification. From here on, the organization will be set on a journey of learning, which results in greater business success overall.
Always Look for the Root Cause
Since Deming's concepts came to America in the seventies, companies have searched for ways to increase quality and reduce costs. Surface intelligence and contact angle measurements present an untapped opportunity to do this.
Too many organizations take the “quick fix” approach to resolving bonding and adhesion problems, exposing them to product failures and warranty costs. The better approach is to get root causes and implement permanent solutions.
Take steps toward finding the root cause of adhesion and coating failure and download the eBook, "Usage of Water Contact Angle to Step Up Six Sigma in Cleanliness and Adhesion Functions," to learn more.