Today's world of acronyms is marvelous. At times, I believe the acronyms' primary function is to confuse old men like myself. I kept on hearing about M.I.S. managers and the rather astounding salaries that they command so it peaked my interest. I asked my son, the computer specialist, "What is M.I.S.?" Since we've reached that stage in life when fathers are no longer idiots just because they don't know everything that the son knows, I got a straightforward answer that M.I.S. stands for management information systems - the computerized gathering of information that managers need to run their businesses.


I then asked, "You mean like profit and loss, expenses, and things like that?"


He nodded, and I said, "We used to call that accounting."

He shook his head and said, "No, Dad, it's more than accounting. It's any information that the management needs to conduct their business effectively; production rates, the time that customers take to pay their bills, and anything else management feels is necessary to run the business efficiently."

While it still sounded to me like what accountants used to do, I could see where most small foundries need that type of information, and it's been my experience that most of the good ones already have that type of information.

On the other hand, my observations indicate that there is frequently a lack of Q.M.I.S. What's Q.M.I.S.? It stands for Quality Management Information System. You say you've never heard of that? I can understand why. I just made it up. But, there is a lack of it!

There's more information needed by managers today to operate the business effectively than just the profit and loss statement and balance sheet. In order to improve the quality in today's foundry operations, the foundry quality manager needs more information than merely the scrap loss. I know small foundries that don't even track the scrap. In my mind, that's comparable in a Q.M.I.S. to not tracking profit in an M.I.S.

As I travel the countryside, it's truly amazing to me that so many smaller foundries have so little information about their quality. I ask what their customer return rate, is and they tell me that it's "pretty good." I ask, "What's pretty good?", and they tell me that their customers aren't complaining. Have you ever eaten in a restaurant where the food or service weren't satisfactory? Did you complain or just not come back? I'm not proud to admit that I usually fall in the group that just doesn't come back. I guess the restaurant owner thinks his quality is okay because I didn't complain.


Of course, every foundry has a terrific on-time shipping record. In fact, in most smaller foundries it's so good that they don't need to keep track of it. The boss might admit to being overly optimistic occasionally in order to get an order. Since they don't track it to see what their performance really is, they just know they're as good as anybody else. Unfortunately, their customer doesn't buy from everybody else. He just sees that he's getting castings late from the one he's buying from.


It is very obvious to me that if one molding area in an operation is producing a significantly higher amount of scrap, that area should receive attention, or if percent scrap on a specific job is twice the shop average, the production process for that part needs to be reviewed. Similarly, it appears very logical to me that if a specific type of defect always causes a significant proportion of a foundry's scrap, plans need to be made to try to reduce that type of scrap. But plans aren't going to be made if the foundry doesn't know how much scrap is being caused by that defect, and the molding area or specific part won't receive the extra attention if management thinks that the scrap is only "a little" higher than on the others.


What information do you need from your Q.M.I.S. system? You need the information that will help you solve your most significant quality problems, whatever they are. If you think that you don't have any quality problems, I'd encourage you to start with a system that tells you how much of your production is coming back. From there, you'll want to know which customers are sending castings back, for what reasons, and where they are being produced in your operation. If you start with that information and try to improve the results, you'll soon be asking questions that will lead you to building a more complete Q.M.I.S.


Somebody said, "You may not solve every problem you face, but you will not solve any problem until you face it. I'd like to add to that you won't face problems that you don't know exist. I don't think anybody will really start working to reduce customer returns until they really know how bad it is. I've seen foundries go for years doing nothing about their on-time shipment performance, until they start tracking what it really is. What they thought was pretty good, wasn't.

So the next time you check with your accountant and he can give you the cost of making a core down to the hundredth of a cent, you know your M.I.S. is working; however, if you ask your quality manager how the scrap in one molding area compares with another and he can't easily answer, maybe you should think about beefing up your Q.M.I.S.