The Truth about Right First Time (RFT)

Updated: Jan 25

Right First Time (RFT) is basically completing a task right the first time. That part is clear, but let's look deeper into the true driving force behind it. To better understand RFT, we have to first look at what it isn’t.

When a task is completed, in this example a manufacturing process, it has to go through an approval or quality inspection prior to its release. This step ensures that what the company is promising their customer is delivered each and every time. If at the inspection step, the required quality standard is not met, the process often has the product sent back to production for correction if possible. This creates a back-and-forth flow in the process called rework. Waste increases as a result. Overall, this increased cost and time for the production investment. RFT was inspired to assist in this quality challenge and streamline the process for a higher return by reducing rework.

Whether you are in goods or services, your process has a timeline. It has a beginning, middle, end, and probably a few other steps in between. In order to make you and/or your team as efficient as possible, this process needs to minimize rework. This is one way to help your business to stay competitive. Ideally you don’t waste your time on non-value adding activities and your overall efficiency always improves. That’s where RFT can come into play. The less time spent on rework, the lower the cost. The lower the cost, the higher the end profit.

Realizing the truth – we can’t always get it right the first time. When you have a process that utilizes either people or robotics, you’re going to have errors. For this article, we're going to focus on the human element. I’m not an engineer in robotics, but for people, they can be just as challenging and often more complex. With getting it RFT, we can’t strain on writing a date correctly without making an error like in current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP). When a part of the process must be anywhere close to artistic as a paint stroke, you will lose the uniformity throughout said process.

Let's first get the process under control. Focus on the initial step. In doing this, then focus on the next line of defense from the initial step. Think of it like a series of rings, one within the next. Your first line of defense is the person performing the activity. They need to have the focus and mindfulness to perform it correctly. The next line of defense, or ring, can be the person performing their check or check-by. The next line of defense, or ring, could be the supervisor’s review, depending on your process. This intention is to line up your defenses to better control the produced product prior to Quality’s inspection.

This is not an end-all. This is needed to get control of a current process while you make the truly needed changes. The better control systems that you have in place, the stronger your process can be against possible rework.

Focusing on the output will not always improve your process. We also need to focus on the process' input. Take the cGMP documentation example. Let’s look at the input opportunities. When looking at your process, ask yourself, “Is this step redundant? Do we need to record this step? How can we simplify this entry?” Combing through your process with questions like these is a great start for your RFT improvements.

Removing redundant steps allows less entries. Less entries allow less opportunities to make errors and so forth.

Simplifying an entry or step can come in an endless number of ways. One example can be when measurements are recorded. By designating the measurement (i.e.: seconds, °C, RPM) and having it printed into the document, you remove unneeded entries allowing the operator to be responsible for only the numerical entry.

Another way to simplify the entry would be through combining multiple entries into a single one. If a task being performed has two entries and those entries can only be performed at the same time, then there could be an opportunity to combine the entries into just one instead of multiples. Less entries leads to less opportunities to make errors.

The flow of the entries can make or break your process’ rhythm. If an entry is not following the appropriate preceding entry, you create back-and-forth movement within the documentation, which will ultimately result in increased errors.

There is also the back end. The back end can be tracking of the mistakes and the data behind them such as who made the mistake, frequency of the error, and where in the process the mistakes are made. This data is just as important as the front-end work by giving higher visibility on your overall gaps. If RFT is your goal, then ensure this information is being collected as it will ultimately impact the direction of your efforts by pointing out the error frequency and location.

Those were just a few ideas to get you going in the right direction for RFT. Spaghetti chart your process and see if it makes sense. Make your process as clean and simple as possible. Remove what isn’t needed and only keep the bare essentials. Be mindful of falling in the over-inspection trap. Inspections at too many locations is simply padding a poor process. The process should be evaluated to make it more robust and effective, but not padded with over inspecting.

What are your RFT thoughts, challenges, and strategies? There are no One Size Fits All in business, so share your experience below in the comments section to benefit you as well as the Sigmasmith community.

Thanks for reading.

Rick V.


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