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The Truth about Right First Time (RFT)

Updated: May 27, 2023

Right First Time (RFT) means completing a task correctly the first time. That part is clear, but let’s look deeper into the true driving force behind it. To better understand RFT, we must first examine 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 before its release. This step ensures that what the company promises their customer is delivered each and every time. If, at the inspection step, the required quality standard is not met, the QC process often has the product sent back to production for correction, if possible, creating a back-and-forth process known as “rework.” Waste increases as a result. Overall, rework increases the cost and time for the production investment. RFT practices exist 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. This process needs to minimize rework to make you and your team as efficient as possible. As a result, you are helping your business to stay competitive. Ideally, you don’t waste your time on non-value-adding activities, and your overall efficiency improves. That’s where RFT can come into play - the less time and resources spent on rework, the lower the cost and the greater the profit.

Realizing the hard truth - that we can’t always get it right the first time. You will have errors when you have a process that utilizes either people or robotics. 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 art as a paint stroke, you will lose uniformity throughout the process.

Let’s first get the process under control by focusing on the initial step. Once achieved, focus on the following line of defense from the initial step. Think of it like a series of concentric rings, one within the next. Your first line of defense is the person executing the activity. They need the training, focus, and mindfulness to perform it correctly. The following 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. The intention is to align your defenses to better control the completed product before the final quality inspection.

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

Focusing solely on the final output may not improve your process. We also need to focus on the process input. Take the cGMP documentation example and 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 an excellent start for your RFT improvements.

Removing redundant steps allows fewer entries. Fewer entries allow for fewer opportunities to make errors.

Simplifying an entry or step can come in various ways. One example can be in the recording of measurements. 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 numeric entry.

Another way to simplify the entry would be by combining multiple entries into a single one. For example, if a task requires that you perform two entries, and you can perform both simultaneously, then there could be an opportunity to combine the entries into just one instead of multiple. Fewer entries lead to fewer opportunities to make errors.

The flow of the entries can make or break the rhythm of your process. If an entry does not follow the appropriate preceding entry, you create back-and-forth movement within the documentation, ultimately resulting in increased errors.

There is also the back-end. The back-end can track the mistakes and the data behind them, such as who made the mistake, the frequency of the error, and which step in the process the mistakes are being made. This data is as important as the front-end work by giving higher visibility on your gaps. If RFT is your goal, then you must ensure this information is 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 aim you in the right direction for RFT. Spaghetti diagram your process and see if it makes sense. Make your process as clean and straightforward as possible. Remove what isn’t needed and only keep the bare essentials. Finally, be mindful of falling into the over-inspection trap. Inspections at too many locations are simply padding a flawed process. It would be best if you were evaluating the process to make it more robust and effective but not padded with over-inspecting.

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

Thanks for reading.

Rick V.


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