Unsurprisingly, electronics manufacturing has little tolerance for error. A misplaced chip, a faulty component or a delayed delivery can be costly and quickly erode customer trust and damage the reputation of the manufacturer.
Quality, therefore, has become a key component in electronics manufacturing to meet customer expectations in this high precision sector
As one of the largest electronics manufacturers in the world, Flex works with a range of companies and suppliers, managing over 10,000 supply chains globally. It has over one hundred facilities across thirty countries and is a trusted partner of many of the world’s leading brands.
Also, unsurprisingly, the longevity of these partnerships is built on quality.
Whether its speed to market, enhanced innovation or delivering reliability at scale, quality is a core component in every Flex-made product.
A Focus on Quality
The company serves a wide range of customers across multiple industries, and adheres to corresponding industry frameworks, principles, and values to achieve and preserve these standards.
The latest Flex facility to embark on the quality accreditation route – via the Polish Quality Award that is now based on the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) model – is its site in Mukachevo, Ukraine, where the company makes a range of domestic appliances.
The framework used to assess and improve the quality of work considers customer focus, leadership, people engagement and development, process approach, continuous improvement, evidence-based decision making and relationship management. These principles enable Flex to drive product quality to ever higher standards.
By looking at quality issues through this lens, the team in Ukraine hopes to achieve further improvements with a deeper understanding of their operation. The EFQM framework encourages reflection while being grounded in a proven management framework that can accelerate the quality journey.
In addition to manufacturing, the firm places immense importance on quality in terms of its people, who are the heart of its operations. The company develops its workforce and enhances existing staff’s skills through education and training, specifically tailored to each employee.
By promoting transparency and encouraging communication between every level of its business, Flex builds trust among staff at a personal level.
Prioritising the workforce has been pivotal to streamlining processes that enhance both quality and efficiency. Quality informs recruitment too, where developing people serves as a shared principle for all existing and future members of staff.
To foster a culture of perpetual improvement, the team in Mukachevo conduct regular Kaizen workshops, both internally and in collaboration with customers and suppliers.
These collaborative workshops serve as forums for brainstorming, problem-solving, and implementing innovative solutions. The commitment to Kaizen ensures that this factory is consistently raising the bar for quality and efficiency.
More than 5,000 Kaizen workshops and projects conducted annually at Flex serve to enhance efficiency and empower employees at all levels to contribute to the company’s culture of excellence.
The outcomes of Kaizen initiatives are shared across the organisation, resulting in a dynamic and adaptable manufacturing ecosystem that is always learning.
ISO-Certified Quality Management System
A global ISO-certified quality management system helps ensure that products meet industry expectations, customers and regulatory requirements.
Flex adheres to ISO standards in a range of areas spanning Environmental and Quality management, Occupational Health and Safety, and standards from IT Security to Food Safety. It also holds industry certifications including TL 9000 (Telecom), IATF 16949 (Automotive) and ISO 13485 (Medical).
The benefits of this focus on quality for customers is most obvious where the manufacturing process can be accelerated. With hundreds of standard automated solutions readily available for replication, customers reap the benefits of faster deployment without compromising on quality.
This approach streamlines operations, reduces lead times, and amplifies overall efficiency. As a result of these initiatives, the Flex team in Ukraine received the esteemed Quality Award 2023, endorsing their approach.
Notably, the factory in Mukachevo is the first Flex site to introduce Quality Week.
This is an annual quality event dedicated to every aspect of operations at the factory. It incorporates management systems, processes, products, and customer satisfaction while developing quality awareness and instilling a culture of quality and continues improvement.
Quality Week has now extended to multiple Flex sites, including teams from Ukraine, Hungary, Poland, and Mexico, who collaborate and share knowledge and experience to ensure best practice standards are implemented across operations.
The week began with a site tour and, through a quality lens, an examination of procedures at each step of the production process. Customer and supplier sessions enable partners to witness the Flex approach, share quality expectations, best practice, and collaborate as a team. Sharing insights can help to build trust between stakeholders and improve understanding and satisfaction.
Industry 4.0 Technologies
A focus on quality is not something new to Flex, in fact, it was a key differentiator when the company started making circuit boards to serve the fledgling electronics industry more than 50 years ago.
By perfecting the production process, and delivering more consistent quality, it became easier and cheaper for other companies to come to Flex, formally known as Flextronics, than go it alone.
Today, quality has become one of the primary drivers for Flex in Ukraine to embrace Industry 4.0 technologies. Advanced manufacturing techniques, including automation, robotics, and software are key investment areas as the factory aims to optimise production and deliver even higher and more consistent levels of quality, while also lowering cost and reducing downtime.
Advanced analytics powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies can improve quality in a number of ways including helping to find the root cause of production bottlenecks, identifying faulty components or placement, and even predicting and preventing machine failure before it happens.
Meanwhile, digitising the factory through a combination of sensors, edge computing and cloud technology can aid in understanding of production performance and present new opportunities for improvements and ultimately, provide additional value for stakeholders.
The Importance of Quality
In electronics manufacturing, the importance of quality cannot be overstated. The team in Mukachevo is now adopting the EFQM framework, leveraging industry 4.0 technologies and conducting regular Kaizen workshops. Supported by a robust ISO-certified quality management system the team are ready to embrace the possibilities offered through the Polish Quality Award and the model that underpins it.
Despite the challenging environment in Ukraine, the factory continues its quality journey, learning and sharing best practices, to ensure continued improvement. While customer recognition such as the recent Customer Quality Award offers both encouragement and endorsement of progress to date.
Through its focus on quality, Flex is contributing to the growth, reputation, and credentials of the local electronics manufacturing sector in Ukraine. The principles of global business excellence and disciplined execution demonstrated by Flex can firmly take root in Ukrainian soil and open a new era of high-quality advanced electronics manufacturing in the country.