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Two factory workers creating a prevention plan for safety.

H.B. Fuller is committed to building a zero defect quality culture. 

We focus on understanding customer requirements; delivering on time, every time; and creating a prevention mindset. Over the past year, our quality team focused on driving improvement at our Nienburg, Germany, site. We asked Jeff Murray, Director of Global Quality, and Nathalie Ruelle, Regional Quality Lead, to explain the process and lessons learned.

Q: What were the quality issues being experienced at Nienburg?

Nathalie Ruelle: Over the past two years, we saw some quality defects across several product lines. As a company, this can lead to waste and extra expense, and our employees end up with a higher workload and potentially lower engagement. Ultimately, we want to do everything we can to prevent sending any product to a customer that doesn’t satisfy their requirements.

Q: What process was followed to address these issues?

Jeff Murray: We brought together a multifunctional team, combining technical and product expertise. We involved production operators, process engineers, R&D, and department heads, in addition to our quality team.

NR: Once we came together, we used quality tools and processes, including cause mapping and 8D problem solving to solve the real problem. Then, we continued to apply Failure Mode and Effects Analysis to further lower risk through improvement projects.

Q: What solutions were identified, and what have the results been?

NR: Our teams identified and prioritized actions we could take to prevent the defects we had seen, including things like adjusting the mixing time and temperature for certain products.

JM: We have reduced the number of quality issues at Nienburg. This has led to fewer customer concerns, less waste and expense, more engaged employees, and improved supplier ratings.

Q: What lessons can be taken away from this experience and incorporated into similar efforts at other sites?

NR: It is always a good idea to bring people with different experiences together. We need to gather solid data, make clear decisions, and most importantly, dedicate sufficient time to talk about prevention. With perhaps 5 percent more time spent on prevention, we may be able to avoid 15 percent of quality problems.

JM: As Nathalie says, once you climb out of a reaction mindset, you can move to spending more time on prevention. This helps our team build confidence that they can prevent and avoid problems. As our sites around the world have successes like Nienburg has experienced, we also make it an ongoing practice to share best practices and solutions with each other to leverage our strength as a global team.

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