Cutting Tool Engineering
May 2012 / Volume 64 / Issue 5

Benefits of a material review board

By Michael Deren

Do you think all the parts made in your shop are good parts? You’re probably more realistic and know some parts will be bad and that you’ll want to get a handle on how many out-of-spec parts are being made and what work center is making them. Perhaps you have vendor problems and don’t know it. Start a material review board to get the answers.

An MRB is not as intimidating as it might sound. The board can consist of a handful of individuals who review all nonconforming products in a facility. In larger facilities, there is typically a manufacturing engineer, a quality engineer, a purchasing representative and a materials person on the board. I’m on the MRB where I work, and we also have a mechanical engineer and a shop representative. Smaller shops that don’t have several engineers may have a quality individual, a shop supervisor, a shop representative and someone from purchasing. Regardless of shop size, an MRB is the only group that can make a disposition on any questionable product.

My company’s group meets on a daily basis—first thing in the morning—to be as proactive as possible. Smaller shops may do this every other day or every third day.

As an example, where I work the process begins by having someone gather all the nonconforming parts from the previous day, if any. An inspection tag with the reason for the failure is attached to each part. The tag remains with the part until a disposition is made. The parts are placed in an area where we can easily see and handle them. We then discuss the items and evaluate their issues.

We have four categories for nonconforming parts: scrap, rework, return to vendor and accept as is.

For the scrap category, we evaluate and determine what went wrong. Can the part be reworked? What was the root cause of the failure? Can it be prevented? Was it a production part or a low-volume part? These are just some of the questions. If the part is scrapped, the dollar value for the material and the work performed to that point is determined and charged against that work center. The amount is tabulated for the year to see how much scrap is produced at each center to determine corrective actions.

Rework is where we can save potential scrap. The group first determines if a part is worth reworking. If it’s a $20 part, but will take 30 minutes to rework, it’s a no-brainer; the part is scrap because it’s not worth the effort. A $200 part that takes an hour or two to rework is a different ball game.

We place quite a few parts in the return-to-vendor category because we have a lot of outside vendors. Typical quality issues include casting porosity, damaged gear teeth, poor coatings and malfunctioning electronics. These are usually pretty straightforward and get an immediate disposition.

The last category is accept as is. Determining whether we can salvage some parts becomes easier when the key players are together. By including engineering at MRB meetings, we don’t have to wait for days to be able to use a questionable part. The part may require only a simple form, fit and function test, which can be done quickly.

I find MRB meetings quite beneficial. Everyone attending gets to see the difficulties their co-workers must endure, such as engineering experiencing the challenges of manufacturing parts.

Remember, MRBs are not only appropriate for large organizations, but any MRB must have the ambition to reduce scrap or rework. CTE

About the Author: Mike Deren is a manufacturing engineer/project manager and a regular CTE contributor. He can be e-mailed at
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