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How Frontline Teams Can Improve Product Quality and Avoid Recalls


Want to improve quality while reducing errors? We'll outline four pillars you can build on to prevent recalls, combat apathy, and drive excellence on the shop floor.

7 December 2022

Recalls. Every manufacturer tries to avoid them and yet there have been nearly 2,000 recalls in the US alone this year. In the food industry, the average cost of a recall is said to be $10 million. For car manufacturers, they can be even more costly, amounting to $22 billion in previous years. These costs don’t include the negative impact they have on the company’s brand. To avoid them, you need a comprehensive approach to managing product quality.

Yet, too often, we forget some of the reasons recalls occur in the first place: too much focus on compliance can also result in employee apathy. In this blog post we will outline four pillars you can build on to prevent recalls, combat apathy, and drive excellence on the shop floor. 

recall cost

A quality-first mindset and work culture.

Quality control is critical to any manufacturing process but it goes way beyond monitoring operations. Yes, checklists and regular inspections are necessary. But to get smoother and more sustainable processes, you need to nurture a quality control culture and involve employees in the creation of quality standards. 

Companies that build a culture of continuous improvement and stimulate employees see lower turnover rates. This means they can better preserve their team’s knowledge. Team members who actively contribute to the company’s processes also feel more valued and accomplished, resulting in better performance. 

product quality

Standardization and consistency.

Besides building a quality-first work culture, companies should be diligent about establishing standard operating procedures (SOPs). SOPs are the foundation of lean manufacturing. A good SOP is simple - actions are explained in steps that are easy to follow. They are also visual, illustrating the desired action in detail. Effective SOPs avoid jargon and use language that everyone understands. Most importantly, they are consistent. 

Well-crafted SOPs enable your team to reduce errors and waste. But remember: using SOPs doesn’t mean you remove employee agency, joy, or responsibility. According to a study, employees who don’t use SOPs tend to be more stressed than those who do. With good standards and a healthy work culture in place, they can be more focused on improvement ideas. 

How you deliver your SOPs to your team is just as important as how you create them.


Dynamic work instructions. 

If your SOPs and work instructions are stored in chunky paper manuals, chances are they are not being used effectively, which leaves your operations at risk. Today, you have many flexible tools at your disposal to provide this information easily when the task is being performed. Digital work instruction platforms like SwipeGuide allow you to create mobile-first instructions and SOPs that employees can access with a couple of taps or a QR scan on their phone. Couple that with wearables for more complex task execution and you have a winning formula for SOP adoption. 

Look for solutions that are easy to implement, easy to integrate and that make information consumption easy, with instructional design principles built in. If you’re interested in benchmarks, companies who use SwipeGuide to digitize standard work instructions and SOPs are able to reduce product errors by 67%. Our customers see 16% decreases in extract losses and a first-time-right increase of up to 38%. 

work instructions errors

Knowledge sharing.

Of course, the shop floor is a dynamic environment and nobody is as close to the action as your frontline. Inevitably, there will be things that need to be improved in any SOP. The best way to understand what’s happening is to encourage your team to share knowledge. Empower team members to submit feedback and improvement ideas for your processes and report when a process is out of date. 

Build a mentorship program so senior employees can transfer knowledge to new hires and establish a good onboarding process to help new recruits get up-to-speed faster. Companies using SwipeGuide report a 50% increase in time-to-effectiveness.  We have also seen knowledge retention improve by 25% or more when using a digital work instruction solution like SwipeGuide. 


Boost quality by empowering your frontline.

In sum, to avoid product recalls and errors focus on:

  • Building a healthy work culture.

  • Establishing SOPs.

  • Delivering instructions with the right tools.

  • Encouraging knowledge sharing to drive continuous improvement and speed up new hire productivity. 

When these best practices converge, you will see more employee engagement and less apathy. Empowered employees are the key to frontline excellence. 


Gloria crafts content about how the world’s top companies are rethinking how to write digital work instructions. Check out the rest of her articles to learn how innovative work instruction software can improve manufacturing processes.

7 December 2022