The fourth industrial revolution, sometimes referred to as industry 4.0, has been widely predicted to be the next step for the manufacturing industry. Technologies such as the cloud, robotics, and the IoT are changing the manufacturing world as we know it.
According to a survey made by the DMDII (Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute), a vast majority of respondents considered digital design and manufacturing to be a significant force driving competitiveness. The same survey also found that only 13 percent of respondents believed their companies possess a high digital capability.
Although there’s been progress in digitally transforming functions such as development, research, maintenance, and production, businesses still have a long road ahead when it comes to the digitalization of quality management systems.
The reactive approach to quality is currently the law of the land, where disparate quality applications and manual inspections are used to track quality within production lines. Of course, it’s needless to say that this approach results in frequent errors, leads to cost overruns, and ultimately diminishes product quality.
A reactive quality control means having a stack of legacy applications performing multiple quality functions, but the lack of a holistic approach in this type of quality management system creates ineffective communications between the quality and production departments and a disorganized work environment. As a result, productivity is impaired by simple errors like inventory pile-ups, and staff members have to invest an increasing amount of time and effort in quality-related repairs and reworks.
Adjusting to a Shifting Landscape
Why is it that, in spite of the rapid technological advances we are witnessing, a wide range of consumer, pharma, and technology products are recalled every year? The issue lies in the conventional quality management system, which operates in concentrated silos instead of offering a holistic, company-wide view. With the advent of stricter regulations and demanding customers, it is the moment to think about new quality strategies and start implementing a digitalized, integrated quality management solution.
Several case studies have concluded that integrated quality management systems help maintain quality throughout the product’s lifecycle, improve preventive and predictive capabilities, and offer a greater visibility into the whole manufacturing and quality control process. The digitalization of quality management ultimately helps companies to deliver consistent quality products faster while at the same time optimizing costs and efforts.
Why end-to-end quality management systems are the answer
End-to-end automation of quality management systems – including planning, control, and improvement – allows for the easy monitoring of quality across the production lifecycle. A comprehensive view of all the operations helps identify issues proactively, optimize product performance early in the development cycle, and analyze and uncover the root cause of such problems.
Over time, integrated quality management software will lead to clean and lean production capabilities – all thanks to automation advances. This is currently laying the foundation for the digital end-to-end manufacturing cycles. Soon, the establishment of machine-to-machine interactions will enable real-time access to needed information.
These integrated ecosystems will further spread proactive and holistic quality management across all aspects of the production, including process enforcement, quality process standardization, personnel and skill qualifications, configuration and production process verification, and in-process inspection.
Aligning Digital Technologies for Better Quality Insights
While there are countless ways in which analytic solutions and digital technologies can be used to modernize quality management systems, without a doubt, the first place digitalization needs to be applied to is the plant floor. This will allow for better quality insights that eventually lead to the implementation of critical preventive policies.
For instance, the integration of mobile and cloud-based technologies can ensure the inspection of the manufacturing site by remotely located experts. This real-time collaboration between different types of users will lead to the timely identification and resolution of errors. Also, the visualization of real-time defect data can also help maximize supply chain processes and efficiencies.
Big companies like Toyota are taking advantage of advanced analytics and APCs (advanced process controls) to fix, in real time, any quality-related problems in production, thus minimizing scrap and rework and even enabling manufacturers to reduce quality control costs by 10-20%.
Why aren’t all Companies on Board with this?
Any company seeking to achieve real recognition, growth, and success must embrace this new era of digitalization. Unfortunately, not all of them end up following the advice and philosophies that quality practitioners have to offer. Like most changes, the evolution of quality management systems in the industry is a process that takes time and, in some cases, a few tries. But one thing’s for sure: perseverance and consistency are fundamental aspects of continuing with the promotion of this change.
In spite of this, there have been multiple businesses that successfully shifted into digitalized systems. In part, this is thanks to companies like GlobalVision, which is one of the leading automated quality control service providers in the packaging world, offering quality inspection tools that range from text and spelling to design, print and Braille inspection. Just recently, GlobalVision’s technologies were built in Esko’s automation engine, creating a new type of prepress workflow where quality is assured all the way.
Stepping into the future
Living in this highly competitive marketplace, low-quality products can impact brand reputation and market share significantly. The reactive quality control approach, therefore, needs to fade away and allow integrated quality management systems to ensure the complete coverage of the production cycle. With the addition of early detection capabilities, companies can initiate timely corrective actions and prioritize maintenance resources, minimize downtime, reduce costs, and maximize product quality.
It’s definitely a big challenge – one that most companies are wary of making – so where are we supposed to begin?
First of all, achieving integrated, holistic digitalization of quality control systems demands a systematic approach. It requires a deeper understanding of the quality-related nuances of all aspects involved so companies can then stitch them together into comprehensive frameworks infused with advanced technologies.
Then, and only then, businesses can begin stepping into the future of digitalized quality management systems.
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