The Importance of Quality in Manufacturing—and the Inherent Disconnect

Nov. 29, 2018
The next level of quality

Most, if not all manufacturers, will tell you their top priority is to improve quality. End customers demand quality products and in turn, OEMs demand quality performance all the way down their supply chains. Tolerance for delivering anything but a quality product is low because the risk to the company’s reputation is too great.

Quality is Seen as a Policing Function

The problem is there’s often a disconnect on the importance of quality with executives at manufacturing companies. Quality management has traditionally been considered a function of the quality department. Since the quality function is considered part of production, budgets to fund quality management systems go by the wayside for more or better production machines. The perception is that the quality department performs a policing function only responsible for catching bad parts before they get shipped to customers. Avoiding the “Cost of Quality” becomes important in producing quality parts, but the quality department doesn’t get the funding needed to avoid bad parts. Investing in processes and tools to ensure first-time quality is much harder to justify.

Enter IIoT and More Visibility into Quality

With the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), more business data brings visibility to executives on the importance of quality beyond simply catching bad parts. Data from the sales and marketing department show that quality performance is a competitive differentiator, so executives clamor for higher quality. R&D and engineering responds by designing products that not only perform and last longer than the competitors’ products but also differentiate and are innovative. Operations see the amount of time they spend chasing deviations, returns, and warranty claims so they collaborate with production and quality for answers.

What is Quality 4.0?

LNS Research, a research and advisory firm, coined the term Quality 4.0.1 Quality 4.0 is a method for using technology to show that quality should really be a company-wide strategy with the executives at the helm driving performance. When everyone is looking at quality performance, they all look at the risks inherent in their responsibility for delivering quality. Now quality is everyone’s job.

Quality 4.0 focuses on the data required to monitor quality performance including the costs of both good and bad quality. Many companies have begun to increase the resolution of the data they collect using sensors and analytics. Instead of inspecting parts as the primary quality activity, these companies inspect their suppliers’ quality and processes to circumvent downstream quality issues. Instead of waiting for a machine to wear out, these companies monitor machines for symptoms of an impending problem and maintain them ahead of time to ensure high performance all the time. And, instead of identifying that the root cause of a quality failure was poor performance by an operator, these companies either train their operators more effectively or introduce automation for jobs that suffer from repeatability challenges.

For more information, download the LNS Report: Make the IIoT and Digital Transformation a Reality

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