Quality is as important as ever for manufacturers. Their customers demand it. Their supply chains must deliver it. That hasn’t changed and it probably never will.
What’s changing is the way manufacturers approach quality. Until recently, quality was the responsibility of the quality department. Today, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is inviting companies to tap into vast amounts of data that are convincing executives to start thinking of quality as a valuable business strategy.
To put it more plainly: forward-thinking manufacturers now see quality as everyone’s job. It all ties into a strategy called Quality 4.0.
About Quality 4.0
Dan Jacob of LNS Research coined the term Quality 4.0, writing that it “blends new technologies with traditional quality methods to arrive at new optimums in operational excellence, performance, and innovation.”
Another way to describe Quality 4.0 is that it’s designed to be a company-wide strategy with executives leading the charge. With Quality 4.0, you finally get the data you need to monitor quality performance and assess the true costs of good and bad quality.
Much of this data may come from sensors and analytics. For example, many companies are minimizing the need to inspect parts by instead going upstream to inspect the quality and processes of their suppliers. Or, they may use sensors to monitor a machine for symptoms of a problem and then perform proactive maintenance—rather than simply waiting for the machine to break down.
Implementing Quality Across Your Company
You can more effectively track and improve quality throughout your enterprise by putting better systems in place. Systems that enforce quality control can minimize your need to provide on-the-job training to operators and shorten their time to productivity. You can also automate rigorous control of initial job setup, preventing production from starting until all required details are in place. This not only gives you inherent quality control, but also makes your production teams’ jobs easier.
Consider also how to increase automation in your production environment by deploying systems that have built-in quality management. For example, some companies are using lasers and air pressure tools to take multiple measurements on a single fixture. This approach eliminates many possibilities for human error in quality processes. These automated systems immediately compare inspection data to specifications, sending alerts when dimensions fall outside of the control limits. Managers can then order an upstream shutdown to prevent the production of defective parts.
Using IIoT to Ensure Quality
With sensor prices falling and automation increasingly possible, manufacturers are now deploying extensive networks of sensors to collect vast amounts of operational data throughout their plants. The data they gather enables their key people to stay better informed about impending quality issues. And by identifying trends across historical quality issues, stakeholders can better predict future ones. For example, monitoring machines for excessive vibration empowers companies to predict machine failures—and to perform maintenance that prevents downtime.
Taking the concept one step further, companies can perform advanced analytics that help predict future failures of not only the machines in their plants, but also the products they sell to end customers. Some equipment manufacturers monitor the machines they sell to identify normal and abnormal patterns of behavior. They then analyze this data to improve their understanding of failure modes. By tracing product failures back to the individual operations, operators, and machines involved in production, companies can take corrective steps to reduce or eliminate future warranty claims.
The proven benefits of Industry 4.0 and Quality 4.0 show that technology can help manufacturing companies improve their quality performance. When quality is a company-wide strategy, everyone wins.
Learn about the seven risk-reduction best practices that yield the biggest ROI in Roadmap to Supplier Status: Think Risk Performance, Not Compliance.