Quality is of paramount importance in everything that we buy, be it product or services. Manufacturers today, cannot take their product’s quality for granted considering the technology-fueled world we live in today. Even a single quality-related problem can snowball into a massive issue on Social Media and other platforms, crashing the business reputation and customer trust painstakingly built over the years. We all have seen it happening on a large scale in the recent times specially in the Automotive and Food sector.

So how do manufacturers ensure this doesn’t happen?

Capture Data – Every bit of it

Your shop-floor data can give you wonderful insights on what is happening at your shop-floor. Sensor-based technology coupled with efficient Manufacturing Execution System (MES) can help zero-in on slight deviations that can have a huge impact on the product quality.

  • Machine-based sensors can track slight deviations such as excessive operating temperature, abnormal machine component vibrations, variations in total job-time, excessive or less material consumption, scrap quantity generated, hydraulic and pneumatic pressures and much more.
  • Visual-based tracking devices such as close-circuit cameras, pinhole cameras can identify anomalies in color, measurements, alignment etc.
  • Sound-based devices can identify minute deviation in sounds arising from the machines/machine components and help zero-in on the actual problem.

Coupled with an efficient MES/ERP software, the tracking system can capture important data points and alert operators in case of deviation. This data is then analyzed by a cloud-based analytics software and presented to different departments based on their requirement. The data can be drilled down to the minutest levels giving more visibility to shop-floor and plant operations. The deviations are flagged out demanding a swift reaction to an upcoming problem that can derail production. A quick preventive action can ensure consistent quality standards across all product batches, continuous uninterrupted production and reduced delay costs.

Strong Quality management processes & discipline

For any initiation to be successful, the foundation has to be very strong. Including robust Quality Management practices and guidelines helps manufacturers to imbibe the much-required discipline into the system. Including quality assurance such as ISO 9001 helps manufacturers to manage and improve processes ranging from raw material, sub-assemblies & 3rd party equipment acquisition, Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), inspection guidelines, production processes, maintenance, defect identification and response etc. Of course, industries such as automotive, aerospace, medical equipment etc. have their own Quality Assurance & compliance standards and strictly abide by it.

Periodic Quality Audits

Conducting periodic quality audits within the organization that encompasses policies, processes, equipment, maintenance schedules, product batches, personnel etc. helps unravel anomalies and loopholes. Plugging these issues and providing adequate training to responsible personnel helps prevent unnecessary quality issues in the product.

Personnel Training

Periodic training to personnel on updated policies & processes, operation manuals, new machinery/technology, industry-prescribed certifications ensures smooth operations on the production floor. Also, the MES/ERP software keeps track of employee certification levels that is required to handle specific machinery or to conduct a complicated activity. If any personnel doesn’t meet the prescribed certification level or the certification has expired and needs renewal/update, the system throws an alert to the supervisor so that another certified personnel completes the activity and the responsible personnel is sent for re-certification/renewal. This prevents shop-floor mishaps and quality threat to the product that can arise due to handling by a non-certified personnel.

Product Traceability Systems

Product recalls are always tough for manufacturers where immense amount of time, money and resources are lost. Not to mention, the damaged customer trust and falling market reputation. It takes an immense effort to recover from such incidents which could have been utilized to increase production if the problem never occurred.

In order to prevent product recalls, manufacturers should have a robust traceability system consisting of an ERP with built-in supply chain management. This system can keep track of raw material/sub-assembly right from its procurement from a supplier till it goes into the final product. The complete life-cycle traceability ensures that the manufacturer can pinpoint the exact location of a defective product/component batch when a problem arises. Manufacturers are ensuring that Quality Management goes hand-in-hand with Traceability so that any quality issue is identified quickly, the concerned material is tracked and the problem is rectified in the production floor itself, even before it goes to the customer. This reduces the cost associated with product recalls, compensation costs, resources etc.

Efficient Customer & Supplier support systems

Manufacturers need to have a robust feedback mechanism that allows them to listen to customers and their suppliers. Customers have a hands-on experience with products and provide valuable insights into how it should work, what is working and what’s not.  This feedback allows manufacturers to pin-point if more than one incident of similar nature has the potential to become a large-scale problem, forcing them to do product recalls.

Manufacturers can embed sensors in the products to monitor its post-sale performance. They can derive usage patterns, user-behaviour and accordingly make changes to the product-design. They can also collect part-wise performance data, helping them to zero-in on any probable defect in the product and initiate rectification measures. They can easily track service schedules and send user alerts in advance. A proactive support initiative keeps customers happy and increases their trust on the product and the manufacturer.

Conclusion

There can be no substitute to Quality. It is the primary bridge between customers and manufacturers and there cannot be any compromise on it. The whole existence of a manufacturer hinges on the quality of the product. Remember, no amount of marketing beats the quality of your product.

Quality Management is no easy task, but it can be easily achieved through the use of smart business practices, integrated technology such as ERP/MES coupled with sensors/tracking devices, data analytics, rigid quality controls, personnel training, and discipline. After all, at the end of the day, a happy customer means a contented organization.