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Sylvie Couture

Lean

Applying Smart Manufacturing Technology to Conduct Smart Inspections

How a company used visual inspection software to improve its manufacturing and inspection process

Published: Thursday, October 11, 2018 - 11:03

In 2012, CMP Advanced Mechanical Solutions, a leader in the design and manufacture of sheet metal enclosures, mechanical assemblies, and machined systems, burst onto the Industry 4.0 scene with its avant-garde use of the visual work instruction software VKS. This software allowed the company to create detailed digital guidebooks aimed at training and guiding shop floor operators.

Specializing in high-mix/low-volume assemblies, CMP had implemented the software in the hopes of reducing the amount of errors that were occurring during the manufacturing process. Within a year, the company noticed a sharp drop in the number of external defects, as well as a 20-percent increase in productivity. Now CMP is moving forward with its use of VKS and applying it to the crucial inspection process.

Visual work instruction software allows companies to capture and share important processes, all while committing to Industry 4.0 principles. Thanks to visual work instructions, operators can access their instructions on mobile devices that always display the most recent documents. In addition to guiding operators, the software can also be used to gather live data from the shop floor that can be used to improve production. Although most companies turn to visual work instruction in the hopes of improving their production numbers, once they have become comfortable with the software, the possibilities are endless. Today, more and more companies are extending their use of visual work instruction to other up-and-coming areas, such as Quality 4.0.

In CMP’s case, having found success by adhering to Industry 4.0 principles, the company was eager to be part of the Quality 4.0 movement. Gradually, the quality department started introducing inspection guidebooks, created with VKS, into the inspection process.

Greter Alayon, an industrial engineering technician, has been working in quality control-related fields for more than a decade. “I started my career at CMP over two years ago as a guidebook author,” she says. “I was impressed by the amount of information the guidebooks let us communicate to the operators. When I joined the quality control team, I started adding the same amount of details and features to the inspection guidebooks that I had in the manufacturing guidebooks.”


Example of a VKS Guidebook inspection form. Visual inspection software easily guides users through each step of the inspection process, allowing them to input data or images.

Today, Alayon is conducting the inspection of a very large and complex unit. All she needs to complete the inspection is a tablet. “This inspection guidebook started out with 50 steps and has now grown to 165,” she says, pointing to the screen. “It covers everything from the part alignment requirements, to the positioning of the warning labels, to the details on the client’s quality requirements.” She then points to a thick printed document placed neatly on a shelf near the unit. “This is a printout of the inspection guidebook we keep on hand in case of emergencies. As you can imagine, conducting the inspection with such a huge document is both inconvenient and impractical.”

Greter Alayon conducting an inspection. Using a tablet for electronic instructions is much easier than relying on a thick printed manual. It’s also easier for the document control department to update instructions.

It is time to begin the inspection. As she goes through the guidebook steps, she completes forms, sends confirmations, and takes photos, knowing that all that data will be automatically saved in VKS and accessible in the reports. “I don’t have to worry about attaching images or misplacing a checklist,” she says. “If I ever come across something that needs to be reworked, I can contact that department from within the guidebook immediately. Everything I need is in the palm of my hand.”

One feature she particularly appreciates allows her to confirm the quality of compartments that are inaccessible once the unit is fully assembled. “From within VKS, I can access the unit’s assembly report that contains the images of the inside of the compartment. This allows me to confirm that the inside was assembled properly and gives me peace of mind when I sign off on the final inspection.”

For CMP, using VKS for inspections is about more than ensuring that the inspection has been conducted thoroughly; it is also about efficiency. By using the guidebooks, multiple inspectors can work on the same unit without worrying that steps will be forgotten or duplicated. The data collected from both inspectors are automatically consolidated in the same report. The inspection guidebooks are also a key factor when it comes to reducing training time when bringing on new inspectors or when training inspectors on a new assembly.

Alayon notes that guidebooks are also a source of stress relief. “The guidebook not only tells inspectors how to use the inspection tools, it also tells them how to interpret the results. When I go on vacation, I am confident that my replacement will be able to conduct the same quality inspection I would, even if it is the first time he works on that assembly.”

In the eyes of CMP, Quality 4.0 is well worth investing in. “It can take two to three days to create a guidebook as complex as the one for this unit,” states Alayon. “However, it is well worth the time and effort. We have yet to receive a complaint aimed at the quality of one of these units. There are even guidebooks detailing how it must be lifted and placed into the crate to avoid damaging the paint finish. This allows us to give our clients a full report of everything that took place during the work order. It is our proof that we have shipped them a top-quality product.”

As far as Greter Alayon and the rest of the CMP quality control department are concerned, Quality 4.0 principles and the use of VKS are the future of CMP’s inspection process. “This methodology ensures that our final products meet international standards,” she says. “Knowing this gives us the drive and the confidence we need to innovate and excel.”

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About The Author

Sylvie Couture’s picture

Sylvie Couture

Sylvie Couture, a journalism B.A. graduate from Concordia University, has over 11 years experience in technical writing, and is currently the Lead Technical Writer and Knowledge Center Designer for VKS. Couture finds pleasure in learning new things and enjoys the opportunity to return to her journalism roots and write about great people who are doing amazing things.