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Ephy Torenberg

Management

Are You Prepared for Quality 4.0?

It’s a game-changing trend

Published: Wednesday, March 7, 2018 - 12:02

The evolving trends of automation are affecting quality management business processes for manufacturing organizations of all sizes. In this article, we’ll look at the business case for automation; consider the basic opportunities and challenges found at the start of a quality automation project; and share a brief case study.

Realizing we are part of a fourth wave of technology evolution, the Industry 4.0 wave, we at HighQA are employing the term “Quality 4.0” to describe the evolving trends in quality management for the manufacturing industry.

What is Quality 4.0?

Quality 4.0 is a term that encapsulates the current trend of automation and secure data exchange in manufacturing and quality control technologies. Quality 4.0 acknowledges that quality control contributes to the “smart factory” evolution by leveraging modern technologies and practices that eliminate supply chain interruptions and improves overall quality, cost, and time to market of manufactured parts.

As mentioned, Quality 4.0 derives from the term “Industry 4.0,” which promotes the computerization of manufacturing and originated from a strategic high-tech 2011 project within the German government.

When you mention Industry 4.0 to some manufacturing executives, they will likely be confused about what it is if they aren’t familiar with the term. If they have heard of it, they might be skeptical of what they see as simply another piece of marketing hype, an empty catchphrase. And yet a closer look at what’s behind Industry 4.0 reveals some powerful emerging trends with strong potential to change the way factories work. It may be an exaggeration to say that it is another industrial revolution, but the fact is, Industry 4.0 is gathering force, and executives should carefully monitor the coming changes and develop strategies to take advantage of the new opportunities.

Coming to terms with Quality 4.0

Many technologies are now at a point where their greater reliability and lower cost are starting to make sense for industrial applications. However, companies aren’t consistently aware of the emerging technologies. McKinsey & Company surveyed 300 manufacturing leaders in January 2015; only 48 percent of original equipment manufacturer (OEM) organizations consider themselves ready for Industry 4.0, while 78 percent of suppliers say they are prepared.

It’s estimated that 47 percent of jobs will be vulnerable to automation during the next 10 to 20 years, so automation is here to stay. However, within the same range of time, it is also estimated that most advanced technologies will be about augmentation of human effort, as opposed to replacing humans. The use of automation and advanced technologies can actually help subject matter experts expedite their work, and free them up to focus on tasks that still require creative problem solving.

At the same time that manufacturing is adapting to additional automation, it’s expected to grow rapidly during the next 20 years. Thus, although some job functions are at risk to be eliminated due to automation, there will be great opportunities to qualify for and work with new technologies.

These changes are sure to be far reaching, affecting every corner of the factory and every link in the global supply chain. The pace of change, however, will likely be slower than what we’ve seen in the consumer sector, where electronic devices evolve frequently. McKinsey & Company doesn’t expect a dramatic change during the coming years, but rather a gradual one.

Why now?

There are six strong reasons for considering an automated quality control solution now:
1. Manufactured parts are getting smaller and more complex, with higher-precision requirements.
2. Shrinking product life cycles dictate shorter delivery times and faster response to engineering changes.
3. The rise of just-in-time manufacturing (JIT) has created pressure on supply chains due to frequent short-cycle manufacturing (SCM), continuous-flow manufacturing (CFM), and demand-flow manufacturing (DFM).
4. The implementation of robotics automation further increases the productivity and cost structure of competitors.
5. OEMs demand compliance to more stringent quality standards and are requiring greater transparency from supply chains.
6. OEMs see their suppliers as a critical component of their supply chain. As such, they expect suppliers to adopt technology and automation so they can improve productivity, control quality, meet timelines, and reduce costs.

Success story

One of our customers is a leader in the machining, manufacturing, and assembly of components and complex assemblies. The company relies on more than 40 years of manufacturing and assembly experience, offering state-of-the-art computer numerical control (CNC) machining equipment, manufacturing systems, strong supply chain relationships, and a commitment to quality and continuous improvement. Their facilities are distributed over seven locations (across three states in the Midwest) and they employ 700 people. As an early adopter of information technology, this company’s management committed to investing in information system infrastructure and is continuously looking for additional ways to leverage smart technology and software solutions.

In an attempt to improve its quality management processes, which range from ballooning and geometric dimensioning and tolerancing (GD&T) recognition to inspection planning and coordinate measuring machine (CMM) and other inspected data collection through final documentation and reporting, the company contacted us about HighQA’s Inspection Manager software.

While using a different software product, the company realized that it needed to make a change. Its staff spent too much time on manual tasks that could be automated, and their software at the time didn’t lead to the adoption of new and better practices. Therefore, productivity didn’t improve much.

Deploying a modern Quality 4.0 software application “completely changed our business,” according to the customer. Other key benefits included:
 Artificial Intelligence. “We looked for a software that with one-click functionality, will have the ability to handle scanning/optical character recognition (OCR) and extract with high accuracy all the dimensions and characteristics from a 2D drawing.”
• Database-driven with strong IT infrastructure. “We needed to work in collaboration with seven distributed facilities, so all the data had to reside in one place and be accessible by 20–30 staff concurrently. We also needed it to be backed up daily to our remote back-up location.”
• Optimized performance. “Trying a cloud solution demonstrated some benefits on the IT side, but when it came to performance, working on a loaded drawing and making one mistake can cost you 15 minutes waiting for the screen to refresh. We wanted a more sophisticated architecture that allowed us the best of both, with strong locally run software performance.”
• Streamlined quality management process. “We wanted to have the CMM inspection driven by an inspection plan that was initiated by the software, so all ballooned characteristics could be aligned. Once all the collected data was in hand, we needed to create all the documentation and reporting (i.e., PPAP) in a click of a button, and to re-run it as many times as needed, again, with a click of a button.”
• Usability and level of service. “Living in the 21st century, we wanted software that was highly intuitive and usable, one that takes you through your work activities in a natural way. The ability to self-train and having a responsive service time on the vendor side was a big plus for us.”

Like most advanced organizations seeking to take advantage of Quality 4.0 tools and systems, our customer needed to first focus on understanding the new infrastructure needed and the immediate gains from that potential investment. This phase is driven by four disruptions: the astonishing rise in data volumes, computational power, connectivity, and the emergence of analytics and business-intelligence capabilities. This is manifested by new forms of human-machine interaction such as touchscreen interfaces and augmented-reality systems and improvements in transferring digital instructions to the physical world, such as advanced robotics and 3D printing.

To harness these four drivers of quality, keep these issues in mind when choosing a software solution:
• Look for database-driven applications so you can aggregate, track, and secure large amounts of data.
• Automate unique functions such as the use of OCR, thereby leveraging the latest touchscreen hardware and user interfaces to improve productivity on the shop floor. Identify automation differentiators that will cut time to achieve the results you need at a reasonable cost.
• Make sure the software you chose can interact, integrate, and exchange data with other applications such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, statistical process control (SPC), tool management, and supply chain management.
• Make sure your IT infrastructure is equipped with enough storage to contain large amounts of collected data, a strong CPU to run statistical computations and reporting, and fast bandwidth to bring the data reliably to your screen or a remote facility.
• Verify that top security standards are included, such as data encryption, secure communication, user authentication, traceability, and audit trails of who did what.
• Ensure that the software embeds support for key industry compliance standards.
• Learn what it will take to implement and train employees on the software and plan accordingly when rolling it out. Make sure your team is ready to change the way they do things.

Summary

Manufacturers that will commit to deploying new technologies, utilizing automation, and creating a culture of positive change and professional evolution will end up winning more business.

The digital manufacturing revolution will lead some companies to great success while slow-moving competitors fall further behind.

Automation is expected, and manufacturers will not be able to compete and survive without understanding how its trends affect their companies.

For more on this topic, join Sam Golan, HighQA’s chairman and founder, along with Quality Digest’s editor in chief Dirk Dusharme, for the webinar, “Quality 4.0—A Game-Changing Trend,” which is being presented on March 14, 2018, at 2 p.m. Eastern, 11 a.m. Pacific. Register here.

Discuss

About The Author

Ephy Torenberg’s picture

Ephy Torenberg

Ephy (Ephraim) Torenberg is the CEO of HighQA enterprise quality management systems. He has more than 20 years of continuous success in building, growing, and managing software companies ranging from back-office enterprise systems through web 2.0 software development. For the past seven years, he led a software as a service (SaaS) enterprise. Torenberg’s focus at HighQA is on customers success, creating quality scalable software that addresses the quality needs of the entire supply chain of industrial manufacturing.