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Sébastien Breteau

Management

Data Are the Key Drivers for Quality 4.0

Fostering performance excellence amid digital transformation

Published: Thursday, February 24, 2022 - 12:03

Although previous industrial revolutions were driven by steam machines and the dawn of electricity, the unfolding fourth industrial revolution is being powered by digital technologies, such as cloud computing, machine learning, and the internet of things. Accompanying the fourth industrial revolution is Quality 4.0, a recently coined term referring to the rapid changes in value-chain performance excellence we’re seeing amid digital transformation.

Notably, it’s the greater availability of data that’s pushing Quality 4.0 forward. As the global economy becomes increasingly digital, metrics are all the more critical for establishing quality standards and ensuring smooth operations. Companies that effectively manage data points across the supply chain—ranging from their suppliers to customers—will gain a significant advantage in driving Quality 4.0, and thus performance excellence.

There’s no shortage of data in today’s digital marketplace. For example, QIMAone, a digital quality management system (QMS), manages more than 300 million data points yearly for businesses and provides them with 160 key performance indicators (KPIs) about quality and compliance in supply chains around the world. Being data savvy allows these businesses to foster a culture of quality excellence.

The main challenge today is that not all businesses know how to take action on the data they have. To thrive in the Quality 4.0 landscape, businesses must make data management the backbone of quality control programs. Adopting a QMS that prioritizes data management unlocks a multitude of benefits.

Data-driven decision making

In a recent survey conducted by LNS Research, more than one-third (37%) of respondents reported that poor metrics are standing in the way of their business’s quality goals.

Without strong metrics, quality control managers are unable to make smart decisions about sourcing, managing suppliers, or addressing quality challenges. On the other hand, a digital QMS places real-time data at the core of all decision making, and can illuminate real-time visibility across the supply chain, from factory to shelf.

An effective QMS automatically collects and updates in real-time metrics from all inspections performed. This way, if a supplier encounters an issue—such as consistent quality problems or shipment delays—the business can shift production elsewhere or address the concern directly with the supplier before it triggers a bottleneck.

Furthermore, with an effective and agnostic QMS, data summaries are readily accessible in one centralized system, rather than across multiple systems that don’t sync up or communicate.

Raise capacity and accelerate speed to market

Today’s marketplace is dictated by one-click service, and instant gratification is the order of the day. This expectation is affirmed by leading brands, such as Amazon Prime’s same-day delivery options.

After the pandemic delayed shipments, or when factories in China experienced widespread power outages, many businesses learned the hard way that capacity and market speed are contingent on their suppliers. Ultimately, a business is truly only as strong as the weakest link in its supply chain.

The greatest promise of a digital QMS is the end-to-end visibility it offers into the product journey, allowing a business to closely track a product throughout conception, inspection, transit, and arrival at its final destination.

Decisions about where to source from and how to transport products are based on data and real-time events, as previously mentioned. For example, if a natural disaster or another pandemic were to disrupt operations at a supplier’s factory, the QMS could guide proactive remedial actions, such as sourcing from factories in safe locations.

Over time, capacity and market speed are greatly increased. This gives businesses a distinct competitive advantage.

Make suppliers part of the team

To successfully digitize quality control and unlock the power of data, businesses must bring their suppliers into the fold and provide them with meaningful benefits, too.

To help with this, businesses should employ a QMS with collaborative features, such as an integrated inspector app, actionable insights, automation tools, configurable workflows, application programming interface (API) integration, and interactive reporting. To further amplify supplier onboarding, some QMS platforms also offer educational and training courses on operational workflows and industry best practices.

Now and for years to come, Quality 4.0 can fundamentally transform the relationship a business has with every supplier in its network. Over time, the relationship transcends the traditional vendor contract to become a symbiotic partnership. When done right, thanks to data-driven decision making, the “3 Ts” of trust, transparency, and teamwork will fuse together every link of the supply chain.

Free up resources to create more value

When data collection is centralized, workflows become streamlined and the manpower required to run a successful quality control program is drastically cut. Essentially, automating quality inspections enables managers to dedicate more time, energy, and resources to other profitable activities. Freeing up resources can help businesses forge new supplier relationships, home in on business development, and digitize other operational processes—all of which create more tangible value in the long term.

Looking ahead: capitalize on the adoption gap

The time is now for businesses to explore how they can use data to drive a Quality 4.0 framework. By acting sooner rather than later, businesses can capitalize on a distinct adoption gap and put themselves on the right side of the curve.

In a survey recently published by Boston Consultant Group, almost three-quarters (74%) of respondents recognized the benefits that Quality 4.0 developments will have on manufacturing. Moreover, nearly two-thirds of respondents agreed that Quality 4.0 initiatives will have a significant effect on their businesses within five years. Despite recognizing the significance of Quality 4.0, just 16 percent of respondents said they have begun putting such initiatives into action.

The widespread adoption gap in today’s marketplace offers a major competitive advantage opportunity for businesses that are ready to double down on data and get serious about quality. Partnering with an effective QMS provider can jumpstart a business’s data know-how—and put the company on the right track to harness Quality 4.0.

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About The Author

Sébastien Breteau’s picture

Sébastien Breteau

Sébastien Breteau is the founder and CEO of QIMA, a quality control and compliance service provider that partners with brands, retailers, and importers to secure and manage their global supply chain. Breteau has more than 20 years of experience in supply chain management, founding his first sourcing company in 1997. 

Founded in 2005, QIMA has become a leading player in Asia and has expanded its operations globally to more than 35 labs and offices, 3,800 employees, and 85 countries. In 2020, the company launched QIMAone, a collaborative platform that digitizes quality and compliance management for global brands, retailers, and manufacturers.