How to create repeatable quality programs that help manufacturers meet quality targets is keeping plant managers up at night. Labor shortages have shop floor managers questioning whether they have the right team to deliver consistently high-quality products. How to keep machines maintained, monitored, and compliant consistently is another major challenge. Discovering why quality is inconsistent by taking a more end-to-end approach to measuring and predicting quality is critical.
Another series of challenges exist for plant managers that need to gain greater end-to-end knowledge, visibility, and control over how each manufacturing phase impacts product quality. Many are going to a more automated approach to monitoring production machinery and workflows to gain real-time visibility and control. Inspecting raw materials to ensure they meet quality standards and can be released to the production line helps maximize production yields. Knowing that tools and equipment are ready for production reduces delays and costs. Being able to explain why the pace of production lines varies by product with more visibility and control across the shop floor. Quality management requires broad access to information and a holistic view of the business to be comprehensive and preventative.
Not having enough visibility and control over the shop floor frequently leads to higher scrap rates and inferior product quality. The latest NIST Annual Report on U.S. Manufacturing Industry Statistics: 2021 estimates that 15% of steel mill products are scraped in the manufacturing process. The manufacturing industry estimates that at least 25% of liquid steel and 40% of liquid aluminum raw materials are scrapped before the finished product is delivered. In addition, 10 to 15% of losses are due to molding and creating products, and 5% is attributable to defective manufacturing processes.
Less Room For Quality Errors
There’s less room for quality errors in production, scrap, waste, or product rejects because raw materials are in shorter supply and more expensive. As a result, every manufacturer seeks new ways to improve product quality by first gaining end-to-end visibility of their production processes. Next, price increases force manufacturers to work at achieving the highest yields possible out of every production run. An example of why this is important is the steel industry. Raw materials prices have increased more than 200% for steel, 60% for aluminum, and 20% for copper over the past year. Lead times had dropped below four weeks in January, but they bounced back to five-plus weeks in March, and steel mills are considering allocations for the rest of 2022 and 2023.
Simple Ways To Create Repeatable Quality Programs
Quality management needs to start with clear, simple procedures for tracking inbound materials quality, work in progress, and finished goods inventory yield rates. Material reviews, process monitoring, inspections, and customer & internal audits are also needed for a quality management program to deliver results.
One of the simplest ways to make quality repeatable is to automate the areas that change the most and often cause the greatest number of errors. A great place to start is with work instructions. Getting these right for every product improves yields and reduces waste by providing every technician on the shop floor with what they need to know to build the highest quality product possible.
In addition, manufacturers are turning to Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems because they enable repeatable quality programs by building inspection procedures into the day-to-day operations.
The following five areas of quality management are often automated first:
- Centralized Document Control and Management. Automated, secure document control and management system are a must-have for manufacturers pursuing quality goals. Quality management systems increase the depth of support they provide for electronic storage, version control, and retrieval of quality documents. The goal is to make work instructions and Engineering Change Notices (ECNs) organizations accessible in real-time.
- Improve Corrective & Preventive Action (CAPA) and incident management. CAPA can’t be an island anymore. The data it provides is essential for everyone to own product quality in an organization. Manufacturers want to get CAPA data better distributed through their operations so all departments can see what’s causing nonconforming or unplanned events. The goal is to improve how fast investigations, action plan development, and implementation of preventive actions while reducing the risk of recurrence.
- In-Line Product Quality And Consistency Tools. Reducing the variation in finished products by identifying problem areas in production is the goal of these tools. They are also designed to provide manufacturers with more automated workflows to achieve in-line product quality and ensure product consistency.
- Real-Time Data Submission and Reporting. Table stakes for any manufacturer are the need to capture product quality data from legacy and 3rd party systems into a single, unified view of quality company-wide. While today, many quality systems can provide a raw data dump, what’s needed is more intuitive, graphical dashboards for reporting this data in context so action can be taken.
- Real-time production and process monitoring. Manufacturers need real-time visibility into the machine and process management to keep production schedules updated, orders on track, and identify potential quality roadblocks. So they’re asking for a system that can track all aspects of production quality to see where they can improve shop floor and machine efficiency, visibility, and productivity.
Rising prices, unpredictable supply chains, and labor shortages keep plant managers up at night worrying about how to keep delivering the highest quality products possible, despite these challenges. Automating the five core areas mentioned will help keep product quality high and reduce scrap, defects, and rejected products.
The secret to achieving consistent product quality is an ERP system that provides a 360-degree view of the plant floor and manufacturing operations, making it possible to fine-tune production quality and create repeatable quality programs across all departments that deliver measurable results.