How quality checks in manufacturing & quality assurance in manufacturing unlock digital transformation ROI

Author David Rennie, February 25, 2022

Manufacturers often struggle to maintain a cohesive quality system that works on both the shop floor and at the head office. From paperwork to quality control checks in manufacturing, to audits - maintaining excellent quality day-in and day-out requires a robust quality management solution and cutting-edge technology.


Optimising quality and operations management through Digital Transformation

If your facility’s manufacturing quality assurance hasn’t started the digital transformation, there’s no better time than now. An end-to-end digital quality management system will reduce defects, increase efficiency, and boost OEE across the entire organisation.

We’ll tell you how digital transformation is imperative in today’s manufacturing industry, and how and why you’ll rapidly discover the ROI from a quality perspective.


FOF-Man performing quality check



What are the main challenges of quality management in manufacturing?


Disconnected quality systems

As manufacturing facilities evolve, expand, and upgrade over time, various quality systems, procedures, and requirements could be integrated piece-by-piece. Disconnected quality systems, with each piece of the puzzle working in information silos, create a major challenge for quality teams.

Information sharing across devices, machines, and departments is crucial for a smart connected factory. Bridging the gap between each system, and converging quality information to one central location reduces the chance of quality events and streamlines quality checks in manufacturing and manufacturing quality assurance.


Causes of loss due to quality

You may have heard of the Six Big Losses. These are production inefficiencies that result in manufacturing waste, loss of product, and loss of personnel hours. The 6 Big Losses are directly related to Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE), which is a measure of what you actually made over what you could have made, in theory, over a given timeframe.

The difference between the ideal (theoretical) and the actual situation is due to losses categorised into various metrics that provide you with excellent, relevant data to enable you to target areas of improvement. 

What are the six losses of OEE?

  • Planned downtime or external unplanned event
  • Speed loss
  • Breakdowns (>5mins)
  • Minor stops (<5mins)
  • Production rejects
  • Rejects on startup

Those last two are under the responsibility of a shop’s quality department: rejects losses

Traceability and root cause analysis

As mentioned, a disconnected quality programme within a manufacturing company can cause disjointed data, information silos, and inefficient defect detection. Without end-to-end connected quality data, when a problem arises, it will undoubtedly happen again in another machine or part of the process. And if that data isn’t collected, sorted, and saved on a centralised server (ideally a cloud), the same problems will surely repeat in the future.

Without a connected and traceable system, finding the root cause of any problem is exceptionally difficult - especially in today’s fast-moving, complex facilities.

End-to-end quality traceability is an essential component in combating quality defects and making sure systemic, intelligent root cause analysis (RCA) is performed for every quality event.


Time to retrieve data from various sources

When a quality event occurs - as cliché as it sounds - time is of the essence. Without centralised and connected information, quickly finding essential information at critical moments can waste valuable time. Quick reaction to quality events is necessary to keep production efficient, and to minimise damage.

If quality data is disconnected, or stored offline, finding crucial information becomes a game of luck and often relies on specific members of staff or tacit knowledge.

There are new ways, and expert solutions, to connect quality information throughout the entire shop floor, even across multiple facilities.

We’ll shed some light and offer cutting-edge techniques to solve specific, modern manufacturing quality problems.


How can teams optimise manufacturing processes through digital quality checks in manufacturing and manufacturing quality assurance?

With the shift towards the Internet of Things (IoT) and Industry 4.0, it’s no longer an option to shy away from digitisation of manufacturing data. A smart connected plant, where end-to-end manufacturing information is instantly shared across every process and stored using cloud computing, is the driver for the factory of the future.

Digital quality checks in manufacturing and manufacturing Quality Assurance (QA) are more efficient and more precise. A digital platform even allows quality experts and operators more time and energy to focus on line optimisation, well-being, and process improvement.

But that’s not all.


Increase efficiency, OEE wins, and reduce loss

Bulletproof, zero-defect quality systems are the goal - and we’ll touch more on that later in this article. We believe that getting to that point requires advanced digital quality system integration. The path towards zero-defect takes optimisations across the entire shop floor, directly resulting in increased efficiency, loss reduction, and thus a boost in OEE.

Digital quality checks in manufacturing and manufacturing quality assurance will:

  • Prevent reworks and reduce waste
  • Ensure quality management that is 100% audit-ready
  • Offer dynamic interoperability that complements operators’ mission to ensure production tolerance

Having operators perform digital quality checks is the simplest method to reduce the associated losses from poor quality.


Spot quality trends and performance drift

With the right digital manufacturing system, quality issues are visualised live and this data is saved on the cloud. Real-time data allows for in-the-moment monitoring and adjustments. Historic information is incredibly useful for quality teams to have end-to-end traceability and perform root cause analyses.


Make digital progress

Digital quality tools don’t only have a direct positive result on production output. Integrating a digital quality system creates positive value for the operators, both from a training and continuous learning aspect, as well as a direct improvement to their well-being at work.

Use video and images as work instructions to guide operators for on-the-job and continuous training. On top of that, automation, AI, and Machine Learning can use real-time and historic quality data to help the operator focus on their job, not on the problems.

With further integration of automation across production processes, digital twins can even be used to simulate manufacturing changes and detect potential quality issues before physically running the line. This type of predictive analytics will help solve complex quality problems in innovative ways.


Connect quality data to other sources to optimise end-to-end shop-floor processes

Quality data certainly doesn’t exist in its own information silo. It’s most powerful when shared and correlated with every other piece of manufacturing data. A digital quality management solution offers a live view of performance with historical data that can be correlated with production insights to spot trends and opportunities.


What other ways can digital quality assurance help digital transformation?

Digital quality assurance is the first step towards Quality 4.0 - where integrating AI, Machine Learning, and Big Data into your factory’s end-to-end quality system gives quality teams the most accurate data from which to make decisions.

The quality management system of the future, Quality 4.0, uses real-time and historical production data to streamline compliance, enterprise-wide visibility, traceability, and digital quality checks in manufacturing.


We know all plants are at different stages of their shift towards digitisation. But even small efforts to digitise quality assurance can have drastic positive impacts across the shop floor.

A plant’s digital transformation can be bolstered with the integration of digital quality assurance. Starting on key areas to minimise high impact defects and losses, and then eventually expanding the system throughout the entirety of the plant through adopting a continuous improvement mindset. This incremental change can create positive reverberations throughout a shop floor, perhaps being the catalyst for a full-on digital transformation.


Zero-Defects Manufacturing

We briefly touched on zero-defects manufacturing earlier. It’s worth taking some time to understand the concept and explain how we think this quality system, and general business model, fits into the factory of the future.


Zero-defects methodology

Zero-defect is a manufacturing approach with the end goal of reducing the number of product defects to zero. Once an impossible target, the rapid acceleration of Industry 4.0 - and specifically Quality 4.0 - is making zero-defect a certain possibility.

Pulling from various cutting-edge digital technologies into a consolidated methodology, with an emphasis on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning, can be leveraged to continuously adjust and optimise manufacturing processes to output defect-free products.


The role of digital quality inspections and checks in manufacturing

Within a modern zero-defect manufacturing environment, with Quality 4.0 integration, digital systems can spot quality issues immediately when trends drift. When integrated with an end-to-end digital quality management system, operators can see trends in quality check data to see where changes in production need to be made. After the issue which is causing the trends to drift has been resolved, operators can then re-test the quality against the set standards to ensure it passes and log the data for future reference.

Automation, powered by AI and Machine Learning, can also perform automatic quality control checks in manufacturing based on initial input data and the learned information it gathers over time.


Using paperless manufacturing software systems for Manufacturing Quality Checks and Quality Assurance for Manufacturing

Paperless manufacturing software simplifies operator-logged quality assurance. Sites can set up unique checklist templates for meeting manufacturing tolerances, parameters, and the required sample size and frequency.


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Check templates provide operators with a clear walkthrough of the required steps and can also include visual representations of acceptable quality so there are no misinterpretations of required standards. Operator prompts within preset time ranges ensure logged quality data is reliable, accurate, and continuously up to date at all times for both reference and traceability.


How to measure digital transformation ROI

We understand that changing from legacy systems, and upgrading your plant’s manufacturing processes can cause growing pains and inevitable bugs. That said, a digital transformation is no longer an option in the manufacturing sector - it’s essential for sustainable and long-term growth.

Measuring digital transformation ROI is imperative to evaluate digital systems, and plan for future investments to continue the evolution toward a smart connected factory.


Usage, engagement, and operator participation

Effective implementation of digital quality systems requires widespread user adoption. Digital quality management software works within an intelligent IT infrastructure that can monitor usage by operators and other users. This gives quality leaders direct insight into user engagement: what works, what doesn’t, and what needs improvement.


Performance and quality gains

Your facility’s digital transformation will show increased performance and more consistent quality. As long as the right digital system is chosen, and migration from legacy systems is undertaken with care, the performance increases will be rapid and obvious.

From a boost in OEE to fewer defects to better control of personnel hours - OEE software for manufacturing and digital manufacturing management software will give you much greater visibility into every aspect of the plant. For quality systems, that means you’ll be well on your way to zero-defect manufacturing…and Quality 4.0!


Workforce productivity

Paperless manufacturing, with digital quality checks in manufacturing, saves operators valuable time. No more searching for documents, printing, and filing. Within a digital software solution, checklists, documents, and training materials are at your fingertips - anywhere, anytime.

With the move towards Quality 4.0, automation will continue to reduce the need for visual manufacturing quality control checks, along with self-correcting processes to minimise and eliminate events and maximise product quality. Operators will be more productive, more engaged with their real expertise, and more focused.



The next step in your digital transformation roadmap: operationalising digital quality inspections and checks

The time to start your digital transformation is now. If your plant is already on its way, great! The goal of a fully connected, end-to-end factory of the future is well within your reach.

Incrementally digitising data, connecting processes, systems, and people one step at a time - this is the way forward to minimise growing pains and ease into your digital transformation. Digital quality systems should be a focus, and they offer a great entry point to unlock your manufacturing digital transformation.

Connected quality systems powered by intelligent software solutions will guide your plant’s manufacturing quality assurance smoothly and efficiently into the future…defect-free.


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