Most departments within your organization need to perform routine quality inspections to ensure that the parts delivered (by vendors), and parts manufactured (by you) meet your quality expectations. Regular audits of the shop floor and materials management processes by your suppliers, and your teams as well, are also necessary to ensure internal compliance with your defined rules and standards.
Challenges arise when organizations rely on a Frankenstein approach to create a monster of systems barely held together to execute a comprehensive quality inspection program across an entire organization. Reliance on offline tools like Microsoft Excel, and other siloed software solutions, often results in a series of failures across the organization. Those failures across your organization will ultimately impact your customers, as the quality of your products diminishes and the costs to deliver them increase.
The Frankenstein approach has undoubtedly caused your organization much pain and frustration, but it also now presents you with an opportunity… which is to discard the monster altogether and begin anew. If nothing is worth saving then you are not held back by prior decisions made by those no longer at your organization, or by the limitations of legacy technologies. Instead with the use of the proper toolset and the lessons learned from your Frankenstein approach, we can build a custom quality inspection solution that satisfies the needs of your entire organization, across all use cases.
The following section outlines the six critical capabilities that form the foundation of a robust solution, all of which should be customized to meet the unique needs of modern manufacturing environments.
Mobile: Make certain that the solution is mobile-friendly, ensuring accessibility to the data whenever and wherever it is required – be it on the shop floor, in the corporate office, at the vendor site, or at the client site.
Mobile access enables your team to review 3D renderings provided by your design and engineering software while inspecting the component, or for an engineer to submit a design change request to your PLM based on the results of an inspection. And do all of this while performing the actual inspection on the shop floor.
Then we may also review inspection failures, provide sign-off to design changes, and submit certifications - again, all from the shop floor.
It is important to also provide offline capabilities for when inspections must take place at a job or vendor site, and internet access is limited. Inspectors may still complete their inspections, but the results will sync with the database once internet connectivity has been re-established.
Future Proof: Provide your VP / Head of Quality with a toolset that will allow him or her to create an innovative culture to solve the problems of today and tomorrow. A custom solution will ensure the needs of today are met, but the adoption of low-code to build the solution will ensure the needs of tomorrow can also be met.
Connect & Unify: Unify your data across all related systems and processes to provide your quality team with a single interface to access all relevant data - in real-time - from several different sources.
If a software solution is offline then it is, by definition, out of date right away. An offline solution like Microsoft Excel also lacks data integrity, is prone to end-user errors, and ultimately inspectors will waste time and effort inputting and searching for data that can be made available on demand by integrated application services.
Provide the ability to connect to other technologies like your PLM and engineering and design software to bring 3D renderings into your inspection application, and allow inspectors to tie issues to specific elements of the design and BOM.
Integrate to your ERP of choice, and ensure data is accurate, real-time, and consistent across your quality organization.
Consider other systems that may need to interact with your quality inspection solution, including MES, safety compliance, operations management, materials management, and other quality management solutions.
Ultimately, one goal of any well-designed quality management solution is to eliminate the siloed processes, teams, and systems by automating the communication between them all.
Enforce Quality Expectations: When we consider the various inspection requirements and expectations for each team then we should also recognize that there is no way to consistently ensure all team members - especially if that team is a vendor - are meeting your expectations. Offline and poorly designed software tools provide workarounds and fail to enforce the best practices you have identified as being critical to providing a high-quality product to your customers.
We should develop a single solution to support inspections across multiple departments and manufactured components - onsite vendor / supplier locations, materials received from suppliers, your manufactured components, process and quality audits, and so on. Key inspection criteria like the actual inspection process / steps, acceptable tolerances, etc. should be automatically enforced by the solution. Then what we do with the results is also up to you - think automated escalation processes, notifications, and if necessary production shutdown.
Let us also consider that your inspectors, and quality managers, will come and go and take their knowledge and discipline with them. Training new team members is important, but the simplest and most effective means of enforcing your processes and delivering a consistent standard is via the use of a system where the rules are predefined, and workarounds do not exist.
The process is thus clearly defined, understood by everyone, and reported on and analyzed in the same way across business units.
Flexibility: While standardization and scale are important, flexibility is also needed to ensure the solution supports inspection of the entire suite of manufactured and vendor-provided components and processes across departments. One platform used to create a single solution that can support multiple quality teams, inspection processes, and ultimately an unlimited number of manufactured components is our goal.
That solution then offers the best of both worlds - scalability enabled by standardization, yet flexible enough to support the needs of each business unit. Ultimately, we are able to provide a single solution that will enforce your standards globally.
We should also expect a well-designed quality inspection solution to decrease the cost and time to complete inspections, and allow more time to focus on the processing of those exceptions identified during inspection processes.
Report & Analyze: Provide instant reporting and analysis capabilities to all levels of the organization, and establish yourself as a quality team that has the data and insight necessary to learn from the past and evolve into a higher-performing organization.
When an inspection fails, do you instantly know when, why, and that the resolution process is already underway? Do you have automated tools and metrics to track how well your organization is performing, and systematically identify areas for improvement?
I have outlined how several key capabilities present your organization with an opportunity to redesign your quality inspection processes and systems to better serve your needs, and ultimately deliver a higher-quality product to your customers. That begins with accepting that Excel and your Frankenstein monster of solutions need to be discarded into the trash bin. Once you have accepted that it is time to make a fundamental change to how your quality teams operate then we can begin to work together to design the future.
Creating a custom quality inspection solution is not a multi-year project that costs millions of dollars. It can require as little as a few weeks and a couple skill Kinetech engineers to deliver an initial minimal viable product, and only a few months to deliver a version that is acceptable at scale.
How is it possible to deliver a custom solution to be used across multiple locations by different business units in only a few weeks to a few months?
Doing so requires a combination of three things. The first is an expert team of engineers that has a long track record of successfully delivering custom software solutions at scale. The second is a selection of the correct technology to build the solution. For a decade now, Kinetech has selected Mendix as the best technology for rapid application development. The third is access to a suite of pre-built applications (including quality inspection template), connectors (to services like SAP, AWS, Siemens TeamCenter), and other pre-built capabilities and reusable to accelerate and simplify the build process.
Together we will create a solution that gives you the certainty that your products meet the quality standards you have promised to your customers.
Contact us today to learn more!