Most customers don’t think much about quality control. They just expect the products they buy to look and function like they’re supposed to—at least, that’s what they do until a defective product slips through.
Quality end products make happy customers, and that’s the goal of quality control. But hang-ups in planning, procedures, equipment, process execution, or inspection can result in inaccuracy and defects.
The right software can solve those problems.
If the primary objective of quality control is to produce a quality end product, then quality control software should provide the means for overseeing current processes and troubleshooting and eliminating the issues that inevitably crop up. The problem is that different industries—and even different companies within the same industry—approach quality control differently.
One-size-fits-all software can’t always adapt to the unique processes of every potential end user. That leads to inefficiencies and higher production costs.
But custom software can give you the flexibility you need to manage risk, compliance, and costs.
How? By serving as the brains of your quality control methodology.
But before you make a software decision, you need to know what it has to accomplish.
Step One: Refining the Role of Quality Control
Producing a quality end product isn’t always a straightforward proposition. Every person involved in every stage of the manufacturing process will ultimately contribute to the quality (or lack of it) for a given product.
Of course, quality not something that can be accomplished through inspection alone. That’s why quality control will look different in different environments.
Still, every quality control management methodology should provide oversight of the various processes that contribute to that final result. That role may include:
* Inspecting procedures
* Inspecting materials
* Reviewing production records for accuracy before approving distribution
* Ensuring compliance
* Conducting internal audits
* Exceeding industry standards and government requirements
All of these responsibilities revolve around ensuring strict adherence to standard processes to produce a desired result.
Because every industry handles quality control activities differently, there is no single software solution that will deliver all the capabilities needed for every manufacturing company. Either you will have to change your processes to fit the software, or you will have to create workarounds and/or use different software platforms for different tasks. Choosing a custom solution gives you the flexibility to build the software around your processes so you can maintain an integrated system that stores all your data in one place.
Custom software creates a central nervous system for your quality control processes, monitoring data and managing processes to boost profit and minimize loss. Here are just a few of the benefits:
Higher profit—One way to increase profit is to get more efficient at turning raw materials into finished products. Custom software will help you implement lean processes that streamline production and cut waste, with a resulting boost in your profit potential.
Reduced costs—Internal cost assessments can be tricky and may not always be evident until you notice trends around a specific process or part number. Custom software helps you track key metrics to identify problems before they send your costs through the roof.
Greater efficiency—Lean processes create higher value for customers even with fewer resource expenditures. Custom software can help you reduce wastes like overproduction, wait times, product defects, and unnecessary inventory. It can also improve your repair and maintenance processes with tools like custom augmented reality, which help you solve problems on the floor, cut down on maintenance time, and prevent errors.
Enhanced collaboration—With efficient software, employees won’t have to leave their workstations to run a report or check in with colleagues. These tasks can be handled within the system, making it easier for employees to work together.
Automated tasks—Scheduling, reminders, follow ups, assessments, and other elements of the quality control process can be automated with your software. A custom solution builds out those automations based on how you already operate.
Culture of effectiveness—It’s one thing to know all your processes are compliant. It’s another thing to know you’re using the most effective—and efficient—processes possible to get the job done. Custom software can help you make that cultural shift.
Doing these things well adds measurable value to your manufacturing processes, making you both more productive and more profitable. On the other hand, manual procedures and outdated software systems gum up the works.
So the next question we need to ask is: what software do you need to keep your quality control system running efficiently?
Step Two: Choosing the Right Software Tools
Custom software gives you access to a range of tools that will boost efficiency, production, and profit. Here are five functions to discuss with your software developer:
Centralized, web-based platform—If you’ve been using manual processes or an outdated quality control system, this might be the best tool you can deploy to improve efficiency and cut waste. Centralizing your data in one database and giving your employees access to that data anytime, anywhere will reveal process gaps, personnel inefficiencies, and other areas where you can implement leaner operations. Make sure this platform is mobile-friendly so that it’s just as easy to use with a tablet on the production floor as it is from a desktop in the corner office.
Reporting tools—Generating cause/effect diagrams, control charts, flow charts, run charts, and other reports manually can eat up significant chunks of time, but these outputs essential to managing the efficiency of your processes. Custom reporting software will help you conduct statistical analysis and inspections efficiently by placing the right data at your fingertips in an instant.
Document control—Secure documents, signatures, and approvals managed within the software will improve your reaction times and still give you the documentation you need to comply with strict quality standards in your industry or create necessary audits.
Custom augmented reality—Augmented reality has come a long way since Pokemon Go burst onto the scene. In the manufacturing industry, AR can support faster maintenance, less down time, fewer errors, and simulated training operations. Virtual reality applications are also good options for training assembly processes before a new employee is put on the line or shop floor.
Statistical process analysis—Improve decision-making and productivity with statistical process control processes that gather and analyze data. Identify critical shortfalls and pinpoint areas where you could streamline processes for greater efficiency.
Artificial intelligence—There are some truly impressive strides being made in artificial intelligence for quality control, as demonstrated in this example from China. Artificial intelligence reduces the margin of error and corrects for human problems like being tired, bored, or slow. Although there is still progress to be made in this field, it’s worth mentioning here as we consider what quality control will look like in just a few short years and how that should affect the software choices we make today.
In the manufacturing industry, software serves as the brains of the operation. Advances in AI, IoT, and cloud software have demonstrated great potential for managing critical tasks and improving performance. And while quality control may not sound as exciting as cutting edge design or production processes, it remains one of the most important factors in delivering the best end product to the customer at the lowest cost.
Custom software helps manufacturers achieve that goal by correcting for human error and fatigue, performing inspection processes quickly and efficiently, and providing actionable insights for improving operations across the company.
Processes and equipment evolve over time. Advances in technology may change the way shop floors, design teams, and production lines look over the next ten years.
But manufacturers will always need quality control software that is both reliable enough to ensure compliance and flexible enough to accommodate change.
If you’re still using spreadsheets and calculators, it’s time to trade up.