Virtually every manufacturer today views quality as a key success metric. It is well understood that product and service quality is one of the strongest competitive differentiators today. The topic is so important that Forbes produced a special report on the subject in conjunction with the American Society of Quality.
A key determinant of an enterprise’s ability to deliver quality is its organizational behavior and culture, often characterized as a culture of quality. In a culture of quality, the enterprise, from top to bottom and across all functions, understands that quality is a critical success factor for the business and makes it a key element of every activity.
To activate this culture of quality across all functions, it’s essential to leverage digital manufacturing technology that integrates and enforces quality management throughout the manufacturing process, and even beyond the four walls of the factory. Embedding quality management across the supply chain ensures that each supplier and employee – on and off the shop floor – is invested in prioritizing quality at every stage of the process.
In complex manufacturing, it’s common for up to 70% of all parts consumed to be produced by external suppliers, so it’s critical that quality management begins with the supplier. In addition to helping you accurately measure and track supplier quality, a robust supplier quality management (SQM) solution can help improve communication with your suppliers and give them insight into their own performance, enabling them to take a more active role in meeting your quality standards. A strong SQM will engage suppliers in the quality process by guiding them through your testing standards, coordinating inspections, and tracking performance. All this helps to reduce the escapes that enter the production stream in the first place.
Support Quality Technicians
Even with an effective SQM and strong supplier buy-in, escapes will still occasionally enter production. To ensure discrepancies are captured and handled efficiently, you need a manufacturing execution system (MES) that supports your quality technicians by streamlining and simplifying their work. As an example, Solumina MES from iBase-t, automatically initiates the discrepancy process, guiding the technician through the steps of root cause analysis, identifying the responsible suppliers, and referring the issue to quality engineering for rework.
Connect Quality Engineers
Your MES also plays an important role in connecting quality engineers with the information and tools they need to expedite the rework planning process. The quality engineer should have immediate access to all pertinent information about the discrepancy in a centralized location so that she can quickly pick up where the quality technician left off. Time-saving features, like generic process plan templates that can be used across multiple parts, are also valuable in eliminating unnecessary labor for your quality engineers.
Close the Loop
Once rework planning is completed by the quality engineer, the rework instructions should be immediately accessible to the quality technician so that he can efficiently remove, disposition, and replace the component part, and send the rejected part back to the supplier. Details about the rejected part must be passed from the MES to the SQM, so that the source inspector at the supplier’s site is alerted to the issue and can create a repair inspection order to confirm that everything has been done properly. Achieving this collaborative, closed-loop quality management process requires a tightly integrated MES and SQM solution that delivers the right information to the right parties at the right time.
In conclusion, embedding quality management throughout the manufacturing process is essential for fostering a culture of quality in a complex discrete manufacturing environment. Next-generation digital manufacturing tools, like iBase-t’s Solumina MES and SQM solutions, can support this effort by seamlessly integrating supplier quality with manufacturing quality to provide a closed-loop, enterprise quality solution. In this environment, all parties – internal and external – are equipped with the tools they need to actively engage in quality management. And since all users have access to the same information and can update it in real time, they can collaborate efficiently to identify and handle discrepancies.
Solumina MES and SQM are part of a suite of digital solutions from iBase-t that simplify how complex products are built and maintained. Learn more about our MES and SQM offerings, and how they meet the needs of the modern manufacturer.