Mobile Data Collection Extends Quality's Reach

This month's edition of Quality Magazine features an article I wrote about how mobile data collection technologies are extending quality systems beyond the plant. The article, Advances in Mobile Data Collection Extend Quality's Reach, talks about mobile data collection and reporting. 

Using our new ProForm application, you and your suppliers can simply enter data into any mobile device without having any kind of SPC software installed. All that's required is a web browser. The article addresses the opportunities that this technology presents for manufactures.

You can read the full article on the Quality Magazine web site, or in your hard copy of the publication, but here are some points that highlight the benefits of mobile data collection:

Collaboration. Problem-solving activities are driven by data. Without it, corrective actions are virtually impossible. Imagine that when an issue occurs, experts have instantaneous access to the data surrounding the event. When an alert is triggered by off-quality product from a supplier in China, a quality engineer in Chicago receives an e-mail describing the event. Together, the responsible parties in both countries discuss the issue. These discussions lead to process control actions necessary to ensure off-quality product does not enter the supply chain. By doing so, global costs can be reduced while quality levels can be increased by those sharing a vested interest in the outcome. 

Regardless of where production takes place, portable data collection brings the quality system directly to the product.

Traceability. Typically, organizations like to associate traceability fields, such as the shift, lot code or batch, to their quality data. That way, data can be “sliced and diced” based on what is most important. Now, assume that each vendor and supplier associates a common traceability field—such as a lot code—to each manufacturing step at each plant. From raw materials and subcomponents to final product assembly, data is passed to a shared database. If so, then “womb-to-tomb” traceability would be a reality. No more paper. No more mailing certificates of analysis. Users could just log onto the database, type in a lot code and get the information they need. 

Reporting. If traceability information is leveraged from one production step (and plant) to the next, the result is a linkage from raw materials to finished goods. If there happens to be a problem with a finished lot, all of the components, subcomponents and raw materials can be traced. This traceability dramatically improves the ability to track down problem causes and minimize recall costs. Also, raw materials can be traced to final finished goods. Manufacturers can trace global raw material consumption to the last plant where finished goods are packaged through a genealogical “tree.”

In effect, mobile data collection and its related technologies could optimize supply chain efficiencies by dramatically improving information exchange while allowing an unheard-of level of flexibility in data collection and reporting. By doing so, manufacturers could not only reduce overall costs of data collection and reporting, but they could further reduce global quality costs, protect final consumers from off-quality products and greatly expand data accessibility. 

Douglas C. Fair
By Douglas C. Fair
Chief Operating Officer
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