Quality Re-Imagined blog series Part 2: The Quality Conundrum

Steve Wise
By Steve Wise | September 25, 2019
Vice President of Statistical Methods

Fact checked by Stephen O'Reilly

Welcome to part two of the Quality Re-Imagined blog series. In part one of this series, InfinityQS COO Doug Fair’s Transform Quality—and Your Business—with the Excellence Loop, we emphasized the overall importance of enterprise visibility to gain insights into your operations that can transform your business. Let’s continue on our theme of re-imagining quality with what I call the quality “conundrum”—changing your manufacturing quality mindset from “problem” to “opportunity.”
Quality seems to be a never-ending problem for manufacturers, regardless of industry. Implementing and operating a system for tracking product quality is often seen as a “burden” that must be “endured” to avoid greater cost and expenditures down the road. You can be inundated with quality-related data, yet still find yourself impeded by recalls, rework, and regulatory audits. Here’s how we solve that quality “problem” and turn it into an opportunity.
Make Quality an Opportunity

How to Solve the Quality Problem

From food recalls to faulty auto parts, quality issues can have devastating effects on any manufacturing organization’s reputation and future earning potential. Trying to track quality issues across processes within a plant—or across sites scattered around the country or the globe—consumes time, resources, and cash. Whatever your industry, whether you’re a small manufacturer or a global brand name, you’re likely scrambling to find solutions to your quality issues.
In this blog, we look at the major industries that struggle with quality—and how InfinityQS quality management software systems can help companies in these industries overcome the “quality is a problem” mindset and start seeing quality as an investment and an opportunity for improvement.

Food & Beverage

Food & Beverage IndustryFood & Beverage manufacturers are all too familiar with the importance of quality—and the rising costs of maintaining it. Rigid, complex regulatory standards demand quality checks at multiple stages of production and packaging. Quality failures can result in violations of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations (and from other safety-control agencies)—and the ensuing, oftentimes hefty, fines.
Manufacturers constantly deal with meeting fill or weight requirements:
  • Underfill, and you need to rework or scrap product to avoid violating Label Stated Content and Maximum Allowable Variation (MAV) or Tolerable Negative Error/Limits of Error requirements.
  • Overfill (or “giveaway”), and you risk going over budget on materials. Automated processes, such as container fill and closure, must be monitored to avoid waste and giveaway, and help ensure compliance.
In addition, public safety is important—as we all know and are aware. No one wants to be tomorrow’s headline, which can result in recalls, and worse, someone getting hurt. And let’s not forget your brand. Any hit in quality that results in a public safety issue is a big hit on your brand.

Medical Devices and Pharmaceuticals

For medical device and pharmaceutical manufacturers, nonconformities can be a matter of life or death. Fill and count requirements, acceptance sampling, and traceability pose extra demands for these manufacturers and their personnel. Quality data is crucial but often difficult to access. For many manufacturers, advancing away from legacy paper systems and into the digital realm (for data collection and analysis) is a primary objective.
 Medical and Pharmaceutical Industries
And because any system that you implement must go through a time-consuming and expensive validation process, choosing the right system is critical. Think about all you do to achieve quality products, and the investment that goes into those endeavors; you must also think of what you need to do to consistently produce those quality products… how to achieve continuous improvement. Storing all your data in one place is the first, huge step toward that continuous improvement.
That’s where your quality management system comes in. You should be gathering data digitally by now. If you can’t because your system can’t handle it, then it’s time for a new quality management system. InfinityQS systems take data from any device, in any format, and store it in a centralized data repository.
This centralized data can then be aggregated to offer you an enterprise view of your operations—comparing data across products, lines, sites, geographical regions, or your entire enterprise. That’s “space telescope” visibility. Problem…meet opportunity.

Automotive and Aerospace

Automotive IndustryWhether you’re machining components or manufacturing  electronics, speed, precision, and consistency are key in this industry. Adhering to demanding customer specifications requires traceability, real-time visibility, compliance to procedures, and process optimization. Sophisticated measurement equipment and gauging are used to verify product conformance and provide the reports that customers require. These efforts are used for the ultimate goals of minimizing scrap, rework, and downtime in order to maximize production throughput.
A quality management system that can handle measurements from any device you throw at it is paramount to collecting all the data you need. All that data, aggregated in a centralized analysis engine, can enable you to view compliance, traceability, and process details over time and across your enterprise. InfinityQS quality management systems offer that deep visibility, which invariably yields high-level, prioritized improvement of product quality and sparks exciting, proactive, strategic decision making. That’s turning a problem into an opportunity.

Packaging and General Manufacturing

Consistency matters in all industries, but it’s of primary importance to packaging. In addition to dimensional specifications, visual defects are a major concern to many manufacturers. As many companies expand to multiple locations, the challenge to produce consistent products is multiplied by the difficulty of maintaining standard, consistent processes. This issue is especially prevalent when sites or staff are added during mergers or acquisitions or when businesses expand to other regions or internationally.
Packaging Industry 
Getting the same information from disparate legacy systems can be difficult and time-consuming. Implementing new solutions across various entrenched infrastructures and operating systems can be a nightmare.
Regardless of your industry, finding a way to standardize and make the most of quality data is a pressing challenge for manufacturers. As part of this effort (and thanks to technology trends), many organizations end up with data overload, including (but not limited to) the following:
  • Product data collected by operators, lab technicians, and more
  • Product data from inspection equipment such as coordinate measuring machines (CMMs), vision systems, etc.
  • Regulatory- and compliance-related information
  • Supplier and raw-material data
  • Process data from automated systems
  • Disparate quality results from standalone systems acquired over time
But what happens to all this information? Too often, the answer is “not much.” Sure, if a flaw or fault is found, someone goes into “firefighting” mode. And when audits roll around, you spend hours or days sifting through reams of paper or loads of spreadsheet files to pull together the necessary reports.
Many companies hope to use this data to reduce recalls and rework or to cope with audits. But they have no way to share and apply their information beyond a single line or plant. Most can’t imagine that this same information could be the key to unlocking dramatic improvements in yield, compliance, and resource utilization—without extra equipment, costs, or resources.
But with an aggregated, end-to-end view of production sites across your entire enterprise—like what InfinityQS quality management systems offer—you can do more than stop the line when a problem is detected. You can formulate strategic insights that drive continuous transformation in quality, processes, and overall operations. Opportunity seen, accepted, and capitalized upon.
Turn Quality into an Opportunity

The Importance of a Unified, Centralized Data Repository

We cannot stress enough how important a unified, centralized data repository is for quality data collection. The images below accentuate how critical it is. Without a centralized data repository, you will never get the “big picture” view of your data.

Before InfinityQS Quality Management Systems: Data Separated and Siloed

When data are scattered and non-standardized, it’s impossible to visualize and analyze the big picture of what’s happening—in real time or over time.
Separated & Siloed

After InfinityQS Quality Management Systems: Data Aligned and Informed

With a unified data repository, the enterprise is aligned around a common set of variables and measures.
Aligned & Informed

Bring It All Together

Disparate data is a huge part of the quality “problem” that many manufacturers experience; with the right quality management system in place (which includes a unified, centralized data repository), this quality problem can become an “opportunity”—to gain the insights you need into your processes, logistics, and operations, and then use those insights to make those transformative decisions for your organization.
Quality may be an issue for each and every industry—in unique and different ways—but it doesn’t have to remain that way. Take advantage of the technology at your fingertips today: contact one of our account managers (1.800.772.7978 or via our website) for more information.
Please read another blog in this series:  

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