The oil and energy industry, as well as the automotive and aerospace industries, have long been leaders in using digitalization and automation to manage and optimize quality control in production.
In recent years, companies in other industries have also begun to see digitalization’s value, particularly regarding quality control.
In this article, we will explain why not digitalizing quality control risks becoming a problem and offer some insights into how digitalization can help you.
From the outset, it is interesting to note that digitalizing and automating quality control doesn’t have to be complicated or represent a significant capital investment. This is because there are innovative solutions at an affordable cost that will work, right out of the box, with your organization’s existing resources, immediately providing your organization with in-depth information.
Why traditional quality control processes are obsolete
In traditional quality control processes, operators perform quality control activities guided by precise documents, such as quality plans, that provide the track of required controls based on contractual and project requirements. However, in the absence of process digitalization, there are typically these problems:
- instructions to operators, if they are revised during the process due to new requests from technical departments or the customer, often do not reach the field operators in time, who therefore risk continuing to use outdated instructions for some time
- the visibility of the result of activities is much less because collecting and processing the result of controls from paper documents or files compiled by the operators requires additional work for which adequate resources are rarely available
- keeping the various departments updated on any non-conformities or problems identified and on the possible impact on production schedules requires constant effort, meetings and email exchanges between managers.
Thus, although traditional quality control processes are still the order of the day in companies in many industries today, the problem is that they are inefficient, inaccurate and do not provide sufficient visibility/traceability.
Traditional quality control processes, by nature, are inefficient and error-prone. Even the most experienced and meticulous employees may make mistakes or be absent from the workplace due to force majeure – such as illness or holidays – but such events can be costly if they result in a faulty product, service or component that is not readily identified by the quality control process.
By digitalizing quality control processes, companies can quickly and effectively assign and identify responsibility to those in charge of their execution. Digitalization allows for clear and unambiguous instructions, always in the latest available revision, as to what needs to be done and specific notifications as to when it needs to be done. The results are visible promptly to company managers.
Digitalization of quality control processes is a great help to personnel
Today, new talent appreciates forward-looking companies that make innovation a top priority. Tomorrow’s workforce will be no different – on the contrary, they will have even more pronounced skills and needs in terms of technology and digitalization – and will prefer not to perform manual or analogue tasks during their work routines when digital alternatives are widely available.
With digitalized quality control processes, companies not only support the foresight of new talent but are also ready to simplify aspects of their training and onboarding. This is because digitalized quality control processes are inevitably more intuitive than their analogue counterparts and require much less investment and effort in training.
Non-standardized quality control is subjective
No matter how much companies try to standardize their quality control processes, the general tendency, unfortunately, is that these differ from location to location, manufacturer to manufacturer. Ultimately, they are never sufficiently uniform and standardized.
The problem with having different locations or plants using different processes is that in this way, quality control risks becoming subjective, ambiguous and arbitrary. As long as there is not enough digitalization, the risk of ambiguity in controls will always be a factor that organizations must consider.
Data Analysis and Business Intelligence
Another shortcoming of traditional quality control processes is that they cannot provide meaningful information, both in real-time and after the execution of activities, on which to perform analyses with Business Intelligence tools. This also makes analyzing and determining the root causes of any quality problems (root cause analysis) much more difficult.
Any statistical analysis of the data will be much less straightforward than having the information directly within a digital system. For example, the absence of complete records of quality control data (which may seem irrelevant to a first analysis) may prevent the identification of repetitive patterns and the detection of recurring quality problems for certain types of tests, installations or at certain times or days of the week. Moreover, in this way, the quality team cannot see what was happening immediately before and after a failed test. Thus, it cannot have sufficient information to set up improvement strategies.
Greater difficulty in preparing for audits
A final but significant issue related to non-digitalized quality control processes is that they make it challenging to prepare for audits.
For certifications such as ISO 9001 – an essential part of the quality strategies of manufacturing companies – it is imperative to maintain adequate documentation. The main advantage of digitalization and automation is that they allow quick and easy access to relevant documentation, such as certificates and production and quality data.
Managing quality control documentation can be a problem for companies when auditors require detailed verification of these documents. Paper-based quality controls can be lost over time and lack comprehensive information, as we have already seen, which can compromise the results of an organization’s audits.
In contrast, using a single information system allows data to be accessed with just a few clicks. Furthermore, critical information, such as instrument calibration and the recording of non-conformities, can be monitored, recorded and retrieved when needed for auditing purposes.
Time to start digitalizing and automating quality control processes
Perhaps the biggest obstacle to digitalization in quality control is the perception of having to invest heavily – including in terms of staff commitment – to integrate it into the company. After all, paper-based or spreadsheet-based quality controls do not require significant capital investment and can be implemented/modified with minimal impact on day-to-day staff activities.
Fortunately, the same is true of some digital alternatives, such as those offered by the Horizon Group’s companies through NotifyMe’s collaborative workflow engine, Inspecteam and QSI’s 15 years of quality experience and Demiware’s IT expertise.
The Horizon Group aspires to help the industry become fully efficient by deeply understanding its needs. To carry out this vital mission, we are committed to the success of companies through innovation, quality and digitalization.
The services of Horizon Group
- IoT (Internet of Things)
- 3D-oriented software
- Artificial intelligence
- Industry 4.0
- Product and process inspections
- Supplier audits
- Quality assurance consultancy
- Quality process management services
- Digitalization of business processes
- Workflow automation
- Web and mobile applications
- Software integration engineering