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Case Study: Quality Performs

February 22, 2012
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Customer Ultra Machining Company utilizes a quality performance management solution designed to improve the quality of products, the efficiency of processes, and allow for better control of a company’s operations.

Since 1968, Ultra Machining Co. (UMC) has steadily grown into one of the premiere manufacturers of precision machined parts and assemblies for the aerospace and medical device industries.

As business rapidly grew, UMC was outgrowing its manual systems in many areas. The initial focus had been to upgrade their finance and inventory systems with an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) package that could grow with them and meet the needs of their diverse industry clientele. However, when a 35-year employee who had been the heart and soul of their quality operation announced retirement, UMC quickly broadened their focus to include an integrated quality system to replace the intricate quality processes that were second nature to the veteran.

UMC’s paper-based quality system, though unsophisticated in its outward appearance – was actually a highly integrated quality operation due to the intellectual capital of a key employee. The quality employee bridged the gap between departmental stovepipes and integrated the various functions, which contained years of inherent processes, engineering details, inspection documents, equipment history, calibration maintenance stats, employee skills and basically every other document used to run their business. These documents were scattered throughout the plant and were at risk of being rife with transcription errors that lead to time-consuming, costly errors and non-conformances, as well as issues with audits.

With the departure of their key veteran employee, it was critical for UMC to obtain a turnkey quality management system that covered all areas of quality, was highly integrated and worked well with their chosen ERP system. In addition, it was crucial that both systems have a proven success record in both the aerospace and the medical device manufacturing space.

Choosing Epicor and IQS to Achieve Quality Objectives
UMC chose Epicor Manufacturing , a comprehensive ERP solution that enables them to plan, schedule, execute and monitor the entire manufacturing business, and Epicor Advanced Quality Management (AQM), powered by IQS, to meet their quality and compliance requirements. Since Epicor AQM quality processes support the highest standard level, UMC is able to leverage across industry verticals for industry compliance requirements such as 21 CFR Part 11, AS9100, ISO9001, and ISO 13485 certifications.

UMC’s first phase of automation with AQM was to centralize data collection and implement document control on the shop floor to standardize quality processes. With everyone in the plant following the same procedures, UMC immediately saw a reduction in time spent searching and analyzing quality documentation. “Our quality data flows through the plant in real-time enabling us to pinpoint information more quickly. In turn, any revision, nonconformance, or decision to change a control plan or inspection plan is immediately replicated through the system so that everyone is working from the same data, at all times and across multiple operations,” says Laura Iversen, Business Manager at UMC. “We now have actionable intelligence and are able to make faster and better business decisions regarding a product’s quality.”

For the UMC medical device customer audit, UMC’s investment in quality automation turned a half day audit into a successful two hour audit. “Overall the auditors were pleased at how well the audit went and how organized we were,” says UMC Document Control and Lead Auditor Stacy Obryck. “Our ability to quickly present requested data was key to fostering a sense of trust with our medical device customer’s auditors.” AQM connects and synchronizes quality data into one, central system allowing companies to quickly support customer needs and significantly enhancing their competitive edge in highly- regulated industries.

As the company grew, UMC’s employees grew along with it. An added benefit of AQM is its ability to tie quality management into employee training and productivity management. UMC is leveraging AQM QUIZ to integrate and roll- out quality process training in a systematic way to all of its employees, and AQM provides a foundation for standardizing employee management across the plant. An employee’s training absenteeism, skills and other data affecting quality are centralized in AQM to give management real-time visibility into trends and issues that are adversely affecting work performance.

Information is then used to proactively develop performance improvement programs to improve the overall productivity of UMC. Another cost reduction benefit of AQM is its ability to track dollars spent on equipment, tools and outside services that were once recorded on paper but never cross referenced to determine cost containment procedures. “AQM connects the data and gives us visibility into our equipment spend helping management identify trends such as machines that consistently fail or repeating vendor issues,” says Leon Pouliot, development manager at UMC. “We are better equipped to focus on a remedy rather than spend time coordinating data from paper documents to identify an assumed weakness within our operations.”

UMC’s next phase of automation with AQM is the roll-out of Advanced Product Quality Planning (APQP). APQP will not only serve as a product management tool for quality engineering of new parts, it will also ensure that current documentation and data automatically flows to other departments to coordinate all productivity to the correct revision.

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