As manufacturers are gradually tasked with delivering more output with smaller staffs and producing less scrap along the way, quality will help them sustain growth in a downsized manufacturing environment.
However, inspecting goods after production is often too late. In some cases, a whole order is found unusable right before it ships, and re-ordering materials and re-creating goods could take months.
Manufacturers can get a leg up by using in-process inspection for manufacturing, or inspection at any point along the production cycle. Manufacturers use in-process inspection to identify errors early in production, which saves time and resources in the long run. They identify problems as they occur, then take corrective action, trace, and update the inspection process and ensure its accuracy.
Such checks ensure product quality, and guarantee that production is in accordance with industry standards such as ISO 9001.
Manufacturers usually use three types of intervals to decide when an in-process inspection is necessary. These include:
- Time-based intervals: This is when operators inspect production line on an hourly or daily schedule, depending on their equipment
- Quantity-based intervals: This is when operators check equipment after a designated amount of output is produced.
- Free intervals: This is when operators check equipment as they see fit, and not based on any predetermined metric.
Manufacturers must determine the interval schedule, or combination thereof, to determine how to best conduct in-process quality inspections while the production takes place.
Implementing these in process inspections in real time helps manufacturers to avoid last-minute delays and averts wasting material.
In-process metrology comes with its own challenges, such as a rapidly changing market in which
parts are more frequently undergoing model changes, warranting new CAD data, and constant changes in measurements. Tolerancing can also prove to be complex for unskilled operators, which come with the territory during an ongoing, industrywide skills gap.
However, most manufacturers in the aerospace, automotive, and medical industries follow their own initiative to focus on detailed in-process inspection.
Manufacturing engineers and quality engineers use software to analyze TDP documents such as drawings, models, and specifications, and the part routing to setup in-process inspections.
The right software helps operators consolidate such information and efficiently collect part characteristics for in-process inspection. While this process may involve an initial investment and some light operator training, the long-term savings are priceless. Catching errors in-time, and in-line, helps businesses prevent waste, save money and stay in accordance with industrywide standards, making them more profitable over time.