Quality management systems that depend on paper checklists and spreadsheets restrict manufacturers from harnessing the true value of their crucial production data. That’s why so many companies are looking at a digital transformation—moving to a cloud-based quality management solution.
Digitization changes the way companies collect, store, and use quality data. A digital solution offers manual, semi-automated, and fully automated data collection, enabling manufacturers to improve quality, reduce waste, and optimize processes to enhance efficiency.
The Problems With Paper
Despite the widely known issues with using paper- and spreadsheet-based quality management systems, they still exist on manufacturing floors today.
These legacy systems are expensive, archaic, and the source of lots of plant-floor issues.
Data entry and collection errors
Writing information on paper inevitably results in illegible content, transposed numbers, faked data (sadly, it does happen), and other issues.
Sometimes data collection sheets are misplaced or even lost. Shop floor operators are busy, and efficiency suffers if they are wasting time searching for misplaced papers.
And paper-based systems generally do not have specification limits written on them. An operator may therefore question the data’s integrity, and that can be frustrating.
Storage and access
Imagine you’re a manufacturer with years of data and quality management records. If all this information is kept on paper, where do you store it? How can you access it quickly for reviews and audits without wasting your team’s time? How long should you keep records?
Storing and managing paper is time consuming and fraught with delays and transfer issues.
Most companies require data to be collected at specific intervals to comply with regulatory requirements as well as internal, industry, and customer specifications.
For example, say that compliance requirements specify that certain data must be collected every hour. A paper system is incapable of reminding a shop floor operator to collect data at those regular intervals—it’s the operator’s responsibility. Because operators are busy, there’s greater potential for data collection to be missed and that can result in bigger problems later.
And when it’s time for an audit, compiling data from paper or spreadsheets can be a project that absorbs days, or even weeks, of valuable time.
Reports and analysis
Creating a report is difficult in a manual system. You must transcribe data and numbers into spreadsheets. That information may be erroneous since it was entered manually. Or worse, you may not be able to read it at all.
The Advantages of Digital
A modern cloud-based SPC system solves the problems created by legacy systems. InfinityQS quality management solutions offer multiple ways to digitize quality data—through manual, semi-automated, and fully automated collections—enabling immediate access to data that you need to optimize operations.
Accurate manual data collection
When operators enter information directly into a digital quality management solution, the opportunity for errors is dramatically reduced. In InfinityQS quality management systems, operators can view their product’s exact specification limits so they know whether data values meet or exceed requirements. And the systems catch potential errors at the source with built-in features that ensure entered data falls within reasonable limits.
Semi-automatic data collection
Semi-automatic data collection leverages a measurement device—such as a scale, micrometer, caliper, densitometer, or barcode scanner—and a human operator. Data collected with the measurement device is transferred directly into the software’s centralized database. Using semi-automatic data collection is an efficient way to ensure information is accurate and complete.
Fully automated data collection
Fully automated data collection enables rapid collection of high-volume data on a regularly scheduled basis. Fully automated data collection is performed with measurement devices without the need for an operator.
For example, a manufacturer might utilize programmable logic controllers (PLC) data streams for capturing and revealing machine speeds, feeds, and temperatures. That is a system that’s already in place, collecting data (or presenting data to people) all the time. InfinityQS solutions enable you to tap into that available data.
When data from those automated streams is gathered, charts and graphs are automatically updated and presented in real time to operators and others. Automatic chart updates save operators time, reducing the amount of work done on the computer or manipulating a gauge. That gives them more time to address quality issues, control processes, and ensure compliance.
For both semi-automatic and fully automated methods, if collected data violates specification limits or generates a statistical alarm, then operators, managers, and support personnel receive real-time, automatic notifications. From there, teams can take appropriate action to resolve quality issues.
Once data is entered in the solution, your team has universal, real-time access. This access is a substantial benefit as it enables your team to monitor performance and become more responsive to quality events.
Managers, engineers, and quality professionals want to understand how their production lines are performing. Raw numbers written on paper don’t have context and cannot be readily compared with customer requirements. But when data is digitized and available in real time, entered values can be automatically checked against specification and control limits.
Reporting and compliance
Being able to trust that collected data is accurate benefits later processes such as reporting.
Following each data entry, a set of data visualization tools—reports, charts, graphs, and summarizations—can help the operator make sense of that data. Through data visualization, operators gain critical insights they can use to improve processes and maintain exceptional product quality.
Plus, cloud-based quality software ensures that your compliance and quality data is collected when you need it collected. Paper cannot enforce compliance. But with InfinityQS solutions, you can set up triggers and notifications that remind the operator to collect data based on the frequency you require. And in the rare instance that compliance data collections are missed, triggered notifications ensure that you instantly know what’s happening.
All these benefits greatly improve focused process control efforts, but the benefits extend beyond the plant—across regions and to the entire enterprise. InfinityQS software is built to roll up, summarize, and aggregate your data, allowing you to sort, slice, and dice it any way you want.
Aggregated data enables you to review quality performance across production lines, shifts, facilities, and geographical distances. This “bird’s eye view” is critical for prioritizing quality improvement actions for teams with limited resources—and focusing those actions on the most important quality issues the organization faces.
Improving Manufacturing Starts with Quality
Quality management systems that still use paper don’t provide adequate support to the shop floor. Manufacturers need a modern, cloud-based quality management system that automates data collection and ensures its accuracy.
By moving off paper and digitizing quality data, manufacturers can exploit data’s enormous potential and enact process improvements that will positively affect their bottom line.
Interested in learning more about how you can benefit from a modern, cloud-based SPC system? Visit the InfinityQS website and see the benefits of managing quality in the cloud.