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Our company is often asked how an organization should choose quality inspection software and how they can tap its full potential. It’s a great question, and one worth exploring, because in the realm of manufacturing, quality is king. Ensuring the highest standards across every step of the production cycle is a feat hardly achieved without the aid of technology and quality inspection software stands as a game-changer. But how do you make the right choice? Here, our experts shed light on the potential benefits, how to pick the one that fits your organization like a glove and how to maximize its utility.

The advantages of adopting inspection software

1. Boost efficiency and resource utilization

At its core, quality inspection software serves to simplify, streamline and optimize inspection processes. By boosting both the efficiency and accuracy of inspections at each phase of the production process, the right software can make it easier to identify faults and demonstrate whether all product requirements have been met.

Typically, inspection software will automate numerous steps throughout the inspection process. Whether its automated reminders based on customized workflow triggers, or automated inspections or documentation using artificial intelligence (AI), these software packages can minimize manual, repetitive tasks through automation.

This can deliver countless benefits to quality operations. Not only can it enable faster, more consistent inspections, but automation can also help quality teams to maximize their resources. So, in a context of widespread labor shortages in the manufacturing industry, organizations can achieve more with their existing workforces.

2. Enhance data management

Replacing traditional spreadsheets and paper-based reporting methods can significantly improve both the quality and accessibility of your data – while storing it more securely and sustainably.

Many quality inspection tools will automatically collect and process data in real-time, reducing the risk of human error when entering data. This automation also ensures quality teams always have the most up-to-date information at their fingertips, empowering them to make faster, more informed decisions.

While recording data more quickly and accurately, using software for your inspections will also make your data more accessible. Not only does this mean the right people can access the information they need, but it also makes it easier to evaluate and interpret that data. So, you can identify trends and patterns more easily and accurately with access to comprehensive, accurate data.

Additionally, by incorporating quality inspection software into the wider quality management system (QMS), manufacturers can not only identify defects before products are shipped to the customer, but also gain valuable insights into issues to inform and improve quality management practices.

3. Ensure and demonstrate compliance

A key function of product inspections is to demonstrate consistent compliance with customer requirements and industry regulations. With the right quality inspection software, you can ensure traceable, compliant product development to both achieve and demonstrate compliance with standards.

Ultimately, by taking a structured approach with inspection software, you can minimize the risk of mistakes, verify that inspections conform to requirements and facilitate compliance with diverse quality control standards. With a solution that automatically creates audit trails, manages visual inspections and stores certifications, you can ensure dependability, accuracy and consistency, while documenting evidence of your compliance.

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Considerations for choosing the right quality inspection software

There is a broad range of software packages available, each with their own unique advantages and disadvantages. The solution that best suits your business will depend on the nature of the products being produced, the scale of your operation, your industry and its regulations.

As a result, selecting the right software to support your organization can be hugely complex. Here is just some of the criteria you may wish to consider when evaluating different solutions:

Accessibility: Ability to conduct inspections from anywhere on smartphone and tablet, both online and offline

Reporting: Automatic, real-time population of reports, so results are ready to share as soon as the inspection is complete

Integration: Capable of accommodating all necessary integrations, such as other quality management tools, to easily share data for improved efficiency and effectiveness

Compliance: Integrated compliance functionality to ensure adherence to standards and regulations throughout audits and inspections

Procedures: Covers all applicable inspection procedures, such as: pre-production inspections (PPI); during production inspections (DPI); pre-shipment inspections (PSI); and container loading/ loading supervision (LS)

Checklists: Configurable inspection checklists to align with your operational requirements, covering everything from physical product requirements to methods for examining work areas

Planning: Functionality to create schedules, coordinate inspections, estimate workloads and assign roles, ensuring accountability by showing who is responsible for each inspection task

Data: Automatically collates data, generates reports and distributes results in real-time; enables data analytics to reveal trends, patterns and areas for improvement to inform decision making

Every organization will have their own set of priorities when looking to implement quality inspection software. So, be sure to carefully evaluate your unique needs and requirements, using the above criteria as a guide, before implementing a new software package.

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Making the most of your software

Of course, once you’ve selected your ideal quality inspection software, you need to make sure you’re using it to its full potential if you want to maximize the return on investment.

1. Configuration and set up

First, you need to configure the software to align closely with your specific operations and inspection requirements. This should include customizing data settings based on your needs and objectives, such as establishing checkpoints, defining protocols for reporting faults and recording all characteristics and metrics crucial to the product’s quality.

2. Testing and training

Once the solution has been configured to your needs, it’s time to begin rolling out and testing the software. Initially, you might choose to have just a couple of inspectors using the software – so they can test it out and provide feedback on processes and configurations, before rolling out across the organization.

You then need to ensure maximum uptake, with all inspectors fully embracing the software, to deliver a consistent approach. Of course, training is a central part of this implementation, so be sure to work closely with your software provider to get your users confident in using the new tool.

3. Ensuring consistency

Ideally, the workflows and structures configured in your software should encourage rigid adherence to standardized processes and standards.

By defining clear inspection processes and quality standards within the software, manufacturers can ensure inspections are based on uniform criteria and standards, rather than personal biases and assumptions. When inspections are objective and all products are assessed against the same criteria, quality teams can improve their fault detection and eliminate variants to ensure consistent quality across all product batches.

4. Logging and analyzing information

As with any software, the information within quality inspection tools is only valuable if it’s up-to-date, accurate and used effectively.

It’s vital that inspectors can access the right information when they need it. Depending on your chosen software, it may be necessary to thoroughly review all permission settings to ensure users can access everything they need.

It’s equally important for inspectors to record the details of each inspection within the software, demonstrating that the defined processes have been followed – without taking any shortcuts. This creates an audit trail to help confirm inspection results are accurate and trace any issues should a problem be raised.

Of course, quality teams must constantly monitor and analyze the data within the software for it to be useful. Using the software’s statistic and analytical tools, you can gain valuable insights into patterns to identify recurring issues. By effectively communicating any findings with relevant parties, you can also facilitate collaborative problem-solving and quick decision-making to effectively resolve any issues.

No matter what products you’re manufacturing, or what industry you operate in, adopting quality inspection software can deliver a wealth of benefits to your quality operations. From providing valuable insights into recurring defects, to maximizing resource utilization, using the right tools in the right way can make your inspection processes more accurate, efficient and consistent.

While implementing any new software requires an investment of time, resources and budget, quality inspection software can deliver a strong return on investment in all three areas – saving you time, maximizing resources and reducing costs with less waste.

However, it’s not enough to simply purchase some software licenses. Manufacturers must take care to select the right solution for their operations and configure and test the software before rolling it out across the team with thorough training. To achieve a strong return on investment, you should be rigorous in ensuring you’re truly getting the most out of the software’s functionality in supporting your objectives.