“Quality is Job One” is a marketing slogan that Ford Motor Company made famous in the manufacturing industry. No doubt factory quality plays an important role in the success or failure of manufacturing operations. Through the years, these corporations put various programs and metrics in place to measure and improve it, yet most organizations still fall short in this area. Deploying a Manufacturing Execution System (MES) helps them improve factory quality control and quality assurance by integrating systems and providing real-time performance data.
During the past few decades, a number of programs, methodologies, and business practices emerged to help suppliers improve product quality.
- Total Quality Management (TQM): A management system focused on increasing customer satisfaction while continually reducing costs and coined by Motorola.
- Six Sigma: A methodology for improving manufacturing processes by minimizing defects.
- Lean Production: The Japanese adoption of Professor William Edward Deming’s teachings, lean production creates a continuous flow of products or services to customers at the moment they are needed.
- International Standards Organization (ISO): A series of quality management standards that support quality development
Quality 4.0 is the application of Industry 4.0’s advanced digital technologies to enhance traditional factory quality management best practices. Only 16% of enterprises have started to implement Quality 4.0, 20% say that their company has started to plan for implementation, and 63% have not even reached the planning stage yet, according to a survey by Boston Consulting Group.
Quality’s Missing Pieces
While manufacturing companies want to improve the quality of their manufacturing operations, many challenges remain.
- Data is stored in paper files, spreadsheets, and directories
- Weak processes
- A lack of clarity or absence of coherent policies and processes for data collection
- Poor configuration
- Failure to correctly monitor controls
- The corporate culture does not support openness and reporting
- Poor execution resulting in frequent errors
- Insufficient supervision and internal control
- Audit trails are not available
- Data passes casually among systems
A MES system acts as a bridge and moves manufacturing companies from where they are now to where they want to be now and in the future in terms of factory quality control. It synchronizes the execution of real-time, physical processes involved in transforming raw materials into intermediate and/or finished goods. These solutions coordinate the execution of work orders with production scheduling and enterprise-level systems, so managers see what occurs from the time when an order is placed to when it becomes a finished product. Its capabilities improve quality in many ways.
The system automates many of the factory worker manual data capture processes. MES enhances inline quality operations management by providing a data store to hold historical and current data. With the information, manufacturing workers get a quick snapshot of how the production process is flowing. In many cases, machines capture data automatically, reducing manual input and improving productivity.
MES software increases efficiency by capturing and monitoring critical factory quality information on the plant floor in real time. They have access to Statistical Process Control (SPC) data, batch numbering, machine history and inspection data, and process data. With the information, they can enforce the process steps to ensure goods are manufactured conforming to the plan and to meet quality requirements.
- An SPC rules engine empowers stakeholders with the knowledge of quality trends and rule-violation notifications, so they reduce quality losses, minimize variations and improve yields.
- Factory workers have real-time data and information on parts rejected, so they are able to stop a process quickly when needed and, in other cases, ideally prevent issues before they happen.
MES Software benefits
These solutions result in many improvements
- Lower costs: capture and analyze data automatically; speed up reporting; do more with less
- Save time: manage by exception, so there is no longer the need to comb through good data as you will be notified when there is a problem
- Improve effectiveness: provide one place for all quality data, so it is easily accessible to all, from anywhere, provided in a consistent and easy to use format
- Support continuous improvement: build up a repository of quality data and measurements; use it to identify top issues and trends; make improvements; measure and sustain
- Manage the control plan: create and maintain the quality control plan and check adherence to plan and identify areas for improvement
- Improve customer confidence: customers notice how quickly the system drives up the level of checks recorded and the quality of data captured. Quality improves customers like to see that you have modern systems driving quality control.
Manufacturing companies want to leverage technology and create smart factories. A MES solution enables them to leverage Big Data and gain insight into their business. The solution improves quality control which all leads to improved efficiency and cost reduction.