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Improve Product Quality Control in Manufacturing with IIoT

In the manufacturing world, quality control is a critical process that ensures products meet established standards of consistency, reliability, and performance. We understand that your goal is to maintain the highest possible standards to prevent defects or variations so that your customers receive only top-tier products every time.

In this article, we’ll explain the fundamentals of product quality control in manufacturing and how you can lower costs while enhancing quality assurance by leveraging smart technologies like the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), smart devices and sensors, artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and machine learning (ML) algorithms.


What Is Quality Control in Manufacturing?

When we talk about quality control in manufacturing, we’re talking about the process of ensuring that the products manufactured by your business meet both industry and company standards of consistency, reliability, condition, and caliber.

In other words, you don’t want your customer receiving a batch of products that exceed specs one month and dented, dirty products the next. In fact, you don’t want dented products going out to customers at all.

Quality control requires your business to have a set of procedures that enable your team to detect, prevent, and correct defects or variations before they ship out. Quality control means that the final products meet your predetermined criteria, letting your customers rest assured that you’re a reliable partner.


What Does Quality Control in Manufacturing Entail?

Whether you’re controlling the quality of products using traditional methods or with advanced technology, the core principles of quality control remain the same.

It all starts with inspection and testing. Inspection and testing start with the raw materials you’ve procured. After all, if your raw materials are subpar, your product will be too. Your quality assurance team should also be inspecting materials during the production process. Monitor and test products at all stages of production to make sure they meet quality standards. Finally, always inspect and test products before they ship out the door. Your team needs to have a thorough checklist they use to verify that each product meets the specifications outlined from the start.

Speaking of standards and specifications, there are industry-specific standards your team needs to be familiar with, especially in high-stakes industries like aerospace and defense or life sciences. Examples of official quality standards include ISO and ANSI. In addition, you need to know where you stand in your industry. Would you consider yourself the McDonald’s of your industry, or a Michelin-star restaurant? This understanding will help you determine your company’s quality standards, too.

Don’t skip over process control. Machines and equipment experience wear and tear on the shop floor. As they break down, so does their ability to maintain the same standards they could handle when they were new. Use statistical process control (SPC) to monitor and control your production process and identify variations that impact product quality.

Finally, pay close attention to customer feedback. Jaded manufacturing representatives may tend to blow off customer complaints. Ignoring customer feedback means losing customer loyalty and letting your products decline unabated. We recommend all manufacturers have a feedback-collection process in place, as many dissatisfied customers won’t even let you know when something is wrong. Instead, they’ll jump to one of your competitors. Let your customers know that you hear them and incorporate their feedback to make the adjustments necessary to improve your manufacturing process and product quality.

If you can’t figure out the reason for poor customer feedback or subpar product quality, it’s time to perform a root cause analysis. We’ve helped manufacturers conduct such analyses to determine where defects are occurring and take steps to correct them. We also recommend placing preventive measures to address issues before they become larger problems.


How to Improve Product Quality Control Using IIoT

The beauty of Industry 4.0 is that many of the above tasks and processes can be automated. The fact is that product quality control isn’t a one-and-done assignment. It’s a process of continuous improvement, requiring ample labor and skill. However, smart technology like IIoT devices and IoT software can help. These systems reduce human error, automate repetitive tasks, identify and analyze problems in real-time, and improve overall operational efficiency.

Here are some ways you can improve product quality by leveraging IIoT platforms.


Automation Through Smart Devices and Robotics

Quality control automation is the process of programming quality control checks at various stages of production. By using robotics for precision tasks, for example, you reduce the risk of human error and ensure consistent quality. Deploy robots for tasks requiring high precision and consistency, from assembly to packaging, to maintain high-quality standards.

Additionally, you can automate quality inspections. For example, machine vision systems detect defects and inconsistencies with high accuracy and speed. AI-powered inspection and machine learning algorithms enhance the capability of inspection systems, helping your team identify complex defects. These algorithms learn and improve over time.


Level Up Machinery with Predictive Maintenance

A common source of variability in product quality is poor machine maintenance. Traditionally, machinery and equipment is maintained on a schedule. Let’s say you have a technician come into your facility to inspect and repair machinery monthly. This means you are paying for maintenance on machines that don’t yet need maintenance as well as machines that are past-due for maintenance.

Predictive maintenance changes the game and lowers overall costs. Equipped with IoT-enabled sensors, smart machines can detect, analyze, and report on variability in speed, pressure, temperature, climate, and more. Predictive maintenance allows you to monitor equipment health in real-time, so you’ll know immediately if worn-out machinery is negatively impacting product quality.

Predictive maintenance algorithms reduce downtime and maintain consistent product quality across the board.


Improve Transparency with End-to-End Traceability

Use IIoT to track products throughout the entire production process, end-to-end. That means from raw materials to finished goods and every step in between. Bar codes and user IDs can be implemented to increase workforce transparency and accountability at every stage.

Furthermore, IIoT technology retains digital records of product data, quality inspections, and test results to quickly identify and address the root causes of quality issues.


Improve Supply Chain Management

Keeping track of suppliers and material availability can be overwhelming. Fortunately, most IIoT platforms integrate with supply chain management modules.

Integrating supply chain software with IoT platforms allows you to monitor and record the quality of raw materials and components, communicate with vendors, and even see their inventory and track deliveries in real-time.

You can also get a handle on unexpected supply chain disruption faster by using IIoT to monitor and manage supply chain conditions, such as storage and transportation, to prevent quality degradation before materials reach the production line.


Integrate with Quality Management Systems (QMS)

Whether you already have a quality management system or you’re interested in implementing one, you can rest assured that your IIoT devices can connect to it. Integrating QMS with IIoT platforms helps streamline quality processes, manage non-conformances, and automate documentation.

Additionally, you’ll get real-time quality reporting and easy-to-use dashboards that provide a comprehensive view of quality metrics and assist your team leaders in making data-backed decisions at a moment’s notice.


Automate the Collection of Customer Feedback

Your quality assurance team can use IIoT to gather and analyze customer feedback on product quality, integrating insights into the production process to drive improvements. On top of that, you can ensure closed-loop quality control by implementing a system where customer feedback is directly linked to production adjustments and enhancements.


Improve Workforce Training

Your training team can use IioT data to recreate actual scenarios for employees to troubleshoot and learn from. Creating real-world training simulations helps employees understand the impact of their actions on product quality without compromising products. Similarly, managers can track operator performance and provide targeted training to address skills gaps and improve overall quality control.


Interested in Implementing These Quality Control Strategies Using IIoT?

At ProphecyIoT, our experts have decades of experience assisting companies in troubleshooting their weaknesses, harnessing their strengths, and implementing IIoT platforms and technologies to get the upper hand over their competition.

Contact us today to request a consultation. We’ll evaluate your current performance, listen to your problems and goals, and recommend products and services that will launch you into the modern age of manufacturing technology.

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