Quality management refers to the maintenance and control of the product or service quality in conformity with requirements. The customer requirements are the measure of quality. Quality management is an essential part of industrial manufacturing. It guarantees homogeneous and cost-efficient production at maximum returns and minimum complaints. Measuring the quality and monitoring the realized quality is a key part of quality improvement. Quality management and assurance steps can be taken in various phases of operations, including design, production and services. The digitalising world offers efficient tools for quality management.
The criteria for European and U.S. quality management awards list the following as characteristic of companies excelling in quality management: goal-orientation, customer-orientation, management based on processes and facts, development and cherishing of partnerships, agility, and system-based perspective. Digital quality assurance improves cost-efficiency in processes and operative functions. The real-time monitoring of processes helps prevent error situations and speeds up reaction to disturbances.
Digital ERP systems enable automatic flow of information from one system to another, eliminating the need for manual, error-prone and time-consuming re-entry phases of data from paper into the system. The systems can take advantage of real-time measuring and complaint information, enabling rapid reaction to problem situations. The version management of various documents, such as orders, guidelines and drawings, becomes easier and they remain updated at all times. This enables major savings in costs and reduces the amount of blunders. In addition, data is more readily available to anyone needing it. Transparency between the various departments improves, and also sharing of information with the stakeholders becomes easier, thus facilitating the building of partnerships.
According to the study “Quality Operations in Finnish Companies”, funded by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the companies seem to be of the opinion that the biggest quality problem that needs solving is related to flow of information. The need to solve different problems in the internal flow of information can be seen as an endeavour towards prevention of errors in operations. Faulty documents, blunders, and design and delivery errors can all be at least partly regarded as consequences of insufficient flow of information. In the study mentioned above, the companies’ view was that most of the quality-related expenses derived from 1. blunders, wasted efforts, searching, 2. corrective work, 3. subcontractor errors, 4. reclamations and customer complaints, and warranty work.
SMACC supports companies in the development of digital quality management and assurance for example in the following areas:
- Taking advantage of production planning and control systems; automatic flow of information; reduction of human errors in the recording of measurement results, errors etc.
- Data-based decision-making; enhancement of cost-efficiency by means of digitalisation of processes/operations; reduction of throughput times; reduction of the amount of blunders.
- Real-time process monitoring -> rapid reaction to disturbances; use of machine data; servicing intervals; predictability, optimised parameters
- Immediate testing of ideas based on a clear digital vision -> rapid successes and failures; experimental design
- Easier documentation updates; easier retrieval of up-to-date documents