The potential of quality assurance is often overlooked. Many in industry view it not as something that can be harnessed to improve processes, but simply as a gatekeeper, designed to stop subpar products from reaching the customer. Quality 4.0 is challenging this notion — its adoption can deliver not just higher quality products, but a step change in productivity, along with a handsome return on investment. Here, Mike John, technical director of industrial metrology specialist, The Sempre Group, explores how the UK manufacturing industry can make the most of the quality revolution.
Quality 4.0, as defined by the Chartered Quality Institute (CQI), is “the leveraging of technology with people to improve the quality of an organisation, its products, its services and the outcomes it creates.” In manufacturing terms, the concept is born out of Industry 4.0, and means using a data-driven, digital approach to quality that allows a business to glean insights from their processes, to make key decisions and ultimately improve productivity.
In a competitive market, making the move to Quality 4.0 is essential. Businesses that adopt the practice early will remove the challenge of integrating data from fragmented sources throughout production, reducing the risk of costly errors at the manufacturing stage.
Steps to Quality 4.0
To generate the benefits from Quality 4.0, businesses need to understand the steps involved in its implementation. The key to harnessing Quality 4.0 is understanding how it can be applied to five important areas: preparation, make & measure, assembly, data and the future.
The first step, preparation, is where any manufacturing process begins. When designing a product, companies must create the inspection plans, design manufacturing operations and create compliance reports. By automating the ballooning process, manufacturers report saving up to 95 per cent of the time taken to develop an inspection plan. Once ballooned, the drawing from that component is held as data — inspection reports such as First Article Inspection Reports (FAIRs) are generated from templates, via data collected automatically.
Armed with an auto-generated inspection plan, Quality 4.0 solutions are ready to be integrated into the production process. Increasingly, businesses are taking their quality measurements automatically, incorporating optical non-contact systems, multi-sensing CMMs and 3D scanning technologies into manufacturing, feeding quality control data into the system in real time.
Assembly in a Quality 4.0 setting is all about operator guidance and traceability. Augmented reality tools can guide and aid operators when putting together product variants, which in turn reduces user errors and stores assembly data for full traceability.
Automated data collection is at the core of next generation quality control. Modern metrology systems automatically collect valuable data, bring it together in a management system, and provide real time insights into a process. This allows opportunities for improvement to be identified quickly and frees up employees from the repetitive task of data input — both of which can drastically improve productivity.
Finally, once Quality 4.0 has been implemented, it’s time to look to the future. By automating quality assurance, manufacturers can move staff away from repetitive tasks and into more creative roles where they can use quality data to make more informed business decisions. Beyond that, Quality (and Industry) 4.0 could mean connecting with the entire supply chain to create a single digital thread for any given component. Once this is achieved, the opportunities for improvement and increased efficiency are almost endless.
Where can I learn more about Quality 4.0?
The Sempre Group will attend this year’s Southern Manufacturing & Electronics conference, from 7 to 9 February, at Farnborough International Exhibition Centre. Metrology experts will be on hand to demonstrate how the entire Quality 4.0 process — from auto-ballooning, to integrated data collection and reporting — can be completed efficiently, with little operator intervention or opportunity for error.
On the stand The Sempre Group will also showcase metrology equipment that manufacturers can use as part of their Quality 4.0 journey. The Jenoptik Opticline Range of optical shaft measurement systems, for example, is designed for fast, micron accuracy measurements of cylindrical or shaft-type parts. Such systems have applications in the automotive, medical and turned-part industries and automatically report results to easy-to-use software.
Visitors to the stand will also get the chance to see other metrology systems, including the Micro-Vu CMM and Sensofar optical profilers. As well as that, the stand will feature the High QA Inspection Manager; this automated software allows users to scan entire drawings and quickly extract geometric dimensioning and tolerance (GD&T) data, as well as import inspected results from any coordinate-measuring machine (CMM).
To set up a meeting with the Sempre Group team at Stand E270, where you can experience the next era in quality control, you can get in touch at: firstname.lastname@example.org.