Many businesses transition from a go / no-go inspection procedure to an Excel-based or paper-based system for variable inspection because they recognize the value of capturing quality-related data. As your company grows, these Excel and paper-based solutions can quickly become a major headwind, reaching a point where they significantly reduce your company's profitability because they are no longer efficient enough to handle all of your business operations. If you are experiencing any of the following six signs, you may have outgrown your Excel or paper-based Quality Management System and need robust QMS software in order to fully support your business.
With hundreds or even thousands of active part numbers running through your facility, and sometimes several weeks between jobs for a given part number, it is nearly impossible for machinists or operators to recall what happened the last time they ran that specific part number. It is also difficult for inspectors to remember what quality issues have occurred previously. Growing companies may not have the time required to manually search through all their previous results and then review, interpret, and analyze the data. With an electronic QMS, previously captured measurements can be proactively presented in a matter of seconds, highlighting previous issues along with any comments that were provided when these problems first arose. This data can be immediately leveraged to help improve the quality of manufacturing and prevent issues from reoccurring.
Parts often go through multiple operations and are checked by multiple measurement devices. For example, threads may be checked with a thread gage, profiles and circularity callouts may be checked on a CMM, and some callouts may be visually inspected. We often see companies spending a tremendous amount of time rekeying results from their CMM or vision system into Excel to aggregate and analyze their data from each source. As you evaluate QMS solutions, it will be important to recognize those that can import and natively support data derived from a variety of measurement sources, and which automatically aggregates, standardizes, and displays this information for your team to use.
With Excel or paper-based solutions, stored data is often retrieved only when necessary for customer reporting or to investigate a very specific issue that has come up on a part. But this data provides a wealth of knowledge about not just that part, but also the operator responsible for each measurement, the machines and machine tools used to manufacture it, and so on. The ability to aggregate and analyze data across all these dimensions is critical to improving the quality of production and reducing costly quality issues.
With a robust QMS, you can rank your capability of production by part number, machine, operator, and more, helping you determine exactly where attention should be focused. All the data behind these rankings is easily accessible and viewable. Having this data available and keeping it up to date can save your team hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars that would otherwise be spent investigating an issue and dealing with its resulting scrap and rework.
As results are being captured in Excel or on paper, you may be forced to simply trust that the gages used by an inspector are not past their calibration due date. Additionally, if you send a gage out for calibration and find out that it has been out of specification, it can be a nightmare trying to identify every instance where the tool was used during that time. As your production grows, such problems become exponentially more complex, time-consuming, and difficult to manage. Having a system that integrates measurement collection with solutions such as tool calibration can greatly reduce the time and cost associated with any escapements.
When documenting a non-conformance, users often need to rekey data into an independent system. This requires additional time from the user that could otherwise be spent resolving the problem (see #4 above); and more time is lost if that non-conformance system does not notify necessary stakeholders of the issue in real-time. When an issue occurs, your chosen quality system should be able to automatically notify all appropriate users via email or other means so that Quality personnel and other employees can immediately start work on the problem, rather than waiting for the problem to filter down to them.
Excel-based and paper-based QMS solutions usually aren't sophisticated enough to provide dynamic inspection requirements. Instead, they provide static inspection plans based on arbitrary sampling levels (e.g., AQL sampling), or at best, on the quality of production the first time you ran the parts. This could force your inspectors to measure far more parts than are necessary to guarantee quality.
More advanced QMS solutions are able to systematically reduce sampling on features where there is a low probability of defect according to the most recent measurement data. By utilizing Ppk values calculated in real-time, sampling plans can automatically adjust as processes improve or deteriorate within a job. Using these industry-approved SPC-based sampling plans can quickly save thousands of inspection hours.
If you are experiencing any of these signs that you are outgrowing your Excel or paper-based QMS, then contact us at [email protected], +1 425-233-6176, or click the Contact Us button below to learn how Net-Inspect's solution will support your quality-related activities, including first article inspection report generation, SPC analysis, machine management, tool calibration, and more.