Accelerating your quality system’s actionability in manufacturing

January 12, 2018 // By Bob Miklosey
Irrespective of company size and scale, quality systems play an essential role for manufacturers in mitigating risk and meeting compliance with industry standards like AS9100 (for the aerospace industry). 

What can differentiate one manufacturer’s quality system from another? How readily they take action against a non-conformance and how frequently they report key quality metrics, which is enabled through a modern manufacturing execution system (MES).

In absence of MES and having production information exist in digital form, a critical event may find itself reported in a historical context and often too late to properly react to its findings. MES is the essential complement to the organization’s quality management system (QMS), where together they can accelerate process development, improve production control, deliver regulatory compliance, and provide real time visibility to management.

In many manufacturing landscapes, a formal MES system still is not present.  Instead, the ‘system’ in place is often a combination of point solutions and paper processes. This archipelago of components accidentally evolved through solving a given challenge critical at a given moment. Consider the situation within a particular factory; test results needed to be reported to an end customer and a database was created to store its collected data. Material counterfeiting emerged as a concern where traceability became mandatory and this challenge was addressed by stockroom personnel writing each lot number on a picking list. A customer required all torque and other measurements to be recorded as part of their unit build history so in response, operators record parametric data in a web form. However, most production areas still follow work instructions developed in an office application.

The quality policy requires inspectors to record defects found on the product onto a tick sheet and then add details to a ‘toe tag’ traveling with the product for the benefit of a technician to perform a repair, and if severe, they then duplicate the effort to initiate a non-conformance event in another system. These actions are then individually printed and assembled into a packet, and physically accompany the related production units in process as part of its traveler. Throughout the entire case example above, the manufacturer has actually met the explicit requirements for data management in aerospace manufacturing, but the manner in which it has been achieved is not in any way efficient, cost effective, simple, or expedient.