A metal product is milled out

9 Arenas of Digitalization: Complex Products

As end consumers, we want one thing above all: products that fulfill the promised purpose, are of better quality than those of the competition and, ideally, are also inexpensive. To make it easier and easier for the consumer, however, it is becoming more and more difficult for the manufacturing company. In this article, we explain why quality managers need to ensure quality, especially as products become more complex.

Our world is in a state of flux. Business models are changing, and with them the relationships between customers and suppliers. Of course, this change does not stop at products. The fact is that they are becoming increasingly complex. Examples: a modern LED spotlight consists of up to 200, a complex (hemo-)dialysis device in medical technology of a pool of up to 3,000 individual parts. The term “supply chain” has long ceased to be valid and belies the fact that in many cases complex supply networks are involved.

This does not remain without consequences for quality management. Also, the increasing datafication of products and automation of manufacturing processes mean that there are always new opportunities to obtain additional data through additional measuring points. An RFID chip on a pallet does not cost ten euros. Additional data, e.g. on location, temperature or humidity, can be obtained via a flat rate costing one euro per year. QM must react to these developments accordingly.

What Can Be Automated Will Be Automated

The old adage “if you don’t go with the times, you will go with time” has rarely been truer than in the age of digitalization. It has long since ceased to be a question of whether quality processes will be digitalized. Rather, companies should ask themselves how they can support their quality management in the best possible way (and as quickly as possible) with the help of software. Companies must adapt themselves and their QM in order to survive in the growing market. This is true with regard to complex manufacturing processes or machines in which quality control is performed automatically, as well as with regard to more and more data provided by the subsequent use of the product.

In this context, it makes no sense to hold on to old, familiar measuring methods and tasks, but rather to inspect them in the context of the new possibilities, to supplement them, to develop them further, or even to replace them completely. The measuring controller on the one hand is long out of date. But beware: on the other hand, too much data can also cause the opposite of transparency. With a forward-looking view of the fifth arena of digitalization (namely the need to follow up data gain with insight and action), the quality manager can use a process-oriented approach to serve as a translator between what is technically possible and the needs of the line organization in order to jointly develop added value for all involved.

Structured Processes for Complex Products

Especially when manufacturing complex products, it is essential to work with the right tools. All individual parts must be checked with regard to their design and, accordingly, their quality, since the end product is only as good as its components. A high level of complexity is usually associated with more data and higher processing costs. Nowadays, manual or, in the worst case, even analog processing is therefore unthinkable. Professional software solutions offer companies in-depth analysis options here and ensure that employees achieve reliable inspection results with little effort.

Closely networked manufacturing requires that quality-relevant data is available to all quality processes. In this way, consistent quality can be ensured along the entire production cycle. The same applies to cooperation in the supply network: only if supplier and customer pull together (and above all deal openly with errors) will this be reflected in the quality of the products. At best, in a cooperative partnership, the customer can rely on the supplier placing as much value on the quality processes as he does himself.

9 Arenas of Digitalization:

Lutz Krämer

Lutz Krämer

Lutz Krämer has been working for Babtec for 15 years and is dedicated to the future-oriented development of QM software as member of the management.

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