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Quality Assurance Requires Center Stage In Enterprise Manufacturing Solutions

Aug 22, 2008
More and more companies now view quality assurance as an essential and strategic part of their enterprise system. Whereas before it was a bonus to have quality management systems in place, they now realize it is an absolute necessity if they want to reach their greater business goals.

Companies are not willing to risk paying the cost of poor quality by putting their reputation on the line. Therefore, manufacturing organizations are increasingly developing their enterprise systems architecture with quality at the core, and integrating in MES, or Manufacturing Execution System and PLM, or Product Lifecycle Management, applications, visibility, collection and analysis.

No longer solely a production or a plant initiative, quality management is now evolving to an enterprise systems landscape on numerous levels. Quality assurance has become a common business process that crosses the boundaries of ERP, MES and engineering systems forcing them to work together in one coherent flow.

In this global economy, companies are choosing to outsource suppliers on a larger scale, and it has become more crucial to have a centralized quality system. Having one consistent process, one set of consistent metrics, and one history method improves the ability to make better management decisions among partners. A global quality management system provides more visibility and oversight of these outsourced suppliers, thereby ensuring on time product delivery.

Quality management also helps make sure that what the operations and suppliers actually build matches the expectations of what the engineers designed, thereby ensuring nothing gets lost or altered in the translation. The quality management system is extremely valuable in managing risk in the supply chain, improving stability, standardizing metrics and analytics, and improving reaction time to problems.

As evidenced by recent major recalls of food and toy products manufactured in China and autos manufactured in North America, consumers associate quality problems with the brand that is on the label, regardless of whether the fault lies with the prime manufacturer, or with a sub tier supplier. There can be a significant upstream impact for companies that fail to recognize this.

The problems that can evolve from the lack of a strong quality system include the brand erosion we just discussed, loss of revenue or market share, potential recalls and lawsuits, and higher warranty costs. The lack of traceability across outsourced manufacturing also limits the ability of a company to track true product performance and see where strengths and weaknesses lie in the entire process. Not being able to connect the dots back to the source of the problem and figure out which tier of suppliers is really driving up the costs of time and labor for an organization.

Traditionally, organizations have generally operated in separate silos, one for manufacturing, one for R&D, one for sales, one for finance, etc. The problem with this approach is that organizations need to be closely linked structures, not separate silos. When the silos work independently of one another, disconnected systems are allowed to grow and flourish. Once those disconnected systems become prevalent, it becomes a real challenge to get back to an integrated architecture with cohesive data.

In addition, the longer companies wait, the higher the cost becomes to fix the system as employees become accustomed to this style of communication, or lack thereof. It becomes more difficult to move forward as a company and the initiatives are reactive instead of proactive. Some companies are recognizing this old pattern and are changing their ways to survive in this competitive global market. They are investing in enterprise quality management strategies proactively, to save both time and money in the long run and raise the bar for the competition.

To show how important quality is, think about a car on the freeway. The driver cannot afford to only look in his rear view mirror, because if he tries moving forward, he will inevitably crash. He needs the ability to look both forward and backward in order to correctly act on the events or cars that come his way.

Same goes for companies in the 21st century. They need to be able to quickly look back at historical data and use it as a guide for what works and what does not in certain situations when moving forward. The collaborative perspective and integrated approach that an enterprise quality assurance program demands fosters mutual understanding amongst organization members. Depending on the role of the employee in the company, he has contextualized operational awareness.

The control around the manufacturing process is increased because the entire company has a grasp on how the overall process works and on how their quality affects others downstream. This helps improve innovation as well, since the collaboration between engineering, production and quality disciplines helps to foster creative ideas. When each team member can quickly collaborate on the solution process, they can tweak their piece of the puzzle in order to optimize it.

In conclusion, quality management is a core process that brings consistence and competence to an organization. Companies are now seeing the value in proactively managing quality into a product rather than relying on end-product testing and reactive corrective action alone. They are then able to map out where they are today, where they want to be tomorrow, and how to build their organization to take the quickest and most profitable route to get there.

In this 21st century, organizations are realizing that in order to get ahead in the game, quality, not quantity, is the way to go about doing it.
About the Author
iBASEt is a leading provider of high tech software solutions and services. Learn more about enterprise manufacturing solutions in their recorded webcast entitled Tying Engineering, Quality and Operations into One Global Quality Management System.
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