Introduction to Quality Management and Control

Reducing the amount of defective products saves manufacturers money. Cutting raw materials waste, using labor and equipment more efficiently, and reducing returns from unhappy customers are all ways to save money when product defects are reduced. Boosting quality control in manufacturing can also lead to an enhanced customer experience, supercharging your brand while lowering the need for extra raw materials to replace anything wasted.

Three ways any industry can improve quality control include:

  1. 1. Reducing human mistakes by automating repetitive actions. Automation also improves accuracy and increases visibility. Combined with internet of things (IoT) sensors, automation creates data that can be analyzed for hidden incremental improvements.
  2. 2. Inspecting, testing, and comparing products to defined standards. Products that meet those standards are shipped. Those that don’t are recycled. Adding computerized sensors in the inspection and quality control phase also provides an opportunity for insights into ways to create and build quality control standard operating procedures (SOPs).
  3. 3. Tracking inventory from the material supplier through warehouses and production to the end customer’s door. Accurate labeling lets manufacturers trace everything from essential ingredients to sub-assemblies and completed products. Using barcodes combined with automated and hand-held scanners provides a third data entry point into your firm’s network, ensuring most of what goes in comes out as salable products.

Using these three quality control methods in production can help your company create an efficient production cycle that reduces machine downtime, defects, and waste rework. The result is better merchandise and less waste, benefiting customers and manufacturers alike.

Quality Control Starts with Quality Planning

For many, focusing on quality control, or QC, means creating an efficient, consistent manufacturing process that gives the same results every time the process is repeated. The only way to ensure this consistency is with a well-formulated quality plan.

As a manufacturer or company who uses contract manufacturers, you likely focus on two critical elements: quality and cost. The best way to deliver the highest quality at the lowest cost is to start with quality planning. The American Society for Quality defines quality plans as “a document or set of documents that describe the standards, quality practices, resources and processes pertinent to a specific product, service or project.”

A quality plan for manufacturing ensures:

  • Conformance to your customer’s requirements, which may include meeting government standards.
  • Verification of your own standards while confirming your internal procedures work as expected.
  • Tracking the motions of every product, from the moment raw materials or sub-assemblies enter your premises, to their delivery at your customer’s door.
  • Consistent results via ensuring the quality methods in production work as designed and as expected.
  • Deficiencies in worker training are identified, allowing them to be corrected.
  • Insights into ways to further enhance your quality control standard operating procedures (SOPs).

The major components of a quality plan which must be stated and defined:

  • Responsibility for distribution, in terms of which manager or department confirms each step in the process so the end result aligns with the company’s goals.
  • Process steps and individual procedures for each step in the overall production process.
  • Testing requirements and the amount of government oversight vary by industry. For example, medicines or chemicals have significantly more regulations to comply with than furniture, for example.
  • Methods for tracking changes and modifications, regardless of the cause.
  • Quality process measurement in terms of value provided by the quality plan.

The final and most essential components of a quality plan are standards: What practices and procedures must be followed in your quality plan so that manufacturing meets requirements, customer’s needs, and government compliance requirements?

The Value of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

A key part of quality control in manufacturing is having standard operating procedures (SOPs) that are easily replicated. Each step in each procedure making up the entire production process is checked, re-checked, and confirmed by those designated to follow that specific SOP. The final test is completed by having a new hire follow said procedure and reviewing their results. When the results from a new hire are able to meet set production quality control standards, the SOP can be considered a success. When the results do not meet set production quality control standards, the fault lies with the SOP document, not the worker.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine at the National Institute of Health, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) create a structured approach to work and guarantee consistent execution of tasks by all individuals involved. Well-crafted SOPs play a critical role in maintaining Good Clinical Practice (GCP), preventing errors, reducing waste, and avoiding unnecessary rework. On the other hand, poorly articulated SOPs can lead to misinformation and confusion.

These documents must be user-friendly and written in a way that is easy to follow and leaves little room for errors. Preventing errors via SOPs improves quality, reduces waste, and when written with input from people involved in the actual manufacturing process, boosts efficiency.

The Role of Quality Assurance

In manufacturing, quality assurance (QA) encompasses the practices that manufacturers employ within a quality management system to uphold expected levels of consistent quality for the items they create.

When paired with quality control, quality assurance works to ensure customers receive products that meet specific standards, in terms of defects and tolerances. QA is a proactive method that works via employee training, defining processes in written SOPs, and selecting the right tools for each job. QC looks at the results from QA and determines if a product passes or fails.

Effective quality control and quality assurance plans, combined with quality auditors ensuring standards are met, results in cost savings, boosted efficiency, and boosted customer satisfaction.

Figure 1: The Role of Quality Assurance

The Role of Quality Assurance is to boost customer satisfaction and efficiency and provide cost savings.

The Role of Quality Assurance

  • Cost savings in terms reduced waste
  • Using equipment more effectively boosts efficiency

Quality management standards vary by the industry, though one of the most common is ISO 9000. A set of international quality standards, ISO 9000 covers many different industries and approaches.

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Quality Management Systems

A Quality Management System (QMS) is a structured framework that captures the essence of how things get done right. It’s all about documenting processes, procedures, and responsibilities, with the ultimate goal of achieving quality policies and objectives. By coordinating and directing an organization’s activities, the QMS plays a vital role in meeting customer needs, fulfilling regulatory requirements, and always striving to be better, faster, and more efficient.

An effective QMS helps manufacturing companies:

  • Define production processes
  • Reduce waste
  • Prevent mistakes
  • Lower costs
  • Engage staff
  • Set an organization-wide direction
  • Communicate a readiness to customers that it wants to produce consistent results

In today’s digital world, QMS doesn’t stand alone in a silo: it’s part of a company’s overarching software linking QA and QC to inventory, sales and other departments. One example of a versatile QMS is called Integrated Chemical Management (iCM), which integrates fully with Microsoft’s flagship enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance, Supply Chain Management, and Business Central. When integrated with Dynamics 365, iCM  provides a scalable, easy to use overarching quality management tool that helps with on time delivery (OTD) for products, under budget.

When merged with internet of things (IoT) sensors on production machines, Integrated Chemical Management (iCM) and Dynamics 365 manage and massage data. Among the results are ways to make incremental quality improvements that boost long-term overall quality scores, resulting in more sales and customer satisfaction.

Summary – Quality Management

For any company, producing higher-quality products takes forethought, patience, and serious effort. This means having a documented quality management plans that include step-by-step directions for every procedure and every part of the production process.

When it comes to manufacturing, an effective quality management plan looks at quality assurance and quality control, examining and testing various stages of the production process to ensure everything meets your demanding standards, boost efficiency, and reduce wasteful practices.

Helping measure these results is a modern quality management system like Integrated Quality Management (iQM) from XcelPros, which integrates fully with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance and Supply Chain Management. When used as part of an overall ERP software plan, iQM helps companies find ways to improve quality while reducing costs. This leads to an overall effect is a boost in profitability, helping power additional growth and granting ROI.

Taking the time to plan how to function in these uncertain times is essential. Using software tools such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance, Supply Chain Management, or Business Central will help companies continue to operate successfully in rapidly changing conditions.

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