Digital Transformation in Manufacturing: The Role of Quality

Trusted by hundreds of manufacturing companies around the world:

Quality Management Is Your Gateway to Industry 4.0.

Manufacturers know it’s important to modernize equipment and tools. But if they’re not investing in the processes and data that feed continuous improvement, they’re not maximizing their investments.

Think about Amazon, whose website and ordering process is slick. But if the company doesn’t fulfill your order in two days (or less), you won’t be satisfied.

What happens behind the scenes is what really matters. In manufacturing, that means every process must come together perfectly, every time, to deliver on customer expectations. Close isn’t good enough.

Oh, and customer expectations? Those change by the second. Natural disasters, political turmoil, generational trends, and global health crises can upend shopping habits and supply chains—overnight.

It’s a tall order for manufacturing organizations to fill. To meet rising expectations around quality, service, and speed, you need more agile and responsive operations. But how do manufacturers know what to respond to? Or how to respond?

In digitally transformed manufacturing companies, data leads the way. More specifically, quality control data leads the way. Advanced manufacturers apply quality control measurements and data toward big-picture challenges and opportunities. They digitally transform their organizations—not just their lines—to embrace more efficient, accurate, and results-focused business practices.

Quality is central to every step in the manufacturing process, but quality hasn’t connected the steps in a meaningful way until now. That’s because manual methods of gathering, analyzing, and sharing data tend to be siloed—connecting the dots is impossible on modern manufacturing lines. There’s too much data to sift through—and no way to quickly and reliably decipher what it means.

Digital transformation in manufacturing erases those barriers—giving quality teams the platform, tools, and insight they need to quickly respond. Digital transformation can help you build manufacturing resilience—and prepare for whatever comes next.

Digital transformation in manufacturing can elevate quality and accelerate strategy.

What Is Digital Transformation in Manufacturing?

By leveraging the core elements of quality control, quality management teams should be able to answer business-critical questions such as:

  • What are the quality standards or benchmarks we expect from our sites?
  • Where are the biggest opportunities for quality improvement?
  • Which site is performing best? How and why?
  • Which site should lead a new product launch?
  • Where are capital investments needed most?

Unfortunately, many manufacturers can’t answer these questions at an enterprise level—not without lots of data manipulation and spreadsheet juggling, anyway. And in those cases, data integrity is questionable. How confident are you that every data point—at every site—was collected and calculated the same way?

In today’s competitive environment, there’s no room for uncertainty. Executives need accurate insights from quality data to make strategic decisions for the company.

Luckily, the data to answer these questions is already being collected on the plant floor. The challenge is making data more reliable, accessible, and actionable.

That’s where digital transformation comes in. To find the answers inside the data, manufacturers need the right tools. Quality data needs to be collected and stored digitally, in a central and standardized repository. From there, modern analytics can help you re-imagine quality and transform your business.

Technology-driven quality management practices provide three key benefits over manual methods:

  • Enterprise visibility. Integrated quality management tools give leaders enterprise-wide insight into operations—which affects the entire organization, not just one plant or process.
  • Operational insight. Centralized data repositories link important data points—from the supply chain to the production line—and help identify areas of opportunity. Reporting is also standardized, automated, and accessible, which makes it more actionable.
  • Global transformation. Enterprise visibility and greater insight affect the entire organization, not just quality practices. By applying quality control data globally, manufacturers can streamline, optimize, and transform operations and achieve consistent, exceptional quality at every site. Improvement never stops—and results can be replicated for greater magnitudes of ROI.

Digital Transformation Is Fundamental To Compete in Industry 4.0

Many manufacturers have taken preliminary steps toward digital transformation. Perhaps they’ve embraced Industry 4.0 by automating processes or by installing Bluetooth sensors to monitor equipment.

Those are important steps. But to leverage the data that’s being generated, manufacturers need to take digital transformation further. Instead of simply digitizing traditional or manual processes, they need to build stronger connections between systems, processes, and outcomes. Digital tools must talk to one another—using a common language—so data makes sense.

A cloud-based, Software as a Service (SaaS) quality platform brings it all together. Purpose-built, enterprise-wide tools enable more comprehensive and transformative quality management practices.

For example, in a digitally transformed approach to quality management:

  • Data from disparate systems is unified in single repository
  • Data is standardized across shifts, products, and processes
  • Data is easier to collect, analyze, share, and apply

These benefits of digital transformation aren’t just conveniences. They lead to “big picture” views of the organization—without losing the opportunity for operators to dig into targeted, in-the-moment metrics. Manufacturers shift from “collecting quality data” to building quality as a competitive advantage.

With analytics-based quality insights, manufacturing leaders elevate the role of quality in their organizations. When decisions about quality performance are driven by quality data:

  • Process automation becomes more effective and powerful. With connected data, operators can fine-tune processes for maximum results.
  • Quality compliance and monitoring occur in real time, enabling companies to keep a constant pulse on quality—and react quickly to areas of concern.
  • Manufacturers gain efficiencies through quality automation and exception-based responses.
  • Leaders can have more confidence in their decisions—because they’re backed by real-time intelligence and accurate, complete data.

A comprehensive approach affects more than just quality. Digital transformation in manufacturing supports total manufacturing optimization.

Transform the Way You Use Quality Control Data in Manufacturing

Traditional quality management tools can’t keep up with the demands of modern manufacturing organizations. Yet a recent survey found that 75% of manufacturers still collect data manually. Nearly half still use paper checklists.

Manual processes could be introducing unnecessary risk:

  • Paper-based data collection is much more error-prone than automated data collection. Information might be written down incorrectly or fields could be left blank. And if the information must be keyed into a digital format, the same risks rear their heads again. Depending on the entry, a small mistake could lead to catastrophic consequences.
  • Spreadsheets are error-prone, too. Mistakes creep into formulas, or fields can be deleted. Spreadsheets are also difficult to compare across lines, sites, or other variables. Leaders spend a lot of time formatting and manipulating data just to make it usable—without total confidence in its accuracy.
  • Paper reports and checklists need to go somewhere once they’re completed. Do they always make it to the right person, on time? And storing paper reports for future retrieval, let alone historical comparison, is a huge headache.
  • Manual control charts are only as good as the data that feeds them. And when they take too long to prepare, distribute, review, and understand, problems can get out of hand before they are identified.

Cloud-based Statistical Process Control (SPC) tools pool all your quality control data—and automatically return extensive, flexible views of performance. With customized reports, notifications, and alerts, your operations and quality teams can save valuable time—and make better use of your quality information.

Are You Ready To Ditch Paper and Spreadsheets?

Take a look at the factors driving digital transformation—and how a tactical move to cloud-based quality management can help you become more agile and efficient.

How Digital Transformation Benefits Manufacturers

Digital transformation connects all your quality management data into a comprehensive, purpose-built solution. When compared to home grown or patchwork solutions, true digital transformation is centralized, standardized, and scalable.

  • Centralized. All your quality data resides in one unified repository, regardless of product, process, or location.
  • Standardized. Quality data is collected, stored, and calculated the same way—across processes, lines, and plants. You no longer have to manipulate data sets to make them comparable, or translate spec names or measurement ranges for every site.
  • Scalable. Cloud-based SPC solutions can be deployed and accessed from anywhere with an internet connection. No hardware or software is required.

Need to See Digital Transformation in Manufacturing in Action? Watch These Quick Case Studies.

Make Processes More Competitive, Less Costly

A food manufacturer calculated its raw material costs down to the gram, and identified over $3 million in savings. How did they do it? Using line-level quality data they had already collected.

Better SPC Tools Expose Fresh Opportunities for Quality Improvement

Side-by-side comparisons of production lines and product codes revealed major variances at a top-tier tool manufacturer. By looking at in-spec quality data, they discovered opportunities to reduce scrap and waste—and improve quality, productivity, and profitability.

Quality Management Focus Yields Dramatic Savings for a Large-form Manufacturer

A metal-forming manufacturer had a 45% scrap rate at one of its plants. By analyzing quality data, they completely eliminated out-of-spec product—and dramatically increased throughput. The key to massive bottom-line cost savings was already within reach: in their quality data.

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