Innovation Article

Taran March @ Quality Digest’s picture

By: Taran March @ Quality Digest

What is quality intelligence, exactly? It’s more than marketing spin. More, even, than the sum of its many control charts. It’s not collecting data simply to further go/no-go actions. And it doesn’t mean turning the cognitive wheel entirely over to artificial intelligence, either—far from it.

We might think of quality intelligence as a natural progression of quality control. It’s both granular, in that core quality tools underpin it, and forward-looking because quality data are used to improve not only products and processes but also operational performance. It’s very deliberate in that its goal is to wring the maximum value possible from reliable data.

To do this, quality intelligence employs four key tools: ensuring compliance, grading collected data, exploiting software, and implementing data strategically.

Ensuring compliance

People often assume that compliance applies solely to government or industry standards, but the term surfaces in many shop-floor conversations and processes. For instance, there is compliance to limits: Are data in specification? Are the appropriate statistical rules being met? There’s also compliance to procedures: Are people collecting data in the right way, and on time?

Ryan E. Day’s picture

By: Ryan E. Day

An organization can achieve great results when everyone is working together, looking at the same information generated from the same data, and using the same rules. Changes can be made that affect a company’s bottom line through operational improvements, product quality, and process optimization. There are quality intelligence (QI) solutions that can help reveal hidden opportunities.

Companies can save money and improve operational efficiency by effectively focusing resources on the problems that matter most from both a strategic and tactical perspective. A proper QI system makes this practical in several ways.

The QI advantage

With a QI system, data are captured and analyzed consistently in a central repository across the organization. This means there aren’t different interpretations of the truth, and there is alignment among those on the shop floor, site management, and corporate quality.

Alignment is possible because of a positive cascade of events:
• Notifications are sent to the appropriate people, and workflows trigger the required actions. This means people are appropriately accountable for addressing issues. Those issues can then be analyzed to understand recurring problems and how to avoid them.

Dirk Dusharme @ Quality Digest’s picture

By: Dirk Dusharme @ Quality Digest

Blame it on Moore’s law. We live in a digital Pangaea, a world of borderless data driven by technology, and the speed and density with which data can be transmitted and handled. It’s a world in which data-driven decisions cause daily fluctuations in markets and supply chains. Data come at us so fast that there is almost no way business leaders can keep abreast of changing supply chains and customer preferences, not to mention react to them.

Operating any kind of manufacturing today requires agility and the means to turn the flood of largely meaningless ones and zeros into something useful. The old ways of treating data as nothing more than digital paper won’t cut it in the “new normal.” We need to reimagine how we view quality.

Ryan E. Day’s picture

By: Ryan E. Day

It’s no secret that manufacturing companies operate in an inherently unstable environment. Every operational weakness poses a risk to efficiency, quality, and ultimately, to profitability. All too often, it takes a crisis—like Covid-19 shutdowns—to reveal operational weaknesses that have been hampering an organization for a long time.

The nature of the problem

It is not just a manufacturing company’s production facility that faces operational challenges, either. The entire organization must address a host of risks and challenges; shifting consumer and market trends necessitate improving agility and responsiveness; dynamic and global competition force innovation not only in product development, but also service and delivery; evolving sales channels, including online outlets, challenge established profit margins. And these challenges are not going away any time soon.

The real problem, however, lies not with the challenges themselves but with a company’s reluctance to see the operational weakness that makes it susceptible to a particular risk in the first place.

Eric Weisbrod’s picture

By: Eric Weisbrod

For nearly a century, statistical process control (SPC) has been the cornerstone of quality management and process control. But traditional SPC can’t keep up as the pace of manufacturing accelerates. Twenty-first century manufacturing lines produce multiple products and create thousands of data points in any given minute. Operations, quality, and Six Sigma teams are buried in an avalanche of data that they can’t possibly interpret.

Many organizations find that their teams are consumed by continually monitoring control charts and updating spreadsheets. They don’t have time to try to understand what all that data really mean—or how they can use them to drive meaningful action for their companies.

Even real-time data fall short when they’re siloed in different databases and accessible in only one location. The result is missed opportunities and wasted time as teams search for the details they need to achieve manufacturing optimization across the enterprise.

So how do you monitor what’s happening on the plant floor while it’s happening, without becoming so buried in data that agile analysis and response become impossible? And how do you scale your solution across multiple lines, shifts, and sites?

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Maggie Pavlick’s picture

By: Maggie Pavlick

Masks, gowns, and other personal protective equipment (PPE) are essential for protecting healthcare workers. However, the textiles and materials used to make such items can absorb and carry viruses and bacteria, inadvertently spreading the disease the wearer sought to contain.

When the coronavirus spread among healthcare professionals and left PPE in short supply, finding a way to provide better protection while allowing for the safe reuse of these items became critical.

“Recently there’s been a focus on blood-repellent surfaces, and we were interested in achieving this with mechanical durability,” says Anthony Galante, a Ph.D. student in industrial engineering at the University of Pittsburgh and lead author of the paper in in the journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.

“We want to push the boundary on what is possible with these types of surfaces, and especially given the current pandemic, we knew it’d be important to test against viruses.”

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Puerto Rico Manufacturing Extension’s picture

By: Puerto Rico Manufacturing Extension

El-Com Systems Corp. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of El-COM Systems Solutions based in California. The local company has been in Puerto Rico since 2016 operating in Caguas. The company is dedicated to manufacturing complex electromechanical subsystems and assemblies for the global aerospace and defense industries. The company has 62 employees including operational and administrative personnel.

El-Com Systems was required to implement and certify its quality management system in accordance with the international standards of AS9100D for the aerospace sector. The challenge was not only to achieve the ISO certification, but also to achieve it simultaneously with an accelerated growth process, which required the hiring of additional employees for new production lines. Puerto Rico Manufacturing Extension, Inc. (PRiMEX), part of the MEP National Network, was recommended to provide support in this process.

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Dawn Marie Bailey’s picture

By: Dawn Marie Bailey

In this article series, we explain some of the successful strategies and programs shared by Baldrige Award recipients to highlight categories of the Baldrige Criteria and how your organization might consider using them as inspiration. 

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Vandana Suresh’s picture

By: Vandana Suresh

Plastics are a popular 3D printing material, allowing users to create a variety of objects, from simple toys to custom prosthetic parts. But these printed parts are mechanically weak—a flaw caused by the imperfect bonding between the individual printed layers that make up the 3D part.

Now, researchers have developed the technology needed to overcome 3D printing’s “weak spot.” The method integrates plasma science and carbon nanotube technology into standard 3D printing.

“Finding a way to remedy the inadequate bonding between printed layers has been an ongoing quest in the 3D printing field,” says Micah Green, associate professor in the chemical engineering department at Texas A&M University. “We have now developed a sophisticated technology that can bolster welding between these layers all while printing the 3D part.”

A new way of heating 3D-printed parts

Plastics are commonly used for extrusion 3D printing, known technically as fused-deposition modeling. In this technique, molten plastic is squeezed out of a nozzle that prints parts layer by layer. As the printed layers cool, they fuse to one another to create the final 3D part.

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Davis Balestracci’s picture

By: Davis Balestracci

What is the Vasa? It was a Swedish warship built in 1628. It was supposed to be the grandest, largest, and most powerful warship of its time. King Gustavus Adolphus himself took a keen personal interest and insisted on an entire extra deck above the waterline to add to the majesty and comfort of the ship, and to make room for the 64 guns he wanted it to carry.

This innovation went beyond the shipbuilder knowledge of the time... and would make it unstable. No one dared tell him. On its maiden voyage, the Vasa sailed less than a mile and sank to the bottom of Stockholm harbor in full view of a horrified public, assembled to see off its navy’s—and Europe’s—most ambitious warship to date.

What reminded me of the Vasa? The time has been ripe for visible motivational speakers to weigh in on Covid-19 and “inspire the troops.” From a speech using the Vasa as a backdrop:

“I want to see healthcare become world-class. I want us to promise things to our patients and their families that we have never before been able to promise them.... I am not satisfied with what we give them today.... And as much respect as I have for the stresses and demoralizing erosion of trust in our industry, I am getting tired of excuses....

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