By now you have probably heard about Industry 4.0 and what it’s all about. The term refers to the fourth wave of the Industrial Revolution. Each wave of the revolution has been driven by advances in technology. The most recent wave has been precipitated by the rapid and concurrent maturation of advanced technologies such as robotics, AI, VR, big data and visualization. Industry 4.0 technologies allow business to move at a never-before seen pace.
Just as the advent of enterprise applications required companies to rethink their business processes and focus on new challenges such as data cleansing and application integrations, the technologies of Industry 4.0 will force manufacturers to focus on manufacturing process quality.
Quality: The Foundation of Industry 4.0
Some manufacturers still think of quality as an end-of-the-production line process, but that mindset is a recipe for doom as Industry 4.0 adoption becomes a manufacturing survival imperative. Quality must be at the heart of every process, from product design to front office business transactions and everything in between.
The idea of quality as a containment tool rather than a prevention tool seems antiquated in this new age of rapid advances. Relying on someone digging into issues after the fact means the damage is already done.
A quality focus should be baked in to every process, and quality should be on the MBO list of every employee. A quality focus doesn’t mean you equip every employee with a set of gauges. It does mean that every employee understands their role and the processes they are engaged in. But what does that look like in the real world, and how does this idea support Industry 4.0?
A Quality-Centric Mindset
One example of a quality mindset is to design quality into the product at every step from initial concept to end-of-life. Using virtual reality during the design phase enables engineers to update and improve the product without the time and expense of prototypes, and helps them specify tools and jigs that error-proof the production process and eliminate non-value-added steps.
Engineering changes can be made for cost reduction, safety considerations, product improvements, replacement of obsolete components and many other reasons. Some changes can be implemented at any time; others must be implemented immediately.
Even if your enterprise solution includes electronic ECN signoffs, it may not have best practices for organizing, tracking and reporting status. A QMS system does, because ensuring that ECNs are implemented cost effectively and on time is a quality best practice.
Before starting on the journey to Industry 4.0, you must ensure quality mindset is ingrained in your team. The quality mindset must come before the technology. You need process to reinforce the quality mindset and develop the quality habit. Why reinvent the wheel when a top-shelf QMS will have the best practices built in? Quality is the purpose of a QMS solution.
Starting with a QMS will ensure that your business and document management procedures are streamlined, accurate and cost effective. Industry 4.0 is exciting, and you will need to adopt at least some of the technologies to stay current in the coming years. But first, get your procedures in order and your team focused on quality with the help of the best practices in a state-of-the-art QMS.
Tom Seadler has more than 30 years of experience as an executive leader in technology management including operations, services, sales, and consulting in demanding, complex global environments. His comprehensive experience in business strategy, broad supply chain expertise, and his financial acumen is complemented by technical and process disciplines.