From Inspections to Insights | Quality Digest

As new technology is rapidly evolving, so too is the nature of quality inspections. RFID tags and edge analytics, in particular, are just two examples of cutting-edge technologies revolutionizing quality control to ensure your products and processes are as good as they can be. 

RFID tags: greater traceability and less downtime

It’s no secret that quality control professionals face their fair share of on-the-job challenges, from inefficient processes and time constraints to the natural room for human error. Advancements in technology are now helping to solve these challenges and improve processes so they balance speed with precision and efficiency. Because RFID tags can track products in real time, quality issues can be noted and corrected right away. The role they play in preventive maintenance also significantly reduces the need for expensive downtime. As for edge analytics, this transformative data-collection process is essential for generating real-time actionable insights that keep the production line flowing. These innovations ultimately make the entire quality control process, from inspections through to insights, faster, smoother, and better for the bottom line. 

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RFID tags—tiny devices that use electromagnetic fields to track, identify, and communicate with items and people—can track the flow of products as they move through the factory. You can therefore benefit from improved traceability that lets you more easily spot and address quality issues in record time. RFID tags can even provide transparency across the entire supply chain, tracking the movement of your products in real time from in-stock raw materials through to the end consumer. This in turn plays a key role in supply chain due diligence—an essential step that involves identifying and preventing any risks that may crop up anywhere in the entire chain.

The cost of poor quality can be devastating to business: Failed quality control costs manufacturers anywhere between 15–20% of their total profits on average, and as much as 40% for some, the ASQ reveals. Businesses with successful quality programs, on the other hand, can benefit from increased productivity, improved processes, fewer defects, and a greater competitive edge in the market.

But that’s not all RFID tags are good for. They can also play a key role in preventive maintenance strategies. Remember: Every dollar you spend on preventive maintenance ends up saving you $5 in future repairs, on average. Because RFID tags can be attached to machines and record all failures and repairs in a concise and easy-to-access report, you can then use these data to devise and implement new and improved preventive maintenance actions. As a result, factories benefit from fewer breakdowns and delays.  

Preventing expensive downtime 

Just like its name suggests, edge analytics is a process of data collection and analysis that takes place at the edge of the network—instead of on the usual central server. Actionable insights can be generated in real time. All manufacturers have to do is look at the IoT devices on the factory floor that collect the data, and take any recommended corrective actions as needed. In contrast, this fast analysis and decision making simply isn’t possible with traditional quality control because the data collected have to first be transmitted to a cloud data server before they can be processed. Shockingly, despite the power of data to improve quality control processes, up to 73% of company data aren’t actually used for analytics, essentially going to waste. By tapping into data in real time, edge analytics can provide you with the immediate feedback needed to improve machine performance and productivity. For example, if data from one machine indicate there’s a bottleneck, the speed of another machine downstream can be increased immediately to ensure quality and productivity levels remain unaffected. 

Conclusion 

Unplanned downtime affects 82% of businesses on average, with the average manufacturer experiencing at least 800 hours of equipment downtime every year (that equates to more than 15 hours every week), data from Forbes reveal. And you can bet this downtime gets expensive fast. For example, a production stoppage costs car manufacturers $22,000 per minute on average. These statistics only highlight the cost-saving potential of RFID tags, because they’re able to play a role in preventing failures like malfunctions, stoppages, replacements, and repairs, and therefore successfully reduce downtime and associated costs.  

Edge analytics: Generating actionable insights in real time

For example, if you’re considering working with a new partner such as a supplier, distributor, or financier that affects your supply chain, it’s important to check out their background before signing on any dotted lines. A criminal history or past bankruptcy, for instance, are red flags that likely indicate you’re better off walking away.