What is quality control in manufacturing?
The term ‘high-quality’ is subjective, as your definition of quality might differ from someone else’s. But in the world of manufacturing, it’s about supplying your customers with products that meet (or exceed) their expectations.
Your customers expect you to supply them with products that are as described. They must work, be reliable and be safe. Having the right quality controls in place helps make sure every item you produce meets the pre-defined high standard.
Anything that doesn’t meet this standard should never leave the factory. Having controls in place throughout the manufacturing process helps iron out any issues at source rather than waiting until the end of the cycle to spot them.
What are the benefits of using quality control in manufacturing?
The ultimate benefit of quality control is that you’re consistently producing goods of the quality your customers require and expect. Not giving quality control your full attention is risky.
You’ll have deadlines to meet, stock control to consider, and labour to manage. But even if you get all these things right, it can cause a lot of upheaval if your quality control falls short.
The short-term impact can include downtime, wasted materials and components, high labour costs and distribution problems. The long-term impact can be a loss of confidence in your products and your wider business, and therefore loss of customers.
Get it right, though, and you should see a number of benefits. If you’re consistently on top of your quality control:
- There will be less downtime as you won’t have to halt production to put things right.
- There’s less waste, as everything you produce is fit for purpose.
- Your customers have the reassurance that you’ll deliver what you promise, on time, generating loyalty.
- You increase the chances of having a healthy order book.
- You enjoy a reputational advantage.
What is the difference between quality control and quality assurance?
The terms ‘quality control’ and ‘quality assurance’ are often used interchangeably, and there is some crossover between the two. But they are not quite the exact same thing. Quality assurance focuses on the process, while quality control focuses on the product.
So, for example, good quality assurance includes keeping your workforce fully trained, having a clear system for raising concerns, making sure you have all the right documentation in place, managing your supply chain properly, and so on. These things remain in place regardless of which products or lines you are producing at any given time.
Quality control includes aspects such as inspecting batches of the specific products you produce. Depending on what’s on the production line, how you implement your quality control might vary. For instance, if you are manufacturing paint it’s not ideal if your first quality control point comes after the tins have been sealed.
How do I implement quality control in manufacturing?
There are several aspects to consider here:
- Defining the quality required for each product.
- The quality of materials and components you use.
- Carrying out internal checks.
- Training your employees.
- Creating an internal reporting system that everyone understands.
Having checkpoints right through the manufacturing process is the simplest way of monitoring quality. It helps identify exactly where within the process a quality issue is occurring.
It’s a waste of time, labour, and money, to get to the end of the production process only to discover a problem that could have been addressed much earlier on.
What are quality assurance metrics?
Although you might quickly put something right on the first occasion and learn from the error, using the right metrics means you’ll soon notice if the same part of the process is regularly responsible for quality issues.
It can help identify training issues, staff deficiencies or machinery problems, for example. The metrics you can use for quality assurance include:
- Cost of poor quality.
- Customer complaints and returns.
- Scrap rate.
- Overall equipment effectiveness.
Cost of poor quality
COPQ is a measure of the costs associated with producing substandard products. It can relate either to internal failure (how much it costs you to put something right when you find a defect before the product leaves the factory) or external failure (when the cost includes dealing with customer returns, product recalls and replacement shipments).
External failure comes with the added cost of dealing with customer complaints and warranty claims. This can be reputationally damaging in the long term, as well as costing you money to put it right at the time.
The scrap rate is the proportion of materials and components that enter the production process but don’t become part of the finished products that leave the factory.
Sometimes a high scrap rate can be due to mistakes with the ordering process or stock management. But it can also be a sign of quality issues if a high scrap rate is due to mistakes on the production line (or substandard materials).
The yield is the percentage of your output that is manufactured successfully without producing any scrap. If you produce 10 batches of widgets but one of the batches is defective and has to be junked, your yield is 90%. As with a scrap rate, this is an easy-to-understand way of measuring quality control.
Customer complaints and returns
Using this metric gives you details about the percentage of products that are rejected or returned by your customers. Whether the returns have happened because of a defect, damage, or the wrong specs, it’s a sign that your quality is not up to scratch.
Comparing your customer returns with your yield can be telling. If, for instance, you have a very high yield, but you also have a high rate of product returns, it suggests you have poor quality control in terms of spotting defects before goods are shipped to customers.
Overall equipment effectiveness
OEE is the percentage of manufacturing time that is productive: a score of 100% means everything is running as effectively as possible. There are several factors that can reduce an OEE score, including a lack of availability of parts or labour, or an empty order book.
But a lower than desired OEE score can also be a sign of quality issues because you are making sub-standard products and the work needs to be done again.
How can Advanced help with your quality control?
Whatever metrics you use to measure quality, you need real data. And using the right software can give you this.
Our cloud-based system helps you to keep an eye on everything throughout the production process, enabling you to spot any quality problems in real-time.
It’s much easier to take action to improve the quality within your business if you have all the relevant information to hand, and this is where Manufacturing Software can help.
If you’re looking to implement a cloud-based solution that makes it simple to carry out highly effective quality control (and unifies all your business processes in one place), then take a look at our Manufacturing Software (which is tailored for small to medium-sized manufacturers).