• How to Implement Quality Control in Manufacturing

    Edward Deming was an American management consultant who was considered one of the foremost experts in the field of process management and control. His work has been credited for turning around the Japanese economy after World War II, and his sampling techniques are still in use by the Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics today. He’s often referred to as the Father of Quality Management. Deming believed that if you improve quality control, it would lead to efficient operations and increased profit margins. When quality controls are implemented, the results are tangible:

    • Costs decrease.
    • Waste and scrap decrease.
    • Production levels increase.
    • Product quality is more consistent.
    • With improved quality, inspections can be reduced.
    • Equipment and processes can be used more efficiently.

    Deming’s Plan to Improve Quality Control

    Deming laid out a fourteen-point plan for improving quality control in manufacturing. It’s as applicable today as it was when he created it.

    A System for Continuous Quality Improvement

    Implementing Deming’s plan starts with the right quality management system (QMS) software. An integrated QMS, such as Bluestreak, ties quality control and quality assurance directly to individual work centers and processing steps on the production floor. It brings together every piece of data into one central hub and eliminates information silos.

    How Bluestreak Improves Quality on the Production Floor

    Bluestreak has been designed specifically for the service-based manufacturing industry and encompasses an end-to-end manufacturing solution. Containing a manufacturing execution system (MES) and QMS, it provides unparalleled production floor control.

    Bluestreak is extensible, meaning that any metal treating company—from heat treaters to coaters—can easily customize the software to handle their unique workflows.

    Managing the Production Pathway

    Monitoring every stage of processing, from order to shipping, provides insight and transparency to the production pathway.

    Acting as a central repository for all documents improves communication for everyone who touches an order. Change orders ripple through the system automatically, so operators are always working with the latest specifications. It also creates a complete audit trail to track changes and reduce concerns about compliance.

    Bluestreak | Advanced Specifications Manager™ streamlines the management of product and industry specifications, such as AIAG, API, AMS, AS, ASME, ASTM, ISO, MedAccred, NADCA, Nadcap, SAE, TS, internal, and Prime. This allows manufacturers to create repeatable processes that conform to specification requirements every single time, leading to less waste, less rework, and less scrap. Specs are automatically cross-referencing everything that can be impacted, including processes, equipment, staff, and vendors.

    Statistical Process Control (SPC) can be customized to any product and provide real-time feedback on conformance. When test results are added, the SPC module will notify you of any variance or issues in order to help you spot trends before they become bigger problems, such as an entire run that is out of tolerance. Upper and lower control limits are automatically calculated and can be adjusted.

    All of this helps you better control the management of non-conforming parts and scrap. When non-conformance issues are present, Bluestreak will automatically prevent parts from moving to the next stage of processing. When you take corrective and preventive actions (CAPAs), they will be connected to future orders. Quality managers will know that CAPAs have been viewed and acknowledged within the software via the electronic signatures of operators on the production floor.

    Conclusion

    The cost of poor quality in a thriving company is about 10-15% of operations. Effective quality improvement programs can reduce this substantially, thus making a direct contribution to profits.

    Bluestreak provides a total end-to-end extensible quality control solution that would make Edward Deming proud. It has the information that everyone needs, from the front office to the production floor, and manages every step for maximum quality assurance.

    Contact Bluestreak today, and improve quality control in your manufacturing facility.

    Bluestreak’s MES + QMS solution helps service-based manufacturers drive quality straight down to the production floor to minimize scrap and rework and therefore, protect their profit margins.

    If you’re ready to leave manual, time-consuming service-based manufacturing tasks in the past, drastically reduce your scrap and rework percentage, gain visibility of your production floor processes, and build better relationships with your customers, contact us for a free consultation today!

  • 5 Things Manufacturers Need for Better Quality Control Audits

    Quality control audits help you ensure that your processes are working effectively so you can minimize operational costs without sacrificing quality. As part of a robust quality control plan, you can reduce your material waste, scrap, and rework. You can also lower your cost per goods produced and limit unproductive downtime.

    All this adds up to higher quality and an improved bottom line.

    Proactive Quality Control Audits

    When it comes to quality control, you can’t afford to wait until something goes wrong to do your analysis. By then, it may be too late to save projects and may lead to significant waste. Achieving better quality control audits requires proactive measures, including five key measures:

    1. System design
    2. System parameters
    3. Automated data processing
    4. Data visibility
    5. Automated audit trails

    If you’re lacking in any of these areas, you’ll likely have a difficult time with your quality control audits. As you know, failing an audit can have significant repercussions.

    In a manual process, the fear of failing quality control audits is compounded by concerns about being able to provide the necessary documentation to prove compliance. Documents can be lost, misfiled, or missing essential pieces of information needed to prove that the work was done correctly and within tolerances. If you’re still doing things manually, it’s time to automate and go paperless. That’s where Bluestreak’s integrated quality management system and manufacturing execution system (Bluestreak QMS + MES) comes in.

    An ERP or MRP system won’t give you data visibility throughout the entire production process, from work order to finished product. Bluestreak integrates with nearly every ERP/MRP system on the market to provide the tracking that you need for quality control audits.

    1. Quality Control Audits: System Design

    Many quality audits uncover problems with the system design, not the process. Without precise—and automated—systems in place, things can fall through the cracks and cause problems down the line.

    The Bluestreak QMS + MES eliminates information silos that lead to disconnected audit trails. Paperless data collection reduces errors and forces everything to be filled out before parts can move to the next production phase. Control plans are attached to each order to define specific quality and processing requirements that follow it through the entire production pathway.

    2. Quality Control Audits: System Parameters

    Bluestreak manages system parameters so you can be assured that the right information is in the hands of the right operator each time. Advanced specifications management supports industry specifications such as AIAG, API, AMS, AS, ASME, ASTM, ISO, MedAccred, NADCA, Nadcap, SAE, and TS, as well as any internal and Prime specifications.

    Operator and equipment qualification, certification, and calibration records are created and maintained as part of the fully-documented audit trail.

    Here’s one significant advantage of working with Bluestreak. The Advanced Specification Manager module automatically cross-references specifications to everything it impacts: processing, equipment, personnel, vendors, etc. Any discrepancies or conflicts will be flagged automatically.

    3. Quality Control Audits: Automated Data Processing

    Data processing is automated throughout the entire life cycle. As parts move through the process, each step is recorded to create the audit trail. All information is available in real time with Bluestreak. This includes management of:

    • Work orders
    • Production pathways
    • Equipment maintenance
    • Statistical process control
    • Inventory

    4. Quality Control Audits: Data Visibility

    Data visibility is crucial to managing quality control. Using one central platform, you will be able to access real-time data and historical data at any time. You can even access the information remotely or give customers access to specific data for self-serve capabilities. Everything that impacts the production process and is necessary for a quality control audit is literally at your fingertips, including:

    • Work orders and changes
    • Non-conformances
    • CAPAs

    Failure to adequately deal with and document CAPAs is one of the most common reasons that companies fail quality control audits. For service-based manufacturers in the life sciences and medical device industries, it’s the top reason that the FDA issues warning letters. Often, it’s not that they haven’t corrected the deficiencies; it’s that they haven’t adequately documented what they did. Creating a complete audit trail with transparency and data visibility is crucial.

    5. Quality Control Audits: Automated Audit Trail

    If you’ve done everything mentioned, your quality audits should go faster. You can reduce your downtime and lower everybody’s stress level. An automated audit trail makes the entire process go more smoothly and ensures effective quality control audit reports.

    Bluestreak Creates Better Quality Control Audits

    Real-time access to quality data and an automated audit trail are vital for better quality control audits.

    Bluestreak’s Integrated QMS + MES ties quality control and quality assurance directly to individual work centers and processing steps on the production floor, all in one inclusive database with no separate silos of disjointed data. It’s an extensible software solution designed specifically for the service-based manufacturing industry and can capture any kind of production data in real time. Contact Bluestreak today and improve your quality control audits.

    If you’re tired of business being halted for lengthy audit processes and want to see how automation not only cuts your audit times in half but also helps build better relationships with your customers, contact us for a free demo today!

  • Essentials of a Solid Manufacturing Quality Audit Process

    When you fail an external quality audit, bad things can happen. You might lose customers. You might have to shut down for an extended period to retool, retrain, or diagnose quality issues. You might have to delay fulfilling future orders or even turn business away.

    It’s nearly impossible to create the audit trail that you need to satisfy an audit if you don’t have a system set up that tracks what you need. If you’re still doing this on paper and spreadsheets, you’re asking for trouble.

    There are two common reasons that external quality audits fail:

    1. Human error
    2. Inability to produce the data to support what you’ve done

    Ensuring that you have a solid manufacturing quality audit process in place to avoid this scenario is vital to the success of your business. Creating a paperless, automated audit trail is crucial.

    Documentation That External Auditors Might Request

    Every document and record that is part of the production process and might affect the quality of parts and products needs to be captured and retained. While external audits might focus on different areas depending on the part, product, or customer, there are certain documents that you should have available.

    Management Commitment to Quality Management

    One area that will be examined is the alignment between what management says it does (or requires) and what’s actually being done. This might include such areas as:

    • Risk assessment
    • Qualification of equipment and personnel
    • Maintenance and calibration
    • Dealing with nonconformance
    • CAPAs
    • Consistent recordkeeping

    The Essentials of a Solid Manufacturing Quality Audit Process

    There are so many forms and paperwork. Each step must be documented. Every piece must be filled out properly and completely. If there’s a problem, not only do you have to resolve the issue, but you also have to document what happened and what you did to correct it to avoid incidents. Then, you need a filing system that allows for quick retrieval when it’s time for your external quality audit. On top of all that, you must hope that you can find what you need and that everybody did their job filling everything out at every step of the way.

    If this sounds like your current process, there’s an easier method.

    To ensure that you’ve covered your bases with the essentials, you should have a quality management system and manufacturing execution system (QMS + MES) that creates a paperless, automated audit trail.

    Bluestreak’s Integrated Quality Management System ties quality control and quality assurance directly to individual work centers and processing steps on the production floor, all in one inclusive database, with no separate silos of disjointed data. It allows a paperless process that contains every piece of information that you need to pass an external quality audit. It’s flexible enough to record any piece of data that you need, and it automatically creates an audit trail for fast retrieval upon demand.

    Audits can be time-consuming and often include lengthy downtime. Bluestreak can reduce audit times by up to 50%.

    Managing External Quality Audits

    External quality audits are vital for satisfying customers, but they also can provide a blueprint for improvements. They are part of a continuous improvement program that should be part of every service-based manufacturer’s process. The more efficient and productive your systems are, the more you can reduce your cost per part and your overall manufacturing costs.

    When it comes down to it, internal or external audits come down to having the basics in place for every step of your production process.

    1. Lay out what you’re going to do.
    2. Do it.
    3. Take appropriate actions when issues arise.
    4. Prove that you’ve done it.

    It all works fine if you have a system and processes in place to capture all the relevant data to create an audit trail that will satisfy an external quality audit. Bluestreak has been designed specifically for the service-based manufacturing industry to capture data in real time and generate the audit trail you need.

    Don’t take a chance with your manufacturing quality audits. Ditch the paper and the problems by implementing Bluestreak’s extensible QMS + MES system.

    If you’re tired of business being halted for lengthy audit processes and want to see how automation not only cuts your audit times in half but also helps build better relationships with your customers, contact us for a free demo today!

  • 3 Ways Manufacturers Guarantee a Faster Quality Audit

    A quality audit provides valuable information for moving production forward, but it can also be highly disruptive. You must balance quality audits that are informative, thorough, and insightful with production’s need to get back to business as usual. Thanks to new technologies and better systems, that dream is now a reality.

    Quality audits don’t have to shut down production or take forever. With the right tools and methods for streamlining your preparations and gathering data, you’ll have faster quality audits guaranteed—no need to sacrifice accuracy or rush through what matters most.

    Here are our top three ways for you to shorten your quality audit time without sacrificing accuracy or insights. You’ll have a streamlined system designed to deliver the value that you need to ensure compliance in a process that your team won’t dread.

    Centralize your data

    When each department has its own system and method for reporting, gathering documentation can be tedious and full of missing information, which can add days or even weeks to your audit preparations and make it impossible to pull accurate reports at the last minute.

    Instead of siloing your data, you should implement a strategy to bring a cohesive view of your data to the forefront, allowing you to gather reports quickly, whether you have weeks or mere hours to prepare. It’s your single source of truth.

    • Use a standard communications hub. Funnel all communications into a streamlined hub so each part of the production pipeline can see the full context of information, receive confirmation that important messages were delivered, and leave a digital paper trail for the chain of responsibility.
    • Manage work orders through automation. Details from work orders are part of a trove of vital data. Centralizing your work orders into one system ensures automation for recordkeeping, from quote to invoice.
    • Move reporting to a single system. When you pull reports from across departments, information stored in one system reduces the time that you spend chasing down department leads to get relevant, updated, or corrected reports.
    • Manage production from the initial quote to the invoice from one dashboard. Specifications, reporting, updates, pivots—everything you need to manage your production is right there.

    You’ll be able to pull the reports you need without massive wait times and to provide documentation on the fly if necessary. Segmenting different production departments obscures the data you need and creates issues when different departments can’t access the data that they need. Instead, centralize your data, which makes everyone a data stakeholder and provides transparency when it counts—i.e., your quality audit reporting.

    Automate your reporting

    If you’ve centralized your data but it is consistently incorrect or missing, your data hub is useless. Human error accounts for most missing, duplicate, or inaccurate information, and part of your audit is to review that information. Automation removes the human element and creates consistent and systemic reporting. You should automate:

    • Specifications. Understand what specifications go into a quality product and how those specifications are consistently reached. Any changes move automatically through the pipeline.
    • Scheduling. With centralized data, you can automate scheduling to reduce overlap, overbooking, and under-planning.
    • Process control. Automating process monitoring allows production systems to pivot continuously and bring those reports alongside.
    • Inventory and quality. If you’ve had quality audits in the past or struggled with inventory control, artificial intelligence can bring clarity and focus to both.

    Automation makes processes happen faster and funnels all your relevant information into a single point of truth, ready to pull for your next audit—even if it’s a last-minute auditor request. These reports help streamline the process by eliminating missing information and reducing human error or incompatibility between different departmental reporting systems.

    Improve overall communications

    In general, improving communications reduces quality audit times and builds a better production system overall. With solid communication structures in place, there are fewer surprises and blind spots that could delay a quality audit or cost you a positive one.

    To improve communication quality across the board:

    • Build an active repository of all previous audits.
    • Establish a clear chain of command with a centralized dashboard.
    • Use automatic updating for specifications and process control.
    • Automate your data collection.

    As you improve your communications, future audits can happen more quickly because you’ve made clear steps for addressing past audit issues and you know the chain of responsibility. You’ve reduced or eliminated missing information and data gaps and reduced the chance of human error causing a production—and therefore, an audit—issue. The data from each past audit history is present, and you have a digital paper trail for your production line. Communicating within this centralized hub is the final piece.

    Streamline your audits with a comprehensive dashboard

    Audits give clear and actionable insights into your production strategy and are a pivotal part of remaining on top of manufacturing’s razor-thin margins. The flip side is allowing audits to derail those margins. Streamlining your process by focusing on these common obstacles to a fast yet accurate quality audit gives you the insights that you need while minimizing disruption.

    Your audits can happen faster without sacrificing insights. Automating as many processes as possible and managing your data from a single point of truth ensures that you always have the paperwork, information, and documentation that you need. It’s time to use a system made specifically for the unique needs of manufacturing and move toward a streamlined audit process.

    If you’re tired of business being halted for lengthy audit processes and want to see how automation not only cuts your audit times in half but also helps build better relationships with your customers, contact us for a free demo today!

  • Best Practices for Process Audits in Manufacturing

    The key to process audits in manufacturing is transparency.

    It’s essential to be able to have complete visibility into the entire production pathway. Manufacturers need to know where each part or build is at any time, what is being done to it, and what’s coming next. Every step needs to be documented for effective process audits in manufacturing operations.

    What Are Process Audits in Manufacturing?

    Processes generate results. Process audits show if the results meet performance standards and are being effectively managed. Process audits in manufacturing are a comprehensive evaluation of the process to verify that the process is producing the right results.

    The Difference between Product Audits and Process Audits

    Don’t confuse process audits in manufacturing with product audits.

    Product audits typically take place after the manufacturing stage or process has been completed. Any nonconformance is identified and contained, while countermeasures are developed to prevent a recurrence. They are necessary to check on quality, but product audits are also reactive to problems.

    Process audits are, by design, proactive to identify problems before they occur and find ways to optimize the production pathway. They examine steps such as:

    • How your team prepares and produces products
    • Process tracking
    • Safety and qualifications
    • Machine calibration

    Product and process audits go hand-in-hand for an efficient process to produce quality parts and products. Both need to be used in tandem for an effective quality control process.

    Mistakes in Process Audits

    In computer science, there’s an acronym that engineers use: GIGO, which stands for “garbage in, garbage out.” They know that if you put bad data into a computer, you’re going to get flawed results. The same standard applied to process audits. Without accurate and up-to-date information, you can’t trust that the data will lead you to the right conclusions.

    Mistake # 1: Information Silos

    One of the keys to successful product audits is accurate real-time information. Too often, manufacturers live in a world of information silos. Manual recording of data can lead to human error, lost paperwork, or outdated information. The right information may be recorded and documented, but it may not be accessible to everyone who needs it or be easy to find when it’s needed.

    Mistake #2: Infrequent Process Audit Scheduling

    Another mistake that manufacturers make with process audits in manufacturing is waiting until something goes wrong before initiating an audit. By the time that a systemic problem is uncovered, scrap, waste, rework, and costly labor have already occurred.

    Process audits should be conducted on a regular schedule. The goal is to make processes more efficient and uncover potential problems before they occur.

    Mistake #3: Inefficient Documentation

    When there isn’t one consistent way to document every step in the production process, it can be difficult to piece together everything. Inefficient documentation methods, such as paper, Excel spreadsheets, or manual entry, can lead to errors and information silos.

    Bluestreak’s integrated quality management system (QMS) creates a complete audit trail for the entire production pathway. It avoids these mistakes by creating an efficient system to record everything in real time with a paperless process.

    Why You Need Process Audit Checklists

    Besides committing to regularly scheduled process audits in manufacturing, you need to standardize your process audit checklists. This ensures that you are tracking the right things—and the same things over time—as you explore quality improvements.

    Process audit checklists will:

    • Formalize the process by creating a comprehensive checklist of what will be audited.
    • Ensure audit consistency, even if different people conduct them.
    • Make sure the right data is captured and reported every time.
    • Provide evidence of the process audit (which may be a requirement for compliance).
    • Help determine where to focus attention on the process for the next audit.
    • Allow for tracking as changes or process improvements are made.

    Your QMS can be configured to model this list so you will have the data you need.

    The Importance of Statistical Process Control (SPC)

    Part of the compliance process for manufacturing parts and products to rigid standards is using a statistical process control (SPC) process. This provides instant process feedback to inspection personnel, allowing for immediate response to detrimental process variation. It improves the repeatability and reproducibility of inspection equipment by using the SPC programs during the calibration and verification processes.

    Your SPC standards and upper and lower control limits should be part of your process audit checklist. The right QMS, such as Bluestreak | SPC, can auto-calculate your control limits to help you determine if it’s time to tighten them.

    Layered Process Audits

    Many service-based manufacturers find great value in layered process audits (LPAs). Focusing on identifying process variation before they lead to defects, LPAs are frequent audits conducted by multiple layers of employees, from shop floor operators to quality engineers and plant managers.

    LPAs benefit manufacturers by having multiple personnel looking at the data. Each will have a different viewpoint depending on their role in the organization and the production path.

    The Benefits of Process Audits in Manufacturing

    Manufacturers that avoid process audit mistakes, employ formal checklists and a regular schedule, and conduct layered process audits can generate significant results, including:

    • Less scrap and lower rework costs
    • Improved customer satisfaction metrics
    • Increased number of conforming parts per shift
    • Fewer warranty claims and safety issues
    • Avoidance of recalls or litigation

    It also lowers the overall cost of production by proactively identifying—and solving—roadblocks in the production pathway before they become problems. Optimizing the production process leads to better results at every level.

    To be effective, process audits in manufacturing needs a robust integrated QMS to track every part, product, and process. Bluestreak’s QMS is an all-inclusive database that manages the entire production pathway and eliminates separate silos of disjointed and inaccurate data. To learn more about process audits in manufacturing or to test-drive Bluestreak QMS, contact the service-manufacturing experts at Bluestreak.

    If you’re tired of business being halted for lengthy audit processes and want to see how automation not only cuts your audit times in half but helps build better relationships with your customers, contact us for a free demo today!

  • How Manufacturers Master External Quality Audits

    Let’s face it. Audits are never fun, especially if you’re using a manual process. They involve:

    • Tracking down every scrap of paper that you need to prove that you’ve done everything right
    • Proving finished products meet the conformance standards that your customer demanded
    • Documenting the testing process

    It can be time-consuming and painful for manufacturers that just want to check off a job as done and move on to the next one.

    And that’s if everything goes right. Requests for correcting nonconformities or findings from an external quality audit are common. These lead to corrective and preventative actions and may require rework. That adds a delay to processing invoices and can push payments further downstream. Even when you’ve wrapped things up, customers may require further external audits to confirm that the corrective actions worked as required.

    What if there was a way to cut audit times in half?

    Mastering an External Quality Audit

    There is an easier way to accomplish an external quality audit: digital transformation.

    By moving your production process and tracking to an integrated quality management system and manufacturing execution system (QMS + MES), you can reduce audit time by as much as 50%. That’s less downtime for your facility, fewer worker-hours tied up in tracking down paperwork, and more productive hours for your production line. Other benefits include:

    • A QMS + MES platform tracks everything in real time.
    • It captures every data point at every stop in the production pathway.
    • Statistical process control helps uncover root causes more easily for faster correction.
    • It tracks maintenance, repair, and equipment qualifications.
    • It tracks training and operator qualifications.

    With the right MES + QMS software, your audit trail will be automated. It keeps track of everything that you need to keep business flowing and improve productivity on the shop floor. There’s no more lost paperwork or conflicting results. It automates systems to provide real-time and accurate information at every phase of the production process and keeps information together to make the audit process go faster.

    Enhanced Documentation

    A detailed, time-stamped, and user-identified audit trail for each document can verify compliance with accreditations, certifications, and compliance standards, including ISO 9001, AS9100, MedAccred, ITAR, EAR, etc.

    There’s no more wondering who has access to critical files, who changed operating procedures, or what changes were made. It’s all there in the digital documentation.

    Paperless reporting follows the tracking, approvals, notification, and policy administration of quality documentation. It creates gatekeepers for approval and electronically tracks every interaction at every step. The right QMS + MES stores all test result data, so there is full transparency. This includes both the rest values themselves and the process used for reporting.

    End-to-end control—from quoting to invoicing, maintenance, production tracking, and real-time customer portal access—creates a structured audit trail to track jobs throughout the entire production cycle. This eliminates information silos by using a fully extensible and audit-compliant QMS.

    Enhanced Qualifications

    Bluestreak’s QMS + MES also prevents potential errors that could lead to quality problems or audit issues, such as:

    • Work order specifications that are replaced with revisions
    • Operators who attempt to process loads without documented training or certifications
    • Equipment being used that isn’t qualified (or qualifications have lapsed)
    • Vendors that aren’t qualified for specific jobs or have lapsed qualifications
    • Failing to note changes to qualifications, certifications, instrument calibration, personnel, or survey requirements

    The Benefits of Better Audits

    Continuous monitoring and control of manufacturing processes lead to better audits. Everyone from the front office to the production floor will appreciate an efficient external quality audit, including your customers.

    By speeding up your audit process and conducting a more thorough external quality audit using QMS + MES, your manufacturing business will lower your total cost of production. A 50% reduction in time spent on audits results in worker-hours that can be put to use in other ways that will make you money.

    It saves time and frustration, catches errors faster, and makes your operation more efficient. When an external quality audit is completed quickly with every necessary piece of information, it improves customer confidence and satisfaction. They will rest assured that the job they’re paying for has been done right to their specifications. It can also enhance your image and reputation. When you consistently clear audits without problems, it’s a clear indication to customers and prospective customers that you take quality seriously and do what it takes to get things right.

    Save Time, Save Money

    Audits can be time-consuming and expensive propositions. With the proper controls, authorizations, and documentation readily available, audits can be completed much more quickly. Any time that you save when dealing with an audit will also save you money.

    Contact Bluestreak for a free demo of our QMS + MES. It won’t make an external quality audit any more enjoyable, but it will make it much easier to deal with.

    If you’re tired of business being halted for lengthy audit processes and want to see how automation not only cuts your audit times in half but helps build better relationships with your customers, contact us for a free demo today!

  • Producing Quality Audit Reports in Manufacturing to Cut Audit Times in Half

    If your audit is approaching and you’re already concerned about lengthy downtimes and tying up your departments, it’s time to set up a new reporting system to facilitate your audit process. Quality audits aren’t just something to pass. They help ascertain customer relationships, build streamlined processes, and offer new perspectives on company decisions of all kinds.

    Your quality audit reports are directly responsible for your audit outcomes, and handling those reports is a top priority. When you have your reports in order, you can streamline your audit process to ensure that it doesn’t take up too much time, while still getting the insights that you need to move forward.

    Unify data to a single source of truth

    You already know that data spreads across multiple departments, and each department has its own system. You also know that:

    • Gathering data is difficult because data is full of missing pieces and mistakes.
    • No one can see past histories, so it’s difficult to remember what’s happened in past audits.
    • Audits throw curveballs, and systems can’t create usable reports on the fly, sending everyone scrambling.

    Getting data under control is the single most significant step to producing quality audit reports. With a unified source of truth, you can gather the data you need while preparing for audit time, and you’ll have the chance to pull reports requested at the last minute.

    You can do this by creating an automated reporting system that removes human error from data entry and eliminates the department-by-department methodology in favor of one consistent entry method. You won’t have duplicate or missing data, and each department’s reporting will be accurate.

    You’ll also have a digital “paper trail,” one that tracks past audits, handles the progression of specifications, and provides a quote-to-invoice workflow with notations for special orders or alterations to the usual production. With everything in the same place, you’ll have a unified dashboard to build your reports—no more hunting down department heads or wondering if information is accurate or complete.

    Dig into the potential of automation

    Your audit could be going slowly because you have too many manual processes. A work order comes in and someone notates it. Specifications change and communication is hands-on. Everyone works with a different system. Removing as many manual processes as possible through automation gives you time back.

    Reporting is also fraught with human error. When different departments work with their own systems, you end up with information gaps and missing information. It’s challenging to establish a chain of responsibility, and following up with past audits can fall through the cracks. When you automate elements of your process, you can improve the data coming into your system. This automation:

    • Includes documentation of work orders, specifications, and processes
    • Removes human error due to incorrect or missing data entry
    • Allows all stakeholders to access required data and tags changes or comments
    • Establishes a trail of responsibility, accountability, and updates

    You’ll have a robust reporting and communication system that can provide the right data for the questions that your auditor asks. You’ll have removed as much human error as possible, as well as the burden that departments have to report everything through a manual process.

    Consider what auditors need

    As you work through audits, performance indicators and metrics that auditors need should be added to a convenient dashboard. If your dashboard doesn’t have the metrics that your quality auditors are already looking for, it’s more difficult to build a report and track changes that occur because of audit results. You need to align your dashboard to auditor requirements because:

    • These indicators can drive improvements.
    • You’ll have customized dashboard metrics for new insights.
    • Dashboards serve a dual purpose: the smoothing of audit cycles and data-driven decision making.

    For all this, you’ll need a comprehensive, connected, and integrated dashboard. It’s not just the metrics that you want to see; it’s the metrics that your quality auditors look for each time they complete an audit. While these metrics naturally overlap, getting your dashboard as aligned as possible with auditors’ requirements helps put audits front and center.

    With each subsequent audit, you’ll have the metrics that your auditor wants to see, as well as the alignment from previous audits. This means audits will get faster.

    Conclusion

    Creating better quality audit reports helps cut down on the time spent searching for information, flagging and correcting errors, and creating reports that don’t answer the right questions. All audit information will be right in your dashboard, and you’ll be able to make data-driven decisions.

    Bluestreak’s dashboard capabilities put all information into a single source of truth, available for all stakeholders and customizable to create reports in seconds. Your dashboard will become one of the most useful tools that you have for passing audits and using the results to create long-term success and growth for your organization. It’s time to find out how Bluestreak’s unique systems can cut your quality audit time in half.

    If you’re tired of business being halted for lengthy audit processes and want to see how automation not only cuts your audit times in half but also helps build better relationships with your customers, contact us for a free demo today!

  • How to Streamline Quality Audits of Manufacturing Processes and Facilities

    Quality audits are a cornerstone of the manufacturing process, but for many companies, they only cause stress. In the past, companies viewed quality audits as a necessary hassle that disrupted normal processes. No matter how much teams prepared, documentation went missing, gaps in data derailed audit timelines, and unexpected events sent everyone into a panic.

    Audits shouldn’t be a massive burden on your administration and department teams. With the right systems in place, you can streamline your quality audits to ensure a good outcome every time. Here are three common obstacles to a streamlined audit and solutions to simplify the manufacturing process without sacrificing vital accuracy or feedback.

    Audit Obstacle #1: Scattered Data

    With a complex manufacturing process, data is scattered across departments, people, and systems, and there’s rarely a “single source of truth.” When it comes to audits, this scattered data can derail even the most organized company.

    In order for you to fix the problem, data must become a single source of truth. First, store data in a consistent manner to reduce missing, repeated, or out-of-date data. As departments document different aspects of production, that documentation goes to a centralized system that eliminates the gaps or overlaps.

    Next, companies must work on communication. Bring data to a central point designed to deliver updates, communications, and records to all parties. Specifications, for example, can be documented to show changes in real time, notifying each contact point in production of any updates, with tags and comments flowing into the dashboard to show official compliance.

    Finally, documentation is vital but human error is a real problem. Create automatic documentation to reduce human errors and inconsistencies, so when you pull reports for audits, you don’t have to spend time seeking out gaps or making corrections.

    Audit Obstacle #2: Too Many Manual Processes

    Once upon a time, we relied solely on paper records. Now, our processes are too complex for the traditional paper trail. Automation is not just a benefit; it’s a necessity for making it through modern audits.

    There are three key components to automation:

    • “Low-value” tasks such as pulling reports. Building these reports within a single dashboard will provide a way for you to spend far less time trying to gather your documentation during your audits. You’ll have what you need quickly, whether you’ve got weeks or hours to prepare.
    • Documentation for work orders, including special instructions or changes. Once you move everything to a central repository, work orders become less of a hassle. The trail will be clear, and changes will be noted along the way.
    • Specifications module with access for all stakeholders. Specifications can get hairy with so many hands involved. Instead, a single module to manage specifications ensures that everyone communicates, everyone receives changes, and the proof of specifications is built in automatically for quality control.

    Automation of these three key components in your audits—reports, work orders, and specifications—helps ensure that when you have to retrieve reports, you’ll do so as you need them and they’ll be accurate.

    Even if you need a last-minute report, automation ensures consistency between departments and production touchpoints. You should be able to pull those reports under pressure and know that they’re accurate and up to date.

    Audit Obstacle #3: Chain of Responsibility Is Unclear

    Whether it’s an audit follow-up or just an ongoing chain of responsibility, drilling down historical data from past audits, changes, and contingencies helps ensure proper follow-up and future compliance.

    To do this effectively, you must automate and update your records across the board. Each department needs access to the same information, making your dashboard a place where you can:

    • Utilize an active repository of all audits and relevant histories. You’ll be able to see past audits and make active decisions moving forward, as well as review changes made in response to audit results.
    • Automate data collection, both qualitative and quantitative, from multiple departments and sources. With data coming in, you’ll have the opportunity to move forward with each audit streamlining the next.
    • Funnel specifications, process, quality, etc. into a single source of truth. This, above all else, is one of the benefits of streamlining. There should be only one source of data truth within your organization. Once you’ve implemented this concept, your audits automatically get easier.

    Once you have these records, the chain of responsibility is clear. You’ll be able to quickly find and review past audits and automate documentation from audit processes and follow-ups. These leave nothing to chance and ensure that with each audit, you get better results.

    Your audit can be a source of insight rather than a headache. Using audits for real change and data-driven decisions provides a strong foundation for future audits—no scrambling and no forgotten pieces.

    Conclusion

    The key to a streamlined audit is automation and follow-through. With the right dashboard, these aspects of an audit process no longer have to be painful. Getting rid of paper, data silos, and manual processes will go a long way to ensuring that you have excellent audit experiences with minimal disruption.

    If you’re tired of business being halted for lengthy audit processes and want to see how automation not only cuts your audit times in half but also helps build better relationships with your customers, contact us for a free demo today!

  • The Secret to Avoiding Bad Audits in Manufacturing

    Manufacturing audits don’t have to strike fear into your entire organization. This is a radical concept—no stress, toil, and agony over an audit—but trust us. A new world is possible, one where you nail your audit every time.

    The secret to avoiding bad audits in manufacturing is a straightforward concept: automation. Automating vital manufacturing processes helps you get ready for your audits in record time without putting undue pressure on your teams and spiraling out of control looking for missing pieces.

    Auditing compliance can be more burdensome on the manufacturing industry than others, but applying automation could help reduce that burden until new systems take over. Here are three things that you can automate to ensure that your next (and every) audit goes smoothly.

    Specifications

    Whenever you create a new product or update a current option, those specifications must become a documented and consistent part of your output. During a manufacturing audit, auditors want to see conformance to specifications.

    It seems simple enough, but if you have a complex production pipeline or hundreds of products, showing conformance gets complicated. One missed touchpoint, and you’ve got a batch that doesn’t conform to standards, a costly mistake from a revenue standpoint and potentially from a regulation angle as well.

    When you automate documentation, you have a two-fold approach to conformance.

    • Production side: Every point of contact gets notified of changes from one dashboard, quickly seeing modifications and updates, along with confirmation that those changes are happening.
    • Audit side: Proof of conformance is transparent and clear at a glance. Auditors can see specifications compared to production and confirm conformance at each stage.

    Automation puts your entire production line on the same page and generates reports to support conformance. You won’t scramble to communicate with each section of your production pipeline or get caught in a waiting game as you wait for reports to roll in.

    Scheduling

    Production produces tons of paperwork. There are reports on top of reports, updates, scheduling, special situations where you need to adjust or make notes on specific orders—the list is endless. When it comes to your next audit, you need more than paper, data silos, and a fragmented scramble to make it happen.

    Scheduling leaves a great deal of room for human error. With so many details in the mix, you may let an order fall through the cracks or complete an order, only to have questions about the origin. If an auditor sees the gap, production stops while departments search for missing pieces, making the audit disruptive.

    When you automate scheduling, you provide a digital “paper trail” for organizational efficiency. You reduce or eliminate disruptions and facilitate production continuing even in the middle of your audit process, without sacrificing attention to detail. Automation keeps track of your:

    • Work orders
    • Load lists
    • Project priorities
    • Maintenance scheduling
    • Rush orders and connections
    • Any other connected pieces of relevant info

    With this efficient and comprehensive digital paper trail, you’ll have all the records that you need and you know that they’re up to the latest specifications. You get to balance giving the audit your full attention while keeping up the usual energy for your production process.

    Quality Assurance

    Your reputation depends on consistent quality during your production. During the production chain, each piece provides records that outline standards of quality and prove that those standards are met at each phase. In a small production, this is a straightforward process, but the larger your production model is, the faster those records can get out of control.

    Documenting quality checks is a vital part of avoiding bad audits in manufacturing. Human error is a big concern, with complex production systems at high risk of recording errors or missing crucial pieces of quality check documentation.

    Quality management automation eliminates errors and missing information by streamlining the entire process from start to finish and allowing you to build customized reports in seconds right from a dashboard. You’ll have the answers to any audit request with no waiting periods. You can:

    • Streamline reporting and analysis from the production floor.
    • Automate certifications.
    • Have build documentation and reporting in seconds.

    The dashboard allows you to make sense of mounds of records and ensures that all steps, quality checks, and documentation are consistent and complete. It reduces the risk that human error will grind your audit to a halt and makes sure you have last-minute audit requirements covered.

    Conclusion

    Missing documentation, downtime, waiting for a departmental response—all these things may have been the norm in the past. With an end-to-end solution for automating documentation and record-keeping, you’ll have the data to build your case for the auditor quickly and efficiently.

    Bluestreak’s integrated solution provides everything that you need to automate your processes and access the data that you need in real time. Don’t just focus on avoiding bad audits in manufacturing. Be assured of a great audit every time. It’s time to transform your audit experience.

    If you’re tired of business being halted for lengthy audit processes and want to see how automation not only cuts your audit times in half but helps build better relationships with your customers, contact us for a free demo today!

  • How Manufacturers Take Control of a Quality Control Audit

    Bluestreak’s™ innovative solution enables businesses to conform to specification requirements every time. You’ll create and maintain a fully documented audit trail with management specification documents, requirements, and media. More importantly, you’ll automatically cross-reference specifications to everything they impact: processing, equipment, personnel, vendors, etc.

    Don’t settle for independent silos of information. Connect and control everything regarding a specification by using a central, convenient, easy-to-manage tool.

    Auditors, Auditing, and Documentation for Days

    You shouldn’t have to spend days poring over documentation details preparing for an audit; you have more important things to worry about. Audits shouldn’t take you away from your business or shut down production because of prep time. Bluestreak has solutions to streamline the process from start to finish.

    Auditing itself is changing, making use of big data availability for more accurate insights during the audit process. With Bluestreak’s document database and ability to maintain specifications, processes, material tracking throughout production, and quality document collection at every step, your audits can be painless.

    Once you know what documents you need, Bluestreak helps you take control, with document compilation and comprehensive retention from every angle. Having confidence in your records will lead to quick and easy audit compliance.

    Traditional Audit Process

    Preparing for an ISO Quality Audit can be daunting. CMT Quality Audits in manufacturing align with ISO 19011:2011 3.1, which looks for conformance to quality standards by a third party. A third-party auditor will not know the historical data surrounding the project or the segment that they are auditing, so a fully comprehensive view is required from start to finish.

    Third-party audits allow for a non-biased view of the processes, a benefit to the industry as a whole. When you’re intimate with the process and equipment, it’s simple to make adjustments to meet your end needs—and dangerously easy to fudge paperwork when making a correction.

    Audits follow a specific process (MMS) and documentation of each step is needed. These documents include but may not be limited to:

    • Onboarding processes
    • Training documents
    • Customer contracts and purchase orders
    • Design and development records
    • Specifications
    • Purchase documents
    • Material traceability records
    • Quality control documents
    • Emergency drill and safety meeting records

    Gathering documents does not need to be a headache. In a siloed business structure, they can be maintained in multiple departments, including HR, sales, accounting, quality, safety, and production. If one department fails to maintain its paperwork, however, you lose a segment of the audit and need to investigate the missing pieces. Having a centralized database that knows where to pull each part of documentation applicable to each order, customer, equipment, or operator can make audits much less stressful.

    Bluestreak’s Audit Prep

    Bluestreak automates audit prep efficiently through real-time documentation and performance tracking. Our software allows these documents to be maintained and ready for auditors as needed, even when designs and specifications change.

    With an integrated quality management system, all aspects of the audit process are tracked and maintained. The Advanced Specification Manager maintains a strict adherence to specifications and immediate response for auditor or client needs.

    Benefits of the Advanced Specification Manager include the following.

    • Audit trail of the entire manufacturing process: From materials, additions, quality inspections, testing, equipment, and operators, everything is tracked.
    • Work order vs quote comparison: When your quote is approved, the purchase order is received, and the work order hits the production floor, you can track the order against the original quote.
    • On-demand certificate generation for conformance: In many manufacturing processes, specific conformance certificates must be requested up front and may even cost more. With Bluestreak, the material and processes are tracked as part of the everyday operation and can be generated on-demand without advanced notification.
    • Coordination of multiple specifications, split shipments, or batch-specific needs being available as needed: Whether a single batch is divided between several shipments or a single shipment/order contains multiple batches, Bluestreak simplifies the coordination to maintain orders and paperwork.
    • Test and inspection records: These include what you tested, when, how, and what you corrected if results were adverse. Auditors will want to know how you identified non-conforming product and assured that no damaged product made it to client release. These documents are critical for the internal release of product and the audit review.
    • Real-time notifications: When something doesn’t match up, it’s easy to flag products for future audits.

    Your New Audit Process

    From days of prep to on-demand compilation of existing records in mere minutes, Bluestreak dramatically improves your audit trail process. You can more easily establish and maintain documentation records, resulting in three areas of improved efficiencies:

    • Upfront setup for document tracking
    • On-demand report-outs
    • Complete, up-to-date documentation, including a history of published changes, all in one place

    Bluestreak automates the documentation process, giving you and your auditors access to real-time insights throughout each touchpoint of your production. You’ll have a quick collection of documentation for your next audit, ensuring full compliance and starting your audit on the right foot every time. With documentation for materials, change of materials, specifications, orders, testing, and quality review at the click of a button, you can take control of your next audit.

    If you’re tired of business being halted for lengthy audit processes and want to see how automation not only cuts your audit times in half but helps build better relationships with your customers, contact us for a free demo today!

  • Streamlining Corrective Action with Manufacturing Software

    Anyone who runs a factory knows that there are always areas that can be improved. Maybe staffing levels aren’t optimized for current demand. Perhaps maintenance schedules are causing too much downtime and eating into profitability. Or, maybe your quality control and quality assurance procedures are disorganized, leading to non-compliance, rejected orders, and clients requesting rework. Whatever the case may be, these are all issues that every service-based manufacturing company must deal with at some point.

    Most companies realize that they have inefficiencies and parts of their operations that require corrective action. The tricky part is nailing down exactly which mistakes are costing the most money and how to fix them. It’s difficult to identify where corrective action is needed without robust, real-time data and constant oversight. Harnessing that data gives manufacturers the power they need to take action and gain back lost time, wasted materials, and missed profits. It also leads to a happier, more productive workforce.

    Bluestreak’s software is an essential part of running a service-based manufacturing company. It ties quality control and quality assurance directly to individual work centers and processing steps on the production floor, all in one inclusive database, with no separate silos of disjointed data. The platform is a powerful tool that provides deep insight into every key performance metric that an operations manager needs in order to identify where corrective action must be taken to remedy mistakes that are cutting into profit margins.

    First, identify the corrective action that must be taken to remedy a problem. This is different from simply correcting an issue one time. A true corrective action must fully eliminate the cause of the nonconformity or defect, rather than simply fix it once. The root cause is the reason for the breakdown or inefficiency in the process. It is easier to identify nonconformities when using a dedicated software platform like Bluestreak, to zero in on the root cause of the issue, and to take corrective action that eliminates problems later.

    When implementing a corrective action, you should follow a defined procedure so the corrective action sticks and you don’t have to return to the drawing board looking for another fix in a month or two. First, do your best to understand your system’s requirements. The corrective action can’t be effective without a strong grasp of how the system works and where it can go wrong. Next, plan out your process and address personnel decisions and how the action will be integrated into your current operating system. Then, develop and document the plan and system and conduct training. Finally, implement, test, and continue to refine and improve as more data becomes available.

    It should be every manufacturer’s goal to avoid being forced to develop corrective actions. You can do this by having the right practices in place, accurate management systems and data, defined and documented procedures, continuous tracking and monitoring, and a properly trained staff. This is made easier by gathering and analyzing the right data. Bluestreak’s software does all of that. Track every part from the beginning to the end of the job, see what key staff is doing at all times, and utilize real-time data from the shop floor.

    Bluestreak users benefit from the software’s scheduling tools to better plan out daily operations and minimize machinery being offline at crucial times for maintenance. The ability to analyze schedule data makes it easier to identify inefficiencies in operations and optimize staffing levels and production times. The advanced control and sampling plans feature of the software is another key selling point for service-based manufacturers. Sampling and properly following a defined quality control plan makes it easier to catch errors and deficiencies before they snowball out of control and wreak havoc on the shop’s output levels. Additionally, the advanced specifications manager allows Bluestreak users to build an extensive database of industry standards and specifications that can be used to streamline and improve the quality control process. This helps eliminate nonconformities before they develop by holding the production to the proper standards. The advanced specifications manager also provides feedback and makes it easy to create an audit trail to showcase conformance to specific requirements and standards.

    With Bluestreak, service-based manufacturers gain valuable insight into every part of their production floor. Manage the schedule and workforce, prioritize orders, track every part on the floor (from raw material to finished product), and develop advanced quality control and sampling plans to catch errors more efficiently. With the reporting capabilities of the software, managers can create comprehensive plans for corrective action and ensure that their shops are running better than ever. Bluestreak’s capabilities cover all aspects of daily operations and give every operator the ability to rapidly make corrective actions on the fly.

    Bluestreak’s MES + QMS solution helps service-based manufacturers increase production floor productivity and their profits.

    If you’re ready to leave manual, time-consuming service-based manufacturing tasks in the past, drastically reduce your scrap and rework percentage, gain visibility of your production floor processes, and build better relationships with your customers, contact us for a free consultation today!

  • 4 Tips for Better Manufacturing Audits

    If the thought of auditors fills you with a sense of dread, it’s time to change your audit process. With the amount of data and automation available in manufacturing, there’s no reason to stress over the details of an audit. You can use the right tools at the right time to harness data and receive actionable insights in real time to reduce audit stress and pressure.

    The following four steps will help you ace every manufacturing audit and save time along the way.

    Tip #1: Streamline Documentation

    Product audits always start with the product specifications. These must remain up to date with clear and concise documentation for audit purposes. But you update a specification, it doesn’t always make it to every contact point along your product pipeline.

    If your documentation is faulty, missing pieces, or inconsistent, typical audit prep for specifications alone may take hours. Assuring that all departments are aware of all the changes and that all tasks throughout production are compliant adds even more to this prep time.

    With data availability, there’s no excuse for missing a central dashboard designed to communicate changes across the board. Your silos are killing your productivity on many levels (not just the audit process), and streamlining your process with this central dashboard will save you hours of backtracking your documentation.

    Look for a dashboard that supplies robust manager tools to track specification updates, provides a complete audit trail, and cross-references with processes, personnel, equipment, and material vendors. This data should always be at your fingertips, ready for quick retrieval during manufacturing audits.

    Tip #2: Increase Work Order Visibility

    Here’s your best-case scenario: you have the ability to (fully) sequence and schedule all production operations, including rush order and priorities, which brings work orders full circle, back to your client, and accurately invoiced. You remain confident that every work order considers the latest specifications, no matter how recent. Unfortunately, many manufacturing production pipelines (and thus, manufacturing audit prep) look like this instead:

    • Collecting quotes, work orders, specifications, materials, equipment, operators, repair and maintenance schedules, final products, and customer invoices
    • Reaching out to multiple departments, including accounting, procurement, manufacturing, maintenance, and quality
    • Waiting for a response from each department (potentially for days)
    • Compiling these documents for hours or days, combing through infinite details, and straightening out any missing information

    Streamlining removes those steps and integrates work orders into one seamless function designed to leave a “paper” trail. Work orders should integrate with your documentation, creating an enhanced work order with the most up-to-date specifications and consistency from the quote to the newest set. Once you know that the right products are set for production, you add them to the queue.

    This process creates an intuitive and dynamic schedule managed through a scheduling module. It is no longer a stationary, first-come-first-served production line. You can handle impacts to production with intuitive grace instead of sideline panic for planners and mechanics.

    With all open orders in front of a planner, you streamline changes by looking for jobs to avoid unnecessary equipment or materials changes. You can prioritize hot jobs and allow flexibility in scheduling with the instant downstream communication of changes. Everyone in the line sees the impacts on deadlines when changes and/or downtime occur.

    Once production is complete, shipping and invoicing take over. The final result is step-by-step documentation, from quote to production and customer receipt. With this full-stream document trail, manufacturing audit prep is easy.

    Tip #3: Implement Advanced Quality Management

    Quality management requires robust data. Unfortunately, with large amounts of data collected from multiple people, there’s a huge risk of human error along the way. With advanced quality management, you can remove human error from the reporting process.

    Quality management isn’t about just collecting data from the production process. You must compile and review it against specifications and items ordered. Once you have the data, you must transform it into reports, material certifications, and risk analyses. Otherwise, there’s room for noncompliance and the risk of regulatory consequences. Automation ensures that these reports are consistent and available immediately from your dashboard.

    Without automation, your data sits in raw form, adding hours or days to your audit prep process. With automation, you can quickly pull reports in a way that shows the full picture that your auditor needs. Your audit’s quality segment takes just minutes to create.

    Tip #4: Create Real-Time Production Tracking

    The final step is tracking what happens on your production floor. There’s a ton of information available, but it’s just raw data without visualization and automation. A pathway module on your dashboard enables you to track all the minute details and any major mistakes during production.

    Operators and supervisors need to know when things change, when mistakes occur, and when equipment malfunctions. Real-time notifications allow for quick shifts and expected remediation when required. When you align these notifications with the other three tips, you get a full-picture audit trail of every step of production.

    Previous audit preparations may have included pulling quality issues from each order, ensuring that they aligned with the correct order, specifications, and equipment. These can now exist in a single central database for quick access.

    What All These Tips Have in Common: Automation

    Seamless access to audit documents leads to seamless audits. Preparation doesn’t need to be painstaking and audits don’t need to be stressful. Lack of documentation or disorganized paperwork are two major red flags for any auditor. The right automation can not only streamline your daily operations but also improve your audit process.

    Bluestreak modules work together to ensure that you have all the documentation, reports, and data insights that you need to breeze through audits every single time.

    If you’re tired of business being halted for lengthy audit processes and want to see how automation not only cuts your audit times in half but also helps build better relationships with your customers, contact us for a free demo today!

  • How to Reduce Scrap in Manufacturing

    What difference would it make in your shop if you could reduce scrap by 25% or more?

    In manufacturing, some scrap is a natural consequence. However, that doesn’t mean you need to accept it—or at least, not all of it. There are ways to reduce the amount of scrap that you produce by using the right methods and technology.

    The concept is simple: lower scrap means higher profit margins.

    Scrap Measurement

    When evaluating how to reduce scrap in manufacturing, the first step is to measure your level of scrap. It’s amazing how many manufacturers do this incorrectly or don’t do it at all. For example, some manufacturers measure scrap against sales revenues instead of production costs. But this doesn’t adequately represent the cost of scrap, as it will vary depending on monthly sales.

    Here’s the formula that you should use when measuring how to reduce scrap in manufacturing: Gross Scrap / Cost of Good Produced.

    On a project basis, manage your expected (budgeted) amount of scrap versus the actual amount of scrap. If there’s a discrepancy, that’s one of the first places to look. Then, measure improvement against your baseline when implementing control processes. Even if you deem the amount of scrap to be acceptable, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth investigating other process efficiencies. Any scrap, waste, or rework that you can eliminate leads to higher profits.

    How to Reduce Scrap in Manufacturing

    You can reduce scrap in manufacturing by implementing these five steps:

    1. Having qualified equipment and operators
    2. Eliminating information silos
    3. Having proactive management
    4. Having a scrap materials plan
    5. Having quality management software (QMS)

    Having Qualified Equipment and Operators

    When equipment and operators are properly qualified, scrap goes down. This means ensuring that equipment is calibrated correctly and that maintenance has been done. Poor maintenance habits and improper calibration will create additional scrap and potentially unsafe conditions.

    Make sure your operators are also qualified for the task at hand. If not, the work may be sub-par. Your operators should be trained on the process and the equipment.

    If they’re not scheduled at the same time that the equipment is available, it may slow your production schedule.

    Eliminating Information Silos

    Without real-time information available to everyone who needs it, scrap is inevitable. If you’re using a manual process or the wrong software, your operators may encounter these conditions that lead to increased scrap:

    • Outdated information is used.
    • Updated information doesn’t get passed on to operators.
    • Change orders and process changes are not documented.
    • Papers get lost or misplaced.

    The right real-time QMS solution can solve these problems.

    Having Proactive Management

    If you have acceptable raw materials and stable machining, nearly every other problem tracks back to either human error and/or process problems. When there’s a large amount of scrap or you’re unhappy with the level of scrap, it means you need more proactive management. This should include:

    • Total quality management (TQM)
    • Corrective and preventative actions (CAPA) program
    • Qualifying programs

    If you’re waiting until you catch nonconformances to address quality, you have inefficient systems. A focus on TQM is a strategic and systematic approach to quality through processes. When this proactive quality management thinking is embedded in your culture along with CAPA and qualifying programs, quality improves and scrap reduces.

    Having a Scrap Materials Plan

    Some amount of scrap is simply unavoidable. Besides the cost of labor and rework, you’re also looking at materials costs. Instituting a formal scrap materials plan should examine:

    • Can products or components be refurbished or repurposed?
    • Can scrap be recycled?
    • How can you avoid dumping fees?

    Your first thought for scrap should be repurposing. Re-using scrap metal, for example, is less resource-intensive than using virgin materials. Plastic can often be repurposed for component parts. Every piece of scrap that you can repurpose can save you money, versus having to pay for it be hauled away or dumping fees.

    If scrap can’t be repurposed, then make sure you’re recycling it to recover whatever costs you can.

    Having Quality Management Software: How Bluestreak Helps Reduce Scrap

    Bluestreak manufacturing execution system (MES) and quality management system is a single-platform software solution that manages the entire production pathway with real-time shop floor tracking. Features include:

    • Eliminating information silos
    • Measuring and monitoring processes
    • Having continuous process improvement
    • Real-time tracking on every step

    Bluestreak QMS + MES can help qualify equipment and operators, track maintenance and testing, and facilitate proactive scrap management.

    Want to Learn How to Reduce Scrap in Manufacturing? Try Bluestreak QMS + MES

    Learn how to reduce your rework and scrap by at least 25%. Contact Bluestreak today for a free demo.

    Bluestreak’s MES + QMS solution helps service-based manufacturers drive quality straight down to the production floor to minimize scrap and rework and therefore, protect their profit margins.

    If you’re ready to leave manual, time-consuming service-based manufacturing tasks in the past, drastically reduce your scrap and rework percentage, gain visibility of your production floor processes, and build better relationships with your customers, contact us for a free consultation today!

  • Signs Your Manufacturing Execution System Software Is Killing Your Bottom Line

    Going for a software upgrade is one of the easiest moves that manufacturing companies make when they’re trying to increase productivity, boost their profitability, and become a more powerful operation. Implementing manufacturing execution system software is much simpler than gutting the production floor and bringing in new machinery. The software’s job is to take everything that’s already being done at the shop, streamline it, and make everything run more efficiently, thanks to automating away human error and time-wasting steps.

    If only it were that easy!

    Manufacturing execution system software isn’t a magic bullet for service-based manufacturers. Finding the right software can be challenging, especially for small companies or those that operate within a specific niche. Paying for more software than you need will not hurt the day-to-day function and production on the floor, but it may cost too much and come with dozens of unnecessary features that just collect virtual dust in the cloud. Making the right choice can be the difference between saving hundreds of thousands of dollars per year or having a fancy software package that costs too much and is loaded with extras that you rarely use.

    The manufacturing execution system is the most crucial piece of software for managing plant operations. The MES is constantly tracking data and work in progress from the production floor and allowing the operations manager and staff to see actionable insights in real time.

    Every company that makes a product—especially with all the uncertainty and changes brought on by the global pandemic—stands to benefit from upgrading their manufacturing execution software. Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer completely transformed its manufacturing operations at the onset of the pandemic, to bring its dozens of production sites and offices under a single system. It has seen immediate results and is on track to produce an extra 3 million doses of life-saving medicine this year, improving quality and saving millions of dollars.

    The pressure is on, and not just for companies like Pfizer, which makes something that people depend on to stay alive. Every manufacturing company is under constant pressure to create new things, but faster and for as low a cost as possible. It’s a tough environment to work in. The right manufacturing execution system allows companies to get a boost by reducing scrap, rework, and inventory and increasing the amount of time that their machines are actually up and running, with product flowing off the line.

    Service-based manufacturing is an industry of its own, and companies working in this sector need manufacturing execution system software that is tailored to their needs. Bluestreak offers that package and more for the service-based manufacturing industry, thanks to industry-specific specifications management, intuitive scheduling control for both staff and machinery maintenance, and the ability to manage work orders and track real-time data from the shop floor.

    Bluestreak is ideal for smaller service-based manufacturers thanks to its anytime, anywhere, any device capability. It is 100% browser based, meaning it works with all of its capabilities right out of the box on any laptop, desktop, tablet, or smartphone. There’s no need to code your own apps or spend time doing installations. It works right from the get-go.

    Manufacturing execution system packages that don’t include specifications managers are missing a hugely important component. Luckily, Bluestreak has a robust specifications manager. Bluestreak’s Advanced Specifications Manager is centered around its intelliPlan feature, a powerful tool that allows users to build a sophisticated process for each work order on the fly. Build the process, and quickly attach the appropriate specifications for the material and part being produced. The advanced specifications manager can be updated extremely quickly to ensure that production is always in compliance with the latest standards and revisions.

    Lastly, if different work centers on your production floor aren’t “speaking” to each other via your MES, that’s a big red flag. The data loses value and becomes disjointed or lost in disparate silos. Bluestreak takes care of that with a powerful Integrated Quality Management System. Use the QMS to build a complete database that can define quality, processing, operating instructions, inspection and testing intervals, and data collection and reporting for every work order.

    Don’t trust your software needs to a big-box software provider that isn’t catering directly to your needs. Bluestreak is the answer, providing a cloud-based software package that can be accessed anywhere with internet connection and used on any device. Harness the power of Bluestreak’s system to optimize every aspect of your manufacturing business and stay one step ahead of the competition.

    Bluestreak’s MES + QMS solution helps service-based manufacturers increase production floor productivity and increase their profits.

    If you’re ready to leave manual, time-consuming service-based manufacturing tasks in the past, drastically reduce your scrap and rework percentage, gain visibility of your production floor processes, and build better relationships with your customers, contact us for a free consultation today!

  • Manufacturing Quality Control Methods That Actually Work

    When customers order parts or products, they expect manufacturers to deliver on time and on budget with products that meet the specs—100% of the time. Anything less risks damaging the customer relationship.

    When quality suffers, costs go up. There’s more scrap, more rework, and more waste.

    The Impact of Poor Quality Control

    When there’s poor quality or your manufacturing quality control methods are not working efficiently, it can impact your operation in a variety of ways:

    • If a part of a product leaves the facility and gets to the customer, it might mean warranty work, recalls, or even lawsuits over defective parts.
    • It might cost you future sales.
    • There’s likely more rework.
    • There are missed deadlines or additional freight costs to meet deadlines.

    Poor manufacturing quality control methods raise your operating costs and lower your profit margins. While it’s not cheap to deliver consistent high-quality parts and products, if your products aren’t conforming to the quality that your customers need, you’re going to lose those customers.

    When you stack up the cost of customer acquisition and the lifetime value of a customer, it can quickly get expensive.

    Not only does it cost you when you manufacture parts with defects, but you also have to pay to correct them. It’s a double loss.

    What Happens When Quality Improves?

    The right manufacturing quality control methods can lead to quality improvements. This creates a ripple effect of positive results, including:

    • Productivity improves: There are fewer defects, less waste, and less rework.
    • Capacity increases: More defect-free units can be produced with the same material, equipment, and labor.
    • The cost per unit decreases: More defect-free units are produced at the same cost.
    • Cost control improves: Prices can be reduced and/or margins can be increased.

    Manual Methods Don’t Work

    It can be easy to detect when a part of a product doesn’t meet specs in testing. It’s harder to find out where in the production process that things went wrong. When QC is handled manually, it may be exceedingly difficult. Whether you’re using pen and paper or spreadsheets, vital details can get lost or never make it to individual operators on the production floor. If you see any of these warning signs, it’s time to take another look at your manufacturing quality control methods:

    • Information silos
    • Lost paperwork
    • Change orders not communicated
    • CAPAs not fully implemented

    All of these negatively impact the quality that your team produces. Even if the operators on your shop floor can overcome these problems, a significant amount of time is wasted as they track down lost or misfiled paperwork, verifying that they have the latest specs or change orders and that corrective actions have been implemented. When your team is forced to spend time on tasks that you could automate, it costs you money.

    How MES + QMS Systems Help Manufacturers Control Quality

    For quality control to be effective, you must have formal and efficient manufacturing quality control methods. Your QC systems need to ensure that:

    • Proper procedures are followed throughout the entire manufacturing process.
    • Equipment is calibrated and operating properly to avoid variances.
    • Employees are appropriately trained.
    • Materials are handled correctly to avoid damage.
    • Variances are detected and resolved.

    Using the right MES + QMS system can provide an end-to-end solution for quality control.

    Bluestreak’s™ Integrated Quality Management System (QMS) ties quality control and quality assurance directly to individual work centers and processing steps on the production floor, all in one inclusive database with no separate silos of disjointed data. Much of the production process is automated, so you can have a paperless audit trail and consistent information available for everyone who needs it in real time.

    There’s no more lost or misplaced paperwork. The specs will be consistent every time. Change orders will be communicated and signed off by operators before moving production to the next phase. If corrective actions are needed, everyone will know and be required to make the necessary changes. When you eliminate information silos, everyone benefits.

    There are also efficiencies that come from ensuring that you have properly calibrated equipment to do the job and trained operators scheduled to do production runs. It is amazing how often these two essential items aren’t scheduled in advance, causing a delay.

    Bluestreak™ MES+QMS tracks all job routing for every part. It can capture any kind of production data during tracking, as well as qualify personnel, equipment, and outside vendors in real time. A fully extensible QMS system is included, along with certification generation, to make compliance and audits less complex.

    More Effective Quality Control Methods That Work

    If your quality is suffering or you need to improve your margins, defect rates, and customer satisfaction, you should implement more effective manufacturing quality control methods. Contact Bluestreak for a demo, and let us show you how we can improve quality.

    Bluestreak’s MES + QMS solution helps service-based manufacturers drive quality straight down to the production floor to minimize scrap and rework and therefore, protect their profit margins.

    If you’re ready to leave manual, time-consuming service-based manufacturing tasks in the past, drastically reduce your scrap and rework percentage, gain visibility of your production floor processes, and build better relationships with your customers, contact us for a free consultation today!

  • Everything You Need for a Manufacturing Process Audit Checklist

    Manufacturing operates on razor-thin margins. Every part of your end-to-end process must undergo a thorough inspection for streamlining and consistency. As data becomes an integral part of the manufacturing process, it could be time for you to audit your end-to-end pipeline to ensure the greatest efficiency and reduce costs.

    Before you get started, however, you need a robust manufacturing process audit checklist to ensure consistency and compliance. Here’s what you need to know.

    The Benefits of a Checklist

    It’s possible to operate without a checklist at all or with a generic one designed with no particular company in mind. However, can you be sure that your audits are consistent and proactive? If you operate without a checklist, you risk your consistency and your compliance.

    Checklists provide the following:

    • Consistency: Everyone evaluates the same way.
    • Recordkeeping: You never question when or if an audit happened.
    • Comprehensive reviews: You’ll never miss a detail again.
    • Pro-active feedback: Identify issues before they become catastrophic.
    • Preventative maintenance: Based on feedback, you can accomplish one of the biggest success determinants in manufacturing.

    A checklist not only improves the process but also helps manufacturers make the shift to valuable proactive operations. A few generations ago, downtime due to unplanned maintenance was part and parcel of the process, but now, it’s a death sentence.

    Building a Robust Checklist

    When you shift to a checklist-based audit, it can be tempting to copy something generic and use that. But that’s just too risky. Instead, think through a customized checklist that gathers the data you need and ensures a comprehensive yet efficient audit every single time, no matter who conducts it.

    1. Set your schedule. Checklists only work with regular upkeep. Make sure everyone is on the same page about audit schedules.
    2. Create your accountability line. Who reports to whom? What happens to records? Who is responsible for initiating and following up? These details matter for follow-ups and accountability.
    3. Customize your checklist for your process. Your manufacturing process isn’t like anyone else’s. You can view other examples for reference, but your checklist must follow your unique process exactly.
    4. Edit for length and clarity. You want a comprehensive audit, but you don’t want to exhaust your auditors. Make it easier for them to maintain audit schedules by streamlining and cutting unnecessary repetition.
    5. Ensure that there’s room for auditor judgment. The checklist isn’t the end-all. It’s designed to guide your auditors, not erase their expertise. Make sure there’s room for this expert assessment.

    The “right” checklist is highly intuitive to your manufacturing process. Even one from a company in the same industry may miss crucial details from your competitive differentiation. With a customized checklist, you assess your process as it stands and ensure that you’ve considered your manufacturing process as the unique operation it is.

    Follow Up

    A checklist isn’t effective if no one is following up with the data gathered. The final parts of a compliance checklist are actionable benchmarks to improve the process and potentially generalize what’s going well. There are three follow-up areas: the checklist itself, the process, and noncompliance follow-ups.

    The checklist: Tweak it to provide the data you need

    As your manufacturing process evolves with technology or operations changes, make sure your checklist is up to date to cover those new aspects. In twenty-first-century manufacturing, this is a regular need.

    Think of the checklist as a dynamic tool rather than a static document. Measure it against your data and feedback from auditors, figure out what’s missing, and generalize what’s going well. Your auditor can then use it in conjunction with domain level expertise to provide robust data and feedback for your process itself.

    The process: Set benchmarks for post-audit strategies with time deadlines

    Without a deadline, nothing gets done. All your benchmarks and follow-ups should have actionable deadlines. These include having proactive and preventative measures, reducing unplanned downtime, and ensuring compliance with the latest regulatory standards.

    You’ll also need a plan if a timetable isn’t met. This should be part of the checklist records so everyone down to the local level is on the same page.

    Noncompliance: Ensure complete documentation and follow-through

    When you have an issue of noncompliance or another failing, it’s essential to document these fully. Follow up and use that information for future improvements. This data becomes your information trail and your path forward.

    It can be tempting to gloss over the recordkeeping of past failures once everything has been brought back into compliance. However, you rob your organization of the chance to streamline the process and provide a roadmap for improvement in the future.

    Transforming Your Manufacturing Process

    A manufacturing process audit checklist tailored to your specific needs is the only way to ensure that you get the data and the results you require. You could get by without one, but in a world of data-driven decision making and razor-thin margins, can you afford to?

    Think of your checklist as your process auditor’s toolbox. The checklist enhances, reminds, and ensures consistency while allowing their expertise to shine through. Once you have a customized manufacturing process audit checklist, you can reduce your risk and help ease those razor-thin margins of success. Your process depends on it.

    If you’re tired of business being halted for lengthy audit processes and want to see how automation not only cuts your audit times in half but also helps build better relationships with your customers, contact us for a free demo today!

  • 5 Avoidable Quality Control Issues in Manufacturing

    No matter what causes poor quality and adds to your waste, scrap, and rework, the result is the same: it ties up resources, wastes time, and costs money. Reducing scrap and rework must be a priority in dealing with your quality control issues.

    To drive consistent and sustainable yield, you must create a seamless workflow and understand the role that it plays in throughput, yield, energy, and quality control issues.

    Here are common mistakes that lead to quality control issues.

    1. Misunderstanding Product Specifications

    Information silos in manufacturing are all too common and problematic. If specifications aren’t effectively communicated to everyone in the production chain, mistakes can happen. Paperwork can get lost or be outdated. Change orders may not be updated to the individual operator level. Corrective actions might be taken but fail to become part of the standard operating procedures.

    Each of these avoidable quality control issues is solvable by creating an integrated end-to-end solution for production control.

    2. Using Improper Tools

    A common problem that will create quality control issues is when the wrong tools or improperly calibrated tools are used, including:

    • Machines that aren’t appropriate for the job
    • Machines that do not comply with project requirements
    • Machines that aren’t calibrated or maintained
    • Employees who are not qualified (certified) to operate a machine
    • Testing tools that are inadequate

    3. Using Manual Processes

    Exceptio probat regulam in casibus non exceptis.” This Latin phrase translates to, “The exception confirms the rule in cases not excepted.” But you may be more familiar with the colloquialism: “lost in translation.” When you’re doing things manually, it’s easy for critical details to be lost in translation.

    Quality control issues are extremely difficult to manage when you’re doing things using a manual process.

    4. Failing to Plan

    Failing to adequately plan out your work or using institutional knowledge rather than facts and data to make decisions can lead to waste.

    For example, nesting in metal stamping allows more than one part type per die by inserting smaller parts into areas that would otherwise be scrap. Stamping shops can utilize offal dies (recovery dies) to use scrap to produce other parts by stitching or fastening scrap into continuous strips. Many manufacturers fail to use nesting and recovery dies to minimize scrap.

    Extra expenses add up when manufacturers do not have a formal scrap recycling program that can reuse scrap or sell it if it cannot be reused.

    5. Failing to Test

    Companies that effectively reduce their scrap involve everyone in the production chain to evaluate processes. Once potential solutions are identified, Multivariate Testing (MVT) is used to measure the effectiveness of possible solutions and how changes interact with each other and impact the outcomes.

    How to Tell If Your Quality Control Plan Is Failing

    Unacceptable levels of scrap and rework may be two of the most obvious signs, but there are other warning signs that you should look for that indicate that your quality control plan needs work.

    These include:

    1. Missed deadlines and budgets
    2. Higher than normal maintenance and/or support costs
    3. Warranty repairs for defects
    4. Failed audits
    5. Customer complaints
    6. Failure to meet customer demands

    These are often symptoms of an inefficient quality control process. You’ll need to attach the root cause to change things. Don’t just mask the symptoms. When the quality control plan is flawed, your operation pays the price.

    Practice Proactive Quality Control

    A quality control plan helps you manage the manufacturing process and sets the stage for continuous improvement. If you wait to react until problems become obvious, it’s too late. Reducing quality control issues requires a proactive approach.

    How Bluestreak Manages Quality Control

    Bluestreak’s Integrated Quality Management System (QMS) ties quality control and quality assurance directly to individual work centers and processing steps on the production floor. An all-in-one inclusive database with no separate silos of disjointed data makes sure everyone has the latest documentation at all times.

    Real-time documentation is the key to consistency and repeatability and the underpinning for a quality control plan.

    Conclusion

    Avoiding quality control issues in manufacturing requires a proactive approach. Look for the warning signs early, and take steps to make changes before they grow into bigger problems.

    It’s essential to look at quality control issues holistically. Examine the entire production process from start to finish, analyzing each step along the way. When you’re doing things manually on spreadsheets or utilizing software that’s been adapted from another industry, this can be extremely challenging. That’s because using the wrong software, i.e., ERP/MRP systems where the primary focus is inventory management, typically requires expensive customizations to adequately handle service-based workflow requirements.

    Bluestreak’s QMS is designed exclusively for the manufacturing industry to drive quality control management from the front office directly to the production floor. Contact Bluestreak for a quote, and start on your path to solving quality control issues.

    Bluestreak’s MES + QMS solution helps service-based manufacturers drive quality straight down to the production floor to minimize scrap and rework and, therefore, protect their profit margins.

    If you’re ready to leave manual, time-consuming service-based manufacturing tasks in the past, drastically reduce your scrap and rework percentage, gain visibility of your production floor processes, and build better relationships with your customers, contact us for a free consultation today!

  • How to Increase Productivity in Manufacturing

    Every manufacturing company in the world is constantly looking for a competitive edge by increasing their productivity and improving their profit margins. That’s obviously easier said than done, because if every manufacturing company could wave a magic wand and increase productivity, every business would succeed and everyone would get fabulously wealthy. Instead, it is extremely difficult for manufacturing companies to increase their productivity. We know this because every year, hundreds of manufacturing businesses fail or cease to exist. Sometimes it’s unavoidable that a business goes under, as has been the case this year with the global economy ravaged by the pandemic, but more often than not, a manufacturing company struggles and ultimately fails because management has not exhausted all their options to improve the daily operations of the company.

    One of the first and easiest avenues for manufacturing companies to consider when it comes to ramping up productivity is to make sure they have updated all their machinery to current standards and are maintaining it properly. It’s important to keep equipment current and running efficiently to keep productivity maxed out. Most companies upgrade as frequently as their budget allows and take their maintenance seriously, but it can be expensive to overhaul an entire shop with new equipment. If bringing in brand-new machinery and tools isn’t in the cards for your company, consideration should be given to implementing a modern software platform to manage production operations.

    The implementation of a cloud-based software system like Bluestreak can dramatically increase manufacturing productivity. The software can manage scheduling, maintenance, and different types of orders; manage client and industry specifications; cut down on wasted times, errors, and rework; and make it easier to manage multiple orders at once. With Bluestreak, operations managers are given real-time data from their floors, allowing them to closely track orders and what work is being done. Workforces can be more efficiently managed and scheduled based on real-time floor requirements and demand. Cut down on wasted time, and deploy staff more efficiently to the projects that need them most.

    According to Construct Connect, there are six key ways that manufacturers can directly increase productivity:

    1. Review existing workflow: Thoroughly review your people, processes, and technology.
    2. Update your processes and technology: Identify areas of weakness.
    3. Commit to schedule maintenance: Ignoring maintenance will only lead to lost productivity at some point down the road.
    4. Train and educate employees: Commit to training sessions and the development of your employees’ skills.
    5. Organize your workplace: Optimize the shop floor to eliminate excess movement, materials, and workstations.
    6. Maintain the correct level of inventory: Don’t store more raw materials than you need, and correctly predict when you’ll need to order more parts to meet client demands.

    Bluestreak software is capable of addressing all six of these target areas that can increase productivity. Managers can start with Bluestreak’s Schedule functionality to manage their production floor load, plan work for all orders on the books, and set priorities on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis. The platform’s iMaintain component integrates with the scheduling tool to help stick to a predetermined preventative maintenance schedule and track downtime, labor hours, and repair costs, all while working around existing orders and work demand. The Production Pathway improves shop floor productivity with complete, real-time data for every work order on the floor. It also generates extremely valuable data that can be used to glean insight into how well your production floor is actually operating. Make use of the data to identify weaknesses that can be targeted to improved productivity. Lastly, Bluestreak allows companies to streamline their specification management with the Advanced Specifications Manager. Use this tool to ensure that your orders meet client and industry specifications and to give yourself an auditable paper trail that makes sure every order is produced to the highest quality.

    Implementing software like Bluestreak makes it easier for operations managers to identify their biggest losses on the floor. Find the easy wins and knock them out first. From there, the productivity gains will snowball. Making smaller, incremental improvements is much more effective for becoming more productive, as opposed to swinging for the fences with every single project. Attacking productivity this way will also improve employee productivity and keep the staff more engaged and interested in their work. Remember, it’s not just the productivity of the machines that you need to focus on.

    Software isn’t a panacea for manufacturing companies, but it is still a frontier that can be conquered for those companies still lagging behind their competitors when it comes to running their manufacturing operations. It is impossible to keep up and continue growing as a modern manufacturing company without industry-leading software, and Bluestreak is prepared to lead the way and help manufacturers reach their full potential.

    Bluestreak’s MES + QMS solution helps service-based manufacturers increase production floor productivity and increase their profits.

    If you’re ready to leave manual, time-consuming service-based manufacturing tasks in the past, drastically reduce your scrap and rework percentage, gain visibility of your production floor processes, and build better relationships with your customers, contact us for a free consultation today!

  • 6 Essentials of Successful Audits in Manufacturing

    Successful audits start with a successful process. The essentials are easy, sometimes even obvious, and can be implemented quickly to kick-start your process before the next audit.

    MES/QMS software can help you organize your manufacturing process for easy prep when an audit arises. Let’s go over the benefits and essential needs that are addressed when using a good program to prepare for successful audits.

    First, however, the following elements must be identified and followed for audit success, from preparation to closeout.

    1. Know the audit type.
      1. Internal or external
      2. System
      3. Process
      4. Product
      5. Financial
    2. Outline tasks, and collect required documents for the specific audit type.
    3. Review audit documents with the auditor, and collect additional information as needed.
    4. Record any audit findings.
    5. Outline path for correction.
    6. Schedule audit follow-up if needed.

    Of the audit types, let’s focus on product and process audits and how the essentials of a successful audit are integrated for success in each one.

    Before audit preparations can even begin, though, your production line specifics are critical items, immediately followed by impeccable organization.

    The following six items are the essentials of successful manufacturing audits:

    • Knowing what you are manufacturing and to what specifications
    • Creating and following a schedule, including material movement and operator involvement
    • Building to the highest quality and documenting all non-conformance and how they were addressed
    • Managing work orders for specific orders and focused audits
    • Knowing when and where errors occurred, to ensure that all final products are correct
    • Compiling all documentation for auditor review

    These are processes that should be in place no matter the timeline, before or during an audit. Preparing for a specific audit is easier with the assistance of these essentials.

    Process Audit: This is an audit process that confirms that all processes are performed correctly, efficiently, and within their defined and established limits. Process audits look at operations, responses to issues, and overall procedures to see if they meet specifications.

    When preparing for a process audit, addressing the following areas is vital.

    • Know the answers to these questions: which equipment is used in the specific process being audited? When is planned maintenance for the equipment? When was the last maintenance and repair dates, including all parts replaced or repairs made?
    • Compile all calibration records.
    • Provide documentation to support any issues experienced with the equipment, production staff using the equipment, and how these issues were addressed.
    • Have work order management details outlining which orders were processed through for the timeframe of the audit period.
    • Document issues or non-conformances in products that resulted from the equipment included in the audit.
    • Ensure that all documentation is organized and complete, including any financials, personnel, and training.

    If requested by the auditor, additional details may be required.

    Product Audit: Product audits take a deep dive into the products and services offered, to ensure compliance with regulatory standards and performance specifications as set forth by the regulatory agency, company quality standards, or customer needs.

    • Clearly outline which products are being audited, with associated materials and equipment.
    • Create a schedule of production activities to include timeframes for materials to arrive and each step of production, testing, quality checks, and final acceptance for shipping to clients.
    • Compile documentation of all non-conformances discovered and all failed testing or quality checks.
    • Know the answers to these questions: how are quality issues addressed? Are products re-worked or scrapped? What is being done to prevent the same issue from happening again? Which clients have received these products, and how does the product meet the work order specifics? As problems are identified, how are they tracked? How is final acceptance determined and documented?
    • Organization of all documents is critical for a smooth audit.

    How Bluestreak can help

    successful audits 2

    If you’re tired of business being halted for lengthy audit processes and want to see how automation not only cuts your audit times in half but helps build better relationships with your customers, contact us for a free demo today!

  • How Automation in Manufacturing Eliminates Quality Control Issues

    When it comes to automation in manufacturing, the word “automation” typically has a negative connotation for many workers, conjuring up images of robots and computers swooping in to take their jobs or greatly reduce their earning capacity. But automation is not new. Manufacturers have been automating human tasks in their factories since the early 1900s, when Henry Ford built a mechanized belt in his factory in Detroit.

    There’s no denying the validity of those workers’ feelings, but the best manufacturing companies find a way to make automation a good thing. Automation has drastically transformed the way that manufacturing gets done, but it’s not always for the worst, especially for smaller manufacturing operations. Automation can even be freeing for workers, allowing them to focus on the parts of their job that they are most passionate about.

    Automation has revolutionized automotive, aviation, and electronics manufacturing, allowing high-tech products to be finished at a fraction of the cost. The technology is only going to get better, allowing the quality of the products we use to continue improving exponentially, without seeing a similar spike in price.

    For smaller manufacturing shops, automation can actually be a boon for human productivity—and not just helpful for the bottom line by eliminating workers. Implementing automation frees up valuable time and resources to focus on more important tasks. Automation in manufacturing on the business operations side takes away repetitive tasks like scheduling and quality control, leading to an optimized production floor with less wasted time and a higher profit margin. It’s unlikely that full-blown automation run by artificial intelligence will reach smaller manufacturers when the technology first becomes available. These companies will have to focus their energies on navigating the edges of the automating world, but any company can harness the power of automation through the use of cutting-edge software platforms that can manage the shop floor.

    Automation in manufacturing improves production floor productivity and increases company profits, but it’s important to remember that those gains don’t just have to come by trimming the workforce. The use of the right manufacturing software to automate away certain tasks can allow smaller manufacturers to get a leg up without the dreaded layoffs. This is where Bluestreak comes in for smaller players in the Additive Manufacturing sector. The cloud-based software platform is designed entirely to make life easier for up-and-coming companies in this challenging space.

    Automation can be implemented using Bluestreak’s software, which is geared specifically for service-based manufacturers. You won’t have to break the bank pouring thousands of dollars into an overhauled production floor with upgraded machinery. The kind of automation that Bluestreak helps bring to a production environment is specifically important for improving quality control by removing the human error that can lead to low-quality products or excess time spent doing too much quality control. Bluestreak allows for job-specific quality control and specifications management that takes the guesswork out of producing a consistent, quality product that meets the client’s exact specifications.

    With Bluestreak’s platform, manufacturers can develop advanced quality control of every facet of their operation. The software’s advanced control plans allow for the creation of part-specific plans for every part of a work order. It can be easily modified to manage different part numbers on the same work order that may be manufactured using a similar process but have different final characteristics. The integrated quality management system is packed with features, including advanced specifications management, preventative maintenance and scheduling, labor tracking, production floor monitoring, and data collection. Finally, Bluestreak users can automatically set their sampling plans. No more questioning whether you’re taking enough samples per batch—it’s all right there in the software and can’t be ignored. Human error is removed from the quality control process, which leads to better, more thorough quality control and assurance in the long run. Data is everything for a modern manufacturing business, and Bluestreak excels on that front, automating data collection and presenting it in a clear, concise, and actionable format that gives managers constant feedback on the status of their operation.

    For manufacturers looking to ride the automation wave but unable to go all in, implementing a software platform like Bluestreak can remove the potential for human error from many of the day-to-day operations tasks like scheduling and quality control. Software isn’t as thrilling as having dozens of AI-powered robots zipping around the shop floor, but it’s still exciting seeing its impact on the bottom line and your company’s reputation for delivering a quality product on time for every order. Count on Bluestreak to make this happen for your company.

    Bluestreak’s MES + QMS solution helps service-based manufacturers increase production floor productivity and increase their profits.

    If you’re ready to leave manual, time-consuming service-based manufacturing tasks in the past, drastically reduce your scrap and rework percentage, gain visibility of your production floor processes, and build better relationships with your customers, contact us for a free consultation today!

  • This Not-So-Hidden Manufacturing Cost Is Cutting into Your Profits

    While every manufacturer strives for optimal efficiency, we all know that perfection in everything we do is rarely achieved. Even the most-efficient top performers in the manufacturing industry still wind up with some scrap and rework.

    On average, these top performers’ waste, scrap, and rework total 0.6% of revenue. Less-efficient manufacturers spend as much as 2.2%. That means inefficient companies waste more than three and a half times as much of their revenue due to scrap or rework. That’s real money. Some companies do even worse. The COPQ (cost of poor quality) can account for as much as 30% of gross sales.

    Tracking Scrap and Rework

    Do you track the amount of scrap and rework in your operation? If so, congratulations! Most companies don’t and have no real idea of how much money they are losing. In some cases, the estimate of wasted manufacturing cost can be off by millions of dollars.

    Cost of Scrap and Rework in Manufacturing

    Many factors can create rework and scrap:

    • Errors
    • Omissions
    • Failures
    • Damage
    • Change orders
    • Machine breakdown
    • Poor maintenance
    • Poor design

    The costs of rework and scrap can be substantial. Material costs, labor, and wear and tear on the equipment all add up—so do energy costs. A study by the US Energy Information Administration states that improving a manufacturer’s scrap and rework can shave 5-15% off a company’s energy bill.

    It can also lead to project overruns that reduce—or eliminate—profit margins.

    These issues are bad enough, but if poor quality work gets out the door to the end customer, that can lead to even bigger problems.

    How Do Top Performers Reduce Scrap and Rework?

    A recent survey of world-class performers revealed that they approach quality differently than other manufacturers. They have a relentless obsession with quality assurance (QA) and continuous improvement. This attention drives down manufacturing cost and increases quality.

    When asked about their top priorities, these top performers said that they focus their attention in five key areas that they believe are essential to improve:

    1. Reducing manufacturing costs
    2. Improving workplace safety
    3. Eliminating process waste
    4. Setting up time reduction

    Each item can be addressed with a quality management system (QMS) as part of a QA program. The most efficient performers use end-to-end QMS software that tracks raw materials from the moment they get ordered until the finished parts go out the door.

    Using a paperless workflow, they can make sure every detail is instantly available in one place to anyone who needs it. When a work order is changed, the new specifications are in place, and a process can’t move forward until someone on the production floor acknowledges the change. By eliminating information silos, clear communication cuts down on scrap and rework.

    These companies also have formal QA programs to reduce defects, avoid conflicts, and mitigate errors. They have documented, consistent processes and practices, as well as continuous improvement programs to increase quality and efficiency.

    How Bluestreak Reduces Scrap and Rework

    Bluestreak’ Integrated Quality Management System ties quality control and QA directly to individual work centers and processing steps on the production floor. Every detail is in one inclusive database, with no separate silos of disjointed data. Paperless workflow can be viewed by everyone in the production chain on workstations or mobile devices.

    Job tracking and routing create an efficient production pathway that ensures personnel and equipment are qualified and available for the job. Real-time updates, including work order changes, and risk scoring provide total transparency.

    Front office personnel can centrally manage customer information, including billing, shipping, part data, POs, quotes, and specs.

    Managing Scrap and Nonconforming Parts

    One other way that Bluestreak’s MES/QMS system excels is in the management of nonconforming parts and scrap. It automatically issues non-conformances that prevent parts from entering the next step in processing. It can stop small issues from becoming big problems.

    Bluestreak also manages advanced disposition control of scraps and parts.

    When corrective actions or preventative actions (CAPAs) are needed, they are automatically connected to future orders. Quality managers can track CAPA instructions, which must be viewed and acknowledged by shop floor personnel before proceeding. It also helps enforce data collection from the shop floor during processing.

    As parts are produced, quality test data is stored and a complete audit trail is available for compliance. This includes everything from version tracking, approvals, and notifications to policy administration of quality documentation. Bluestreak provides a detailed, time-stamped, and user-identified audit trail for each document to meet required accreditations, certifications, and compliance standards, such as ISO 9001 or AS9100.

    Conclusion

    All these practices can help reduce scrap and rework. By having a consistent, transparent process with end-to-end tracking, manufacturers can improve their quality and reduce waste. This leads to a lower overall manufacturing cost, which leads to a more profitable company!

    Contact Bluestreak, and reduce the amount of scrap and rework in your manufacturing operation.

    Bluestreak’s MES + QMS solution helps service-based manufacturers drive quality straight down to the production floor to minimize scrap and rework and therefore, protect their profit margins.

    If you’re ready to leave manual, time-consuming, service-based manufacturing tasks in the past, drastically reduce your scrap and rework percentage, gain visibility of your production floor processes, and build better relationships with your customers, contact us for a free consultation today!

  • 5 Things Your Manufacturing Execution System Should Ensure with Your QMS

    Adding a manufacturing execution system is a big step for a service-based manufacturing company, but an essential one. For smaller service-based and Additive Manufacturers, the addition of a proven manufacturing execution system (MES) can supercharge profits and minimize many of the headaches that come with running a production floor and manufacturing operation. However, many production floor managers still lack an understanding of how their operation stands to benefit from adopting industry-specific execution software platforms.

    The market for manufacturing execution systems and software is poised for tremendous growth, with dozens of players vying for customers and dollars from manufacturers. It’s becoming a billion-dollar software sector as manufacturers ramp up mass production, with populations continuing to grow exponentially. Automation will continue to power manufacturing, creating a greater need for MES to keep complex systems running efficiently.

    Companies hoping to implement a manufacturing execution system should first strive to understand exactly what a quality MES can bring to their production floor. For starters, it can give manufacturers a real-time view of their workflow and provide constant feedback and insight into how things are working on the floor. Having an MES allows companies operating in heavily-regulated industries, like pharmaceutical, aerospace, or oil and gas, to show that their processes have strict quality control and quality assurance plans in place.

    The goal of implementing a manufacturing execution system is to reduce inefficiencies and minor mistakes that prove costly when compounded over and over again. Bluestreak’s MES+QMS platform automates and optimizes many of the repeatable tasks on the production floor that can introduce human error when left unchecked.

    With Bluestreak’s MES, companies can act swiftly to maneuver between different orders, manage rush orders, improve regulatory compliance, manage customer specifications across various industries, improve scheduling, and upgrade production data and quality management.

    Bluestreak is a flexible platform with the capability to work for any service-based manufacturing operation. It is constantly being updated with new capabilities and functions that make manufacturing headaches go away. Let’s break down five of the biggest benefits that implementing Bluestreak can bring to service-based manufacturers.

    1. Bluestreak Advanced Specifications Manager: This allows manufacturers to build a comprehensive library of industry specifications that can be managed on a job-by-job basis. It improves accuracy and efficiency, with real-time feedback when work orders aren’t following a specification or using the right equipment.
    2. Real-time shop floor tracking: With real-time shop floor tracking, you can monitor all work in progress at every stage of processing—from contract review to shipment. Empower your operators by giving them access to critical information, such as processing data, part pictures, drawings, purchase orders, and more.
    3. Bluestreak Schedule: This gives planners and supervisors an intuitive scheduling tool that makes load planning easier and more dynamic. Using Bluestreak Schedule allows companies to keep a flexible schedule that can react quickly to rush or emergency orders. Keep your production floor running to its true capacity without sacrificing any accuracy or quality. With Bluestreak, manufacturers have a constant view of their floor’s schedule and can plan well in advance.
    4. Advanced Quality: Take the human error out of quality data entry and reporting on certifications and have enforceable risk analysis built into your quality management system (QMS) with Bluestreak Advanced Quality. Users can drill down to part-specific quality control and assign a level of control to every single part in the work order.
    5. Bluestreak’s Q2I (Quote to Invoice): This is a fully integrated platform designed exclusively for service-based companies. Q2I provides critical features designed to dramatically enhance information visibility and accessibility. It enables managers to have pricing and part data right at their fingertips, as well as equipment calibration logs, quality control plans, and drawings, pictures, and diagrams to make sure the work order follows every specification, from the quote to the invoice with the finished product.

    The importance of implementing the right MES for your manufacturing business cannot be overstated. In the modern manufacturing world, having the best manufacturing execution system for your specific production floor is an absolute must. Bluestreak has worked tirelessly to ensure that our product is capable of handling all the most important capabilities that manufacturers seek in an MES. This software is essential for companies hoping to stand out in the service-based manufacturing industry. Without it, competitors will surge past and leave you in the rearview. Count on Bluestreak to help you eliminate mistakes, get more efficient, and run a modern manufacturing production floor that will be the envy of the competition.

    Bluestreak’s MES + QMS solution helps service-based manufacturers increase production floor productivity and increase their profits.

    If you’re ready to leave manual, time-consuming, service-based manufacturing tasks in the past, drastically reduce your scrap and rework percentage, gain visibility of your production floor processes, and build better relationships with your customers, contact us for a free consultation today!

  • 5 Strategies to Reduce Scrap and Rework in Manufacturing

    When it comes to scrap and rework, there’s a massive gap between the top-performing manufacturers and everyone else. A survey by the American Machinist shows that leading shops have roughly half the cost of scrap and rework compared to their peers. But that’s only part of the story. These manufacturers also create more than four times the number of units of less-efficient operations.

    What’s the secret? End-to-end quality control, from the office to the production floor.

    What Causes Scrap and Rework in Manufacturing?

    Scrap and rework are byproducts of an inefficient process. Causes can vary, including:

    • Machine malfunction
    • Human error
    • Poor quality materials
    • Design changes not communicated
    • Design changes not implemented
    • Lack of a quality assurance program

    These items are controllable and in most cases, preventable with the right processes, systems, and training.

    The costs associated with poor quality are high. Every time that you produce scrap or have to rework parts, you’re increasing the cost of production. The American Society for Quality recommends that the cost of quality typically averages 15-20% of sales, but for some service-based manufacturers, it can rise as high as 40%. Investing in improving your performance to reduce scrap and rework can significantly lower the cost of producing parts and increase your profit margin.

    A Plan to Reduce Scrap and Rework

    When a part is defective or non-conforming or has to be scrapped, it’s costly—especially if it isn’t caught before large-scale production begins. To avoid situations like these, manufacturers need a proactive approach to quality.

    1. Improving Communication

    Too often, the information needed on the production floor never quite makes it to the people doing the work. Change orders might be made, specs might change, or processes might evolve, yet the employees who need to know somehow don’t.

    It’s easy for papers to get missed or misplaced. A plan to reduce scrap and rework should include an end-to-end paperless software solution that tracks every step of the process and is available for view by everyone involved in the process.

    2. Organizing the System for Documentation

    Your software solution should have a way to store every spec, blueprint, work order, and change order for every piece being manufactured. It should be in real time so there’s no old information in the system that can lead to errors in the manufacturing process.

    3. Improving Change Management

    Many errors can be traced back to a poorly executed change management process. When something changes, it should immediately be communicated to everyone. The right quality management system (QMS), such as Bluestreak, will keep everything up to date in real time. It can force operators to accept and acknowledge changes via an electronic signature to verify that the changes have been made and to create an audit trail.

    4. Optimizing the Manufacturing Processes

    Optimizing the manufacturing process means putting in place a process that recognizes problems so you can take corrective action. It should track machine maintenance to keep things running smoothly, as well as compliance and training requirements, and manage conflicts in equipment or personnel.

    Efficient design practices can also be deployed to minimize scrap. Metal stamping shops can reduce scrap by inserting smaller parts into otherwise unused areas. Recovery dies can be implemented to use scrap to produce other parts by stitching it into strips.

    A scrap materials plan should be instituted to reuse, repurpose, or recycle as much scrap as possible.

    5. Implementing End-to-End Quality Assurance

    The most efficient service-based manufacturers subscribe to a total quality management (TQM) philosophy, including a formal corrective and preventive action (CAPA) program.

    The main objective is to identify and eliminate the root cause of quality defects. This means tight control over the entire life cycle of manufacturing, including:

    • Production and process controls
    • Equipment controls
    • Material controls
    • Design controls
    • Documentation and change controls

    For manufacturers, the best way to reduce scrap and rework and adhere to the tenants of TQM is to employ a QMS like Bluestreak.

    How Bluestreak Ensures Quality

    Bluestreak’s™ Integrated QMS ties quality control and quality assurance directly to individual work centers and processing steps on the production floor, all in one inclusive database with no separate silos of disjointed data.

    Users can quickly and simply set up control plans attached to each order that define an order’s specific quality and processing requirements, including:

    Bluestreak’s QMS enables users to collect quality data directly while providing powerful quality control tools. It creates a complete audit trail for validation and repeatability. This drives quality management from the front office directly to the production floor and ultimately reduces the amount of waste, scrap, and rework.

    Conclusion

    If you’re ready to leave manual, time-consuming service-based manufacturing tasks in the past, drastically reduce your scrap and rework percentage, gain visibility of your production floor processes, and build better relationships with your customers, contact Bluestreak today!

    Bluestreak’s MES + QMS solution helps service-based manufacturers drive quality straight down to the production floor to minimize scrap and rework and therefore, protect their profit margins.

    If you’re ready to leave manual, time-consuming service-based manufacturing tasks in the past, drastically reduce your scrap and rework percentage, gain visibility of your production floor processes, and build better relationships with your customers, contact us for a free consultation today!

  • 2 Tips to Guarantee Quality Standards in Manufacturing

    There is little tolerance these days for anything less than optimal. Customers of service-based manufacturers expect perfect quality delivered on their timetables and without budget overruns.

    Failing to address quality standards in manufacturing can cost you business and customers. It leads to more scrap, more rework, and more waste. All of this cuts right into your profits.

    The Key to Delivering Quality

    When it comes to quality standards in manufacturing, many manufacturers equate quality with two things: meeting job specs and compliance. However, quality must go beyond just compliance and meeting specs. Doing these two things may get products out the door, but they won’t deliver consistent quality that’s cost-efficient.

    It is possible to deliver quality and control costs: it starts with a commitment to quality assurance.

    What Is Quality Assurance in Manufacturing?

    There’s a big difference between quality control (QC) and quality assurance (QA), although many people use the terms interchangeably.

    Quality control aims to identify and correct any defects in the finished product. It’s a reactive measure to maintain quality in production. It takes steps to find and eliminate the source of problems to deliver quality products.

    Quality assurance aims to prevent defectives from happening in the first place. It’s a proactive measure to improve processes and throughput before problems arise.

    While both strategies are necessary, only QA will lead to consistent quality standards in manufacturing across an entire facility.

    A QA program will:

    • Reduce mistakes, rework, scrap, and waste
    • Adhere to exacting standards
    • Create complete documentation for process control and auditing
    • Provide end-to-end real-time tracking
    • Manage maintenance and machine calibration
    • Make sure properly-trained operators are assigned
    • Allow for continuous improvement

    How Do You Guarantee Quality Standards in Manufacturing?

    The days of doing things without a robust software system to manage the entire process are over. Throw away the spreadsheets and paperwork. In fact, stop doing anything that requires paper—as soon as something is printed, it’s out of date. It’s way too easy to miss changes to work orders or updates to specifications. If a production run happens without someone using the most up-to-date information, it quickly gets incredibly expensive.

    The only way to ensure quality for manufacturers is by using an MES/QMS system such as Bluestreak to drive the end-to-end process. Bluestreak’s Integrated Quality Management System (QMS) provides a paperless workflow to guarantee that everyone’s working off the most up-to-date work orders and specs:

    • Complete job routing and tracking.
    • Capture all production data.
    • Track work orders and change them in real time.
    • Rapidly detect nonconformance.
    • Complete audit trail.
    • Detect risk.

    Bluestreak also provides advanced specifications management to conform to specification requirements every time, while automatically creating and maintaining a fully documented audit trail. This eliminates independent silos of information by connecting, storing, and controlling everything relating to a project in one easy-to-manage tool.

    Managing the Production Pathway

    One of the most crucial aspects of guaranteeing quality standards in manufacturing is by managing the production pathway. Most importantly, it’s the key to efficient operations that lead to quality.

    Tracking and moving your orders and parts through every stage of the process, from contract review to shipment, allows for greater shop floor productivity. Managing the production pathway means access to complete, detailed real-time and historical data associated with every work center. It lets everyone involved have access to every piece of critical information, such as processing data, part pictures, draws, purchase orders, change orders, and anything else you can think of.

    Bluestreak is fully extensible and lets you bring in additional resources, expand for future growth, and evolve to integrate with other systems. Unlike ERP or other QMS systems, Bluestreak’s MES/QMS integrated system was built for manufacturers.

    “Manufacturing companies now face a stark choice: harness the power of data to redefine their offerings and transform the speed, efficiency, and flexibility of their operations, or lose out to competitors that do.” —McKinsey & Company

    Managing the Customer

    Quality in manufacturing isn’t just about the products being manufactured. It’s also about the way that customers are handled. They equate positive customer experience with quality, and it goes well beyond perfect parts delivered on time and at budget.

    Approximately 96% of customers say that the experience they have in dealing with a company is important in their choice of whom they choose to do business with. It leads to higher customer retention rates, one of the keys to greater profitability

    You need the right software tools, including Bluestreak CRM, to manage the customer relationship.

    Conclusion

    Managing all your processes efficiently and effectively are vital ingredients in a recipe for success. The only way to guarantee quality standards in manufacturing is by deploying a robust QA program. That’s where Bluestreak excels.

    Bluestreak’s MES + QMS solution helps service-based manufacturers drive quality straight down to the production floor to minimize scrap and rework and, therefore, protect their profit margins.

    If you’re ready to leave manual, time-consuming service-based manufacturing tasks in the past, drastically reduce your scrap and rework percentage, gain visibility of your production floor processes, and build better relationships with your customers, contact us for a free consultation today!

  • Why the Right QMS + MES Make the Difference in Manufacturing

    For service-based manufacturing companies (which includes most metal-treating/powder-coating, plating, heat-treating, and metal-finishing businesses), implementing the right manufacturing QMS + MES tools can make a huge difference in overall success and profitability. Manufacturers must choose the right software packages and platforms to run their business if they want their operation to thrive. Thousands of dollars can be saved, production floors and schedules can be optimized, and clients’ needs can be met or exceeded more easily, all with a few keystrokes on the right software platform.

    Before acquiring a QMS + MES solution, companies should consider the benefits of doing so. For example, they can have reduced errors and rework, grow more efficiently, produce higher quality documentation and quality assurance, develop a culture focused on quality with a consistent vision, and build a more satisfied customer base that keeps coming back for repeat orders.

    Manufacturers must also aim to improve the quality of their data and make it more usable across different processes. Production floors can unlock the true power and potential of their data by eliminating technology silos and sharing data across departments. This can be done through top QMS + MES software. Integration will eliminate inefficient data silos and complete the big picture of data that many companies are still missing despite the rapid advances in technology.

    Choosing the right manufacturing QMS + MES platform is easier said than done for many companies. Service-based manufacturers need to find an option that caters specifically to their needs, not those of larger, higher volume operations that focus on different types of production. Service-based manufacturing is a niche industry, which means it needs platforms that address its specific requirements.

    Many of the most common production floor and management tasks for service-based manufacturers can be automated through the use of proven software like Bluestreak. Companies that neglect or choose not to invest in their software are going to leave money on the table and see their profit margins suffer. Automating mundane and easily optimizable tasks is a huge X-factor for smaller companies. Why devote energy and thought to aspects of your business that you don’t have to?

    Let’s break down a few of the key solutions that Bluestreak offers through its manufacturing QMS + MES platform to better understand how working with a proven software leader can lead to long-term business success.

    • Integration of specification resources with the Advanced Specifications Manager enables you to manage specifications for different clients/industries. Create a centralized set of specifications that makes it easier to track and conform to requirements for different jobs and clients.
    • The intuitive scheduling tool can be quite dynamic for planners and managers and allows things to change on the fly. For example, if a rush job comes in, Bluestreak can help adjust the schedule to work around the new order and make sure it goes out without completely disrupting everything else going on across the manufacturing floor.
    • Advanced quality management automates quality data entry and risk analysis and cuts down on reporting errors. Get your data, get your reports, and save time that would have been spent tracking, inputting, and analyzing data.
    • Real-time shop floor tracking monitors all work in progress and keeps the floor running as efficiently as possible. Better, more actionable, real-time data is a boon for manufacturers. Bluestreak does this and more.
    • Generate job quotes, invoices, work orders, and certifications and manage shipping from a fully integrated platform built exclusively for service-based manufacturers.

    Here are a few key statistics to consider from worldwide industrial leader Honeywell. Over 42% of manufacturers agree that they have run their equipment harder than is necessary or advisable, leading to breakdowns or unscheduled maintenance. Again, 42% of manufacturers agreed that they have put off new investments in essential equipment. Nearly 50% of respondents said that data analytics is no longer an optional tool for manufacturers, but 13% said that they still don’t understand the benefits of high-quality analytics. About 8% want proof that analytics can work, and 10% think that the benefits aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. There’s a wide gap in understanding, but companies that continue to lag won’t just struggle—they’ll get left in the dust and end up out of business.

    Having the right manufacturing QMS + MES platform powering your floor can and will make all the difference in the long run. Bluestreak has what it takes to optimize and upgrade manufacturers without a huge investment or lengthy implementation.

    Bluestreak’s MES + QMS solution helps service-based manufacturers increase production floor productivity and increase their profits.

    If you’re ready to leave manual, time-consuming service-based manufacturing tasks in the past, drastically reduce your scrap and rework percentage, gain visibility of your production floor processes, and build better relationships with your customers, contact us for a free consultation today!

  • The Struggle to Drive Quality Directly to the Production Floor

    For manufacturers, throughput in production is crucial. It can be the difference between quotas being met or customers leaving for your competitors. It’s too easy to be content with the status quo and accept flaws or limitations in the process.

    Don’t let the status quo dictate your future. Continuous improvement is necessary to compete.

    Even benchmarks set to measure quality can be a trap. While they are great at getting you pointed in the right direction, they can also give you a false sense that you’re meeting your goals and everything is fine. Quality on the production floor is about continuous improvement. Unless you set challenging benchmarks and measure progress, you’re likely to keep embracing the status quo.

    Managing throughput and productivity while maintaining the highest quality has always been a challenge. If you’re struggling to drive quality directly to the production floor or are looking for ways to improve your efficiency, there is a solution.

    People, Product, Process

    Three areas determine the success of nearly every business: people, product, and process.

    • People impact the quality.
    • The product reflects the quality.
    • The process creates the quality.

    People need the right environment and the right tools to perform at optimal efficiency. Without the appropriate specs, equipment, or process, it will be difficult for them to produce the quality that you need on the production floor. Also, of course, the product has to be right. The output of your production needs to be consistent and on time for customers to be happy. Finally, the process is the key to consistency and scale. It’s where you will find quality issues and can dig into the root cause to take corrective actions.

    If you have a failure in any of these three areas, you’re going to struggle.

    Fortunately, the right software solution helps you minimize or eliminate the costliest mistakes and create reproducible processes to get it right every time. As part of the service-based manufacturing industry—which includes most metal-treating/powder-coating, plating, and metal-finishing businesses—you must have workflows that are process-oriented.

    What You Need in Software to Drive Quality to the Production Floor

    Assuming that you have the right people and product, you need the right Manufacturing Execution System (MES) and Quality Management System (QMS) to drive quality on the production floor. Software such as Bluestreak’s™ integrated QMS will tie quality control and quality assurance directly to individual work centers and processing steps on the production floor. This eliminates data silos and helps you track quality through the entire end-to-end process.

    Specifications Management and Fully-Documented Audit Trails

    Managing quality on the production floor involves software that streamlines specification management by putting all your spec resources into one interface that’s accessible to everyone. It allows a company to support internal and customer specification, as well as the management of various industry specifications:

    • AIAG
    • API
    • AMS
    • AS
    • ASME
    • ASTM
    • ISO
    • MedAccred
    • NADCA
    • NADCAP
    • SAE
    • TS

    It creates a full-documented audit trail and cross-references specifications to everything that they impact. So, when a change is made in one area, the software will tell you how it will affect other areas.

    Scheduling and Sequencing

    A scheduling function should make load planning easier and more dynamic for planners and supervisors. All orders and schedules need to be available in one central place. As schedules change, throughput can be analyzed and adjusted. Besides the ability to set up or sequence your production operations, planners should be able to combine like-jobs for processing and specific equipment for each load, prioritize jobs, and push every piece of needed information downstream. With software such as Bluestreak | Schedule™, load lists will be automatically generated and updated so the operator is immediately notified.

    This also allows you to better plan jobs, see the impact of necessary changes, and manage equipment utilization.

    Advanced Quality

    Quality on the production floor means mitigating risk and using statistical process controls to surface conflicts during the process. This risk analysis can help manufacturers avoid conflicts before they hit the production floor.

    Bluestreak | Advanced Quality™ helps remove the potential of human error and create a process for enforceable risk management. It helps control quality characteristic requirements per specification standards. Real-time shop floor tracking creates accountability and an audit trail for compliance and certification. This information will empower operators to manage quality on the production floor and managers to assure quality in operations.

    The Pathway to Better Profitability

    Competition for manufacturers continues to increase. With COVID-19 shutdowns, many companies are being forced to slash prices to bring in new business. The number-one thing driving profitability in manufacturing is increasing productivity to create high-quality goods while reducing costs.

    Continuous improvement, from the front office to the production floor, is the pathway to profitability.

    Our MES/QMS software is changing service-based manufacturing by significantly increasing your throughput. Contact Bluestreak™ for a demo today.

    Bluestreak’s MES + QMS solution helps service-based manufacturers drive quality straight down to the production floor to minimize scrap and rework and therefore, protect their profit margins.

    If you’re ready to leave manual, time-consuming service-based manufacturing tasks in the past, drastically reduce your scrap and rework percentage, gain visibility of your production floor processes, and build better relationships with your customers, contact us for a free consultation today!

  • How to Control Quality in Manufacturing

    Quality control can make or break a manufacturer. Being off by the smallest margin or failing to produce a finished product exactly to specification can result in a completely rejected batch, leading to more scrap, more rework, higher costs, and unhappy customers.

    Without reliable quality control in place, avoiding bad audits in manufacturing will be extremely difficult. Even if you can pass them, there may be lengthy delays to document and report.

    With the right MES/QMS, your audit trail will be automated. It keeps track of everything you need to keep business flowing and improve productivity on the shop floor.

    For commercial job shops, Bluestreak™ provides end-to-end control, from quoting to invoicing, from maintenance and production tracking to real-time customer portal access. A fully extensible and audit compliant quality management system (QMS) allows you to have all your critical production documentation available any time you need it. This helps get rid of “silos” of disconnected data.

    Quality Is Your Top Priority

    In business, the key to quality involves the people doing the job, the product, and the process. All three must be aligned for success.

    People

    Your people must have the proper training to do the job correctly. Avoiding bad audits in manufacturing means documenting the training and monitoring the work output on the shop floor. This includes being able to spot and record non-conforming materials. These reports may not be from human errors, but it’s important to research each non-conformance to see if workers could be causing the problems and to take corrective action if that turns out to be the case.

    Every time that someone notes a nonconformance, an item fails testing, parts or supplies are rejected, a controlled project exceeds established limits, or a product is rejected by the customer, it needs to be documented. This identifies the problem. A corrective action request details the plan for fixing the problem. If you don’t have an audit trail for every step of the production, it will be difficult to isolate the cause and fix it.

    Product

    Quality applies to the product you are producing, but it also applies to every step of production. Adherence to product specifications is crucial to maintain integrity. A zero-defect manufacturing strategy will begin by creating tight specs and aligning people and equipment to create within those specifications.

    When specs are documented and followed, it reduces the amount of scrap and speeds up the inspection process.

    Process

    The best people, materials, and products won’t give you the results you need if you don’t have an efficient process. MES/QMS software provides end-to-end tracking for every phase. This helps you maintain quality. In case of issues, it also helps you find the root cause and take corrective actions to eliminate the problem.

    While producing the highest-quality product with the least amount of cost is your goal, this process will help you avoid bad audits in manufacturing.

    Process tracking also gives you deep insights into each production step, allowing you to examine ways to improve efficiency. This can result in cost reductions and improved ROI.

    How the Right MES/QMS Automates Your Audit Trail

    BlueDocs™ maintains a detailed, time-stamped, and user-identified audit trail for each document that is compliant with certain accreditations, certifications, and compliance standards (such as ISO 9001, AS9100, MedAccred, ITAR, EAR, etc.).

    Paperless reporting follows the tracking, approvals, notification, and policy administration of quality documentation. It creates gatekeepers for approval and electronically tracks every interaction at every step. The Bluestreak™ QMS stores all test result data, so there is full transparency. This includes both the rest values themselves, as well as the process used for reporting.

    Advanced specifications management gives you total control of specs. It flags mismatches between quotes and work orders. It prevents process problems that lead to quality control issues resulting from things such as:

    • Work order specifications that are replaced with revisions
    • Operators who attempt to process loads without documented training or certifications
    • Equipment being used that isn’t qualified (or qualifications have lapsed)
    • Vendors that aren’t qualified for specific jobs or have lapsed qualifications
    • Any changes to qualifications, certifications, instrument calibration, personnel, or survey requirements

    Spec management prevents errors before they happen and can help you avoid bad audits in manufacturing. You can easily review any revision that was active and in force for work orders, maintenance orders, certifications, non-conformance, CAPA, quotes, invoices, and audits.

    Risk analysis can also be used system wide in Bluestreak™ to provide accountability and audit-ability. Enforceable risk analysis built into your QMS helps remove the potential for human error during data entry and when reporting on certifications.

    Audits can be a time-consuming and expensive proposition. Any time that you can save when dealing with an audit will also save you money. Advanced specifications management lets you respond to auditors or customer conformance inquiries promptly. After the work order has been completed, the system has a built-in, robust audit trail documenting conformance to requirements and a process control matrix containing all supporting references.

    Summary

    Avoiding bad audits in manufacturing starts with having a well-documented process, tracking every step from work order to testing and final production. It’s also the key to Quality Assurance. The best and easiest way to avoid bad audits in manufacturing is to use the right MES/QMS to document everything.

    Contact Bluestreak™ today for a demo, and let us show you how our MES/QMS software is changing service-based manufacturing.

    Bluestreak’s MES + QMS solution helps service-based manufacturers drive quality straight down to the production floor to minimize scrap and rework and, therefore, protect their profit margins.

    If you’re ready to leave manual, time-consuming service-based manufacturing tasks in the past, drastically reduce your scrap and rework percentage, gain visibility of your production floor processes, and build better relationships with your customers, contact us for a free consultation today!

  • The Resistance to Innovation in Manufacturing That’s Burning Profits

    What if there was a way that you could significantly increase the value of your business? A study done by McKinsey indicates that this is possible. Manufacturers could boost their overall value by an incredible 20% if they adopt innovations and technological advances. This could add another $530 billion to the industry by 2025!

    However, getting these increases means changing the way that manufacturers do things. While we fundamentally know that innovation in manufacturing can yield significant results, change can often be uncomfortable.

    Resistance to Innovation in Manufacturing

    There’s often a resistance to innovation in manufacturing that’s holding companies back. Why is that?

    • Changes in tools used in manufacturing mean retooling.
    • Changes in the nature of the job mean re-training.
    • Changes in work relationships can cause uncertainty.
    • Fear of failure can cause resistance.
    • The emergence of new tasks can slow adoption.

    Even when it’s the right change, it can lead to anxiety.

    Areas Where Lack of Innovation Are Costing You Money

    If you’re not taking advantage of innovation in manufacturing, it will be challenging to compete in the future. Lack of innovation costs you money when it comes to quality control, smart manufacturing, and realizing gains from Industry 4.0 tools.

    Quality Control (QC) Management

    Without quality control, you waste time, money, and resources. Monitoring each step of the manufacturing journey, from raw material to the final product, helps you maintain quality control, which reduces scrap and rework. Standardization results in consistency and fewer customer complaints. A robust QC program lowers production costs and enables you to pass audits more quickly, and meet order specs.

    Quality management, however, doesn’t work in a silo. It needs to be an enterprise-wide focus that includes every aspect of the organization with greater transparency. Bluestreak’s end-to-end control leads to better QC, increasing productivity and setting a path for continuous improvement.

    Smart Manufacturing

    The slow pace of digital adoption has hurt US businesses. This resistance to innovation in manufacturing has put many companies at a significant disadvantage with overseas competitors. To combat cheap labor abroad, manufacturers have to get better at process and productivity.

    Instead of adopting new software tools to improve business productivity, too many manufacturers try to adapt what they’ve used before, even if the functionality you need is not available. If you find that the software you’re using has too many workarounds, doesn’t have the functions you require, or no longer suits your needs, it’s time to look for a new solution. If you’re using software that’s more at home in the accounting suite than on the shop floor, you’re not optimizing your productivity.

    3D printing has a host of benefits: rapid prototyping, lower costs for tooling costs and small production runs, greater flexibility, and reduced waste. But many manufacturers are losing money or business because they have not adopted this innovation in manufacturing.

    Industry 4.0

    Smart manufacturing holds a great deal of promise. The next phase of innovation in manufacturing, called Industry 4.0, is expected to create even bigger innovations, leading to significant gains. Nearly half of all manufacturers are adopting Industry 4.0 standards to their processes, according to a study from the MPI Group.

    Industry 4.0 can capitalize on the ever-increasing volume of data being generated during the manufacturing process.

    • Artificial Intelligence and machine learning will lead to process improvements.
    • Robotics can create more consistent throughput.
    • Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can automate workloads to reduce the amount of time spent on manual tasks.
    • Increased automation can generate productivity gains.
    • Remote monitoring can collect data and track productivity and machine performance.

    Industry 4.0 is the name given to innovation in manufacturing that leads to better interoperability, information transparency, process insights, and automation. This allows manufacturers to redirect resources to focus on mission-critical projects rather than manual tasks. Moving data to the cloud enables manufacturers to put limited resources into the work on the shop floor rather than into the IT infrastructure.

    Bluestreak is perfectly positioned to take advantage of Industry 4.0 innovation in manufacturing as a Manufacturing Execution System (MES) and Quality Management System (QMS) designed exclusively for the service-based manufacturing environment. The primary focus is on the manufacturing process instead of inventory management.

    Conclusion

    Innovation in manufacturing starts with the right software for your needs. Most software is chosen by the business office and “adapted” to the shop floor, rather than as part of a system that can create innovation.

    In business, so much of what we do is conditioned on ROI. We ask if doing something will increase our profitability. We often forget to examine external costs, such as loss of business, because we fail to innovate. As labor costs continue to rise and good workers become harder to find, innovation in manufacturing will be crucial to remain competitive. Failing to innovate is burning profits.

    If you’re ready to leave manual, time-consuming service-based manufacturing tasks in the past, drastically reduce your scrap and rework percentage, gain visibility of your production floor processes, and build better relationships with your customers, contact us for a free consultation today!

  • 4 Reasons Manufacturers Fail to Reduce Production Cost

    Despite technical advances, productivity in manufacturing is actually declining. Labor productivity dropped by nearly 1% in the first quarter of 2020, resulting in a 2.2% decrease in output. Combined with rising labor costs, growing material costs, and increased customer pressure to lower prices, it has reduced the already-thin profit margins for manufacturers.

    A quality control plan and quality control system is now more important than ever to eliminate wasted materials, underperforming products or product defects, and lost opportunity costs.

    But why aren’t more manufacturers taking proactive steps to reduce their production cost?

    1. They Don’t Want to Take the Time to Retool

    Retooling can be expensive and time-consuming. Machines that constantly break down or need maintenance only add to productivity declines and increase production cost. Many manufacturers don’t want to take the time to replace equipment. Likewise, they don’t want to stop work on the shop floor to learn new software or processes.

    Instead of fixing the problems, they’ll live with downtime from older tech or machinery. After a while, they’ll learn to “accept” quality deficiencies, despite the significant negative impact of downtime on production cost.

    2. They Fear That Workers Can’t Handle the Changes

    Many of the most experienced and skilled workers in manufacturing are aging. Some manufacturers fear that employees used to doing a job a certain way for years (maybe decades) will be unwilling or unable to learn new skills. Forcing skilled workers to do a job differently may cause them to quit.

    In turn, if workers are not convinced that changes will lead to positive results, like increased productivity or lower production cost, they’re not likely to embrace the change. In worst-case scenarios, some may even actively fight the changes.

    3. They’re Not Tracking the Cost of Quality

    Most manufacturers say that they don’t know their cost of quality, despite the effect it has on profits. If they’re not tracking the cost of quality—and the impact of poor quality—it’s difficult to recognize the problem and do something about it.

    Industry statistics put the cost of quality at 10-25% of revenue, with some manufacturers spending twice that amount. Without the correct data, they may be unable to find the problem and manage the process.

    4. They Think That the Only Solution Is an Expensive ERP System

    Manufacturers believe that the solution is an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, but the cost is too high. Actually, this system is probably overkill for their needs in most cases and is therefore difficult to justify.

    There’s no reason to pay for features that you aren’t going to use. Bluestreak MES/QMS software provides the functionality that most manufacturers need at a fraction of the cost of a customized ERP solution.

    Some companies make the mistake of using a full-blown ERP system that isn’t doing what they need on the shop floor. This type of system records transactional data and reports it, which doesn’t meet the needs of the production manager and plant supervisor, who need software that records every production step on the floor in real time and ties their QMS directly to the operators and equipment. If you already have an ERP system in place, Bluestreak’s manufacturing execution system (MES) and quality management system (QMS) can be easily integrated to give you a complete end-to-end picture of what’s happening in your manufacturing facility.

    The Bottom Line

    It’s often easier to maintain the status quo than to make changes that can improve productivity and reduce operational costs. The opportunity is there if leaders are willing to take it. Improvement starts with tracking data through Bluestreak and monetizing the value of the process.

    A centralized tracking platform, such as Bluestreak MES/QMS software, simplifies each step for all levels of participants to do their part. Whether workers on the floor or supervisors and management, having visibility throughout the process keeps a finger on the pulse of production costs from start to finish.

    If you’re ready to leave manual, time-consuming service-based manufacturing tasks in the past, drastically reduce your scrap and rework percentage, gain visibility of your production floor processes, and build better relationships with your customers, contact us for a free consultation today!

  • 8 Signs Your Manufacturing Quality Control Plan Needs Work

    Customers will judge your business based on whether you can deliver quality products that will meet their specs on time and without going over budget. A quality control plan helps you manage the manufacturing process and sets the stage for continuous improvement.

    Signs of a Poor Quality Control Process

    Quality control is a crucial component of every manufacturer’s profitability. The tighter controls you have over quality, the lower your production costs will be. Here are warning signs that your manufacturing quality control plan needs work.

    1. Rework

    Rework should be a big red flag when it comes to quality. It means you’ll have to do the same work over again because the first effort fell short.

    2. Scrap/Material Waste

    In every project, there is likely to be scrap or material waste. Based on your planning, however, this should be predictable and consistent. Pay attention when waste is outside the norm for projects.

    3. Missed Deadlines and Budgets

    If you’re missing deadlines or going over budget, there may be an issue with the estimating and proposal process. You also might have had to rework projects and make changes after the initial work was done. This can cause serious problems because you’re not meeting the deadlines you set. Rework costs money and cuts deeply into profit margins.

    4. Higher Maintenance and Support Costs

    If you’re experiencing high maintenance and support costs, it may be a symptom of a poor quality control process. When there’s a problem with a product, the support costs go up.

    5. Warranty/Repairs for Defects

    When there’s a quality control plan problem, you’ll have more warranty claims for defects and need to make more repairs.

    6. Failed Audits

    Process and product audits in manufacturing facilities should be done regularly and often. Failing an audit can help identify where the problems exist.

    7. Customer Complaints

    When customer complaints start to pile up, it’s a sign that you have quality control problems.

    8. Failure to Meet Customer Demands

    Your quality control plan starts by making sure you understand how the customer defines quality and then adapting the plan to ensure that you can deliver to those specs. If you fail to meet customer demands, things can go downhill quickly.

    The Impact of a Poor Quality Control Plan

    When the quality control plan is flawed, your operation pays the price.

    Over time, your workforce can become disengaged. This decreases productivity and increases your attrition rate. When defects become “acceptable,” work suffers. You lack the continuous improvement process that you need to increase productivity and quality.

    Poor quality can impact your reputation and hurt your relationships with current customers and suppliers. It can also make it difficult to attract new customers.

    An overlooked impact is opportunity costs. The more you have to rework projects, deal with customer complaints, or manage any other problems caused by poor quality, the less time and money you have to invest in other areas.

    What Stops Organizations from Changing?

    Organizational inertia often holds companies back from making the changes to improve quality. It’s easy to fall victim to this: once people and processes are in place, it seems best to keep them there—even if you aren’t getting the results you want. Change can be hard even when it’s necessary.

    However, if you’re experiencing the warning signs of a poor quality control plan, it’s time to change.

    An Integrated Quality Management System

    Improving quality starts with an integrated quality management system that can help you manage the entire process from end to end. Quality is not something you can afford to worry about after the fact.

    “Prevention is the key to reduced quality costs.” —Quality Magazine

    Bluestreak’s Integrated Quality Management System (QMS) ties quality control and quality assurance directly to individual work centers and processing steps on the production floor. It brings together all the data tracking in one comprehensive database, with no separate silos of disjointed data.

    The Bluestreak Manufacturing Execution (MES) and QMS for manufacturing, heat treating, powder coating, plating, metal finishing, metallurgical labs, and 3D printing are easy to use. A quality control plan can be defined for each project, including operating instructions, sampling plans, testing and inspection requirements, and data collection.

    Key QMS Components

    Here are vital QMS components of a quality control plan that can be monitored by deploying Bluestreak™ MES/QMS.

    • Integrated quality management
    • Non-conformance
    • Corrective actions/preventative actions (CAPAs)
    • Document control
    • Work orders
    • Production floor
    • Equipment maintenance
    • Advanced specifications management
    • Statistical process control (SPC)

    You can also manage inventory and purchase orders. This includes linking inventory items or parts to specific vendors and set reorder levels. Real-time notifications, such as low inventory, new inventory arriving, or POs generated, can help you keep track of the entire manufacturing supply chain and production process.

    Conclusion

    If you don’t have a quality control plan in place, you’ll have trouble competing.

    Quality control on the shop floor cannot be an afterthought. It’s your brand and your reputation on the line.

    If you’re ready to leave manual, time-consuming service-based manufacturing tasks in the past, drastically reduce your scrap and rework percentage, gain visibility of your production floor processes, and build better relationships with your customers, contact us for a free consultation today!

  • The 3 Manufacturing Habits That Kill Efficiency and Increase Rework

    Good manufacturing habits may be difficult to develop, but bad manufacturing habits are almost impossible to break. It’s easy for a workforce, especially on the manufacturing floor, to develop their own ways and methods of doing a task. Left to their own devices, employees will devise their own processes and stick to them, regardless of how they were taught. It isn’t necessarily laziness or lack of motivation that leads to bad habits. Workers just settle into routines that they are comfortable with, which sometimes means that steps get overlooked and a bad product or batch is made. In many cases, companies struggle to identify where they are inefficient; they just know that they’re lagging behind their peers in profitability and production volume.

    Bad habits cost service-based and Additive Manufacturing companies all over the world millions of dollars annually. However, it costs way more to continue sticking to the status quo. More than anything else, lack of oversight and comfort within an existing system without adequate controls leads to the development of money-sucking bad habits. Implementing an MES/QMS system like Bluestreak can seamlessly break those bad manufacturing habits by tracking and storing data and managing the scheduling of production, maintenance, and staffing.

    Let’s break down three of the biggest bad manufacturing habits in Additive Manufacturing and evaluate how implementing an MES/QMS system can increase efficiency and cut down on wasted time and money devoted to reworking bad product.

    1. Inspection scheduling and constant recalibrating

    An efficient manufacturing floor will require minimal inspection of its production equipment. An inspection often drags down efficiency, because while an inspection is being performed, product is not being made and employees are not working. Your floor’s production process should have sampling and error prevention controls built in. You should not be inspecting more than is required because doing so increases operating costs and eats into profit margins. The goal of an efficient firm should be to minimize inspections but not eliminate them entirely. Inspecting equipment to improve quality of product is important, but it has to be done at the right time and on the right schedule.

    With inspection comes the need for recalibration when errors are found or machines break down. Machinery not running as intended will lead to inconsistency in product quality, so it cannot be allowed, but recalibration leads to downtime and wasted employee effort. Inspections and recalibration are necessary but need to be managed properly to limit their effects on manufacturing efficiency.

    Bluestreak’s platform and its iMaintain features allow manufacturers to manage and schedule maintenance and inspections and track the time spent on each task. This will automate the processes and allow for inefficiencies to be more easily identified.

    2. Failure to follow specifications

    A customer who places an order with your factory has specific requirements for how they want it produced and delivered. Failure to meet these specifications will result in rework, damaged relationships with clients, and wasted time, material, and money. The best way to avoid specification failures is to implement and follow a quality control and sampling plan.

    This is another aspect of Additive Manufacturing management that Bluestreak can improve. Its software can set up part-specific sampling plans that can be tailored to different specifications depending on the client’s needs.

    3. Managing staff

    The people in the factory are the ones who make the machines work and the product going from raw material to finished part. Good employees know what they’re doing with minimal direction. That said, they still need to be managed and guided through their day-to-day tasks so efficiency does not slip.

    Managing staffing levels and ensuring the right workers are working the correct number of hours at any given time on the production floor is another important feature that Bluestreak offers the Additive Manufacturing industry. With the ability to plan staffing levels based on order levels and demand, the software will ensure that manufacturers are not caught short staffed or with too many workers on the floor just getting in the way. In addition to managing workforce scheduling, Bluestreak allows managers to keep track of employee certifications and qualifications and ensure that the right employees are handling the essential production tasks.

    In the manufacturing world, some of the worst habits occur on the production floor, not the inventory department. Bluestreak’s MES/QMS solutions include real-time shop floor tracking for every step of the process. This is where company leaders will begin seeing the benefit of having more automation and quality control over their manufacturing process. Implementing the software may end up uncovering more bad manufacturing habits that the administration wasn’t even aware of.

    Getting things under control gives more peace of mind to the operations managers and will cut down production costs, eliminate rework and downtime, and ultimately, save money.

    If you’re ready to leave manual, time-consuming service-based manufacturing tasks in the past, drastically reduce your scrap and rework percentage, gain visibility of your production floor processes, and build better relationships with your customers, contact us for a free consultation today!

  • How Poor Quality Control Management Cuts into Manufacturing Profits

    Quality employees, processes, and products are all part of the equation when it comes to building a successful company. Quality impacts operating costs, productivity, and customer satisfaction. A focus on quality control management in every area leads to greater profitability.

    The Real Cost of Poor Quality (COPQ)

    The cost of quality can be 15-20% of a business’s total sales. It can run as high as 40% in some organizations, but even at 20%, that’s one full day of work that’s lost to the cost of maintaining that quality, which comes right off the bottom line. Effective quality control management can mitigate some of this. Even small increases can positively affect margins.

    Measuring the Cost of Quality (COQ)

    Preventing errors and fixing systems impacting your quality are crucial actions for maximizing operations.

    These four components measure the cost of quality:

    1. Prevention
    2. Appraisal
    3. Internal failure
    4. External failure

    Prevention and appraisal are proactive quality control management practices. They prevent defects and create efficient systems to improve quality.

    Internal failure and external failure costs represent reactive costs. They are examined after the fact to mitigate the damage from defective products and correct systems to avoid additional problems.

    quality control management

    Let’s examine these four components more closely.

    Prevention

    The best way to lower your COQ is to prevent poor quality from happening in the first place. The biggest gains can come from prevention. Fewer defective goods and more efficient systems improve customer satisfaction and reduce costs. Examples might include formal equipment maintenance and repair schedules, written procedures and training, design reviews, and prototype testing.

    Appraisal

    Appraisal costs are associated with measuring and auditing goods and services to make sure they conform with quality standards and an organization’s performance requirements. Such costs might include equipment calibration, audits, lab testing, and inspections.

    Internal failure

    Internal failure costs represent the costs incurred due to defects before products are in the hands of customers. This might include repair or rework, such as scrapped manufactured goods, design changes, equipment downtime, or excess inventory.

    External failure

    External failure costs occur after products have been shipped. In addition to the costs of repairing or replacing goods, external failures can damage customer relationships and impact future sales. These include direct costs, such as repairs and warranty claims, field service costs, and potential lawsuits, as well as indirect costs, such as unhappy customers, bad publicity, and loss of market share.

    An Investment in Prevention and Appraisal Costs Improves Quality

    Most companies spend 95% of their quality control management costs assessing failures and just 5% in prevention. However, case studies show that increasing the investment in prevention and appraisal saves money in failure costs and reduces overall COQ costs. Research also shows that taking a proactive approach to prevention can reduce the COQ by as much as 50%.

    The Advantages of Improving Quality Control Management

    Taking proactive steps to improve your quality control management aligns quality with your organizational goals. The right system for shop floor control has several other benefits, including:

    • Creates problem priority systems to identify and address COPQ areas
    • Increases effective use of resources
    • Provides a centralized overview and measurement of quality
    • Provides a way to manage and distribute controllable quality costs

    If the benefits are obvious, why do so many service-based manufacturers fail to implement robust quality control management solutions? It may be a lack of awareness of solutions or concerns about introducing change into systems that have been in place for years. However, a critical analysis of the process and putting in place proactive controls can limit mistakes, make systems more efficient, decrease production costs, and lead to higher profits.

    The Bluestreak MES + QMS Solution

    Bluestreak’s Manufacturing Execution System (MES) and Quality Management System (QMS) integrates with your systems and processes. It ties quality control management and quality assurance directly to individual work centers and processing steps on the production floor. An all-in-one inclusive database means no data silos. Order entry, operations, quality management, and KPI reporting work together seamlessly.

    With end-to-end process tracking, Bluestreak improves efficiency, optimizes processes, and improves your profitability with proactive monitoring.

    Contact Bluestreak for a Demo

    Bluestreak is designed exclusively for the service-based manufacturing industry. Our best-of-class MES and QMS solutions bring quality control management to new levels. Contact Bluestreak today for a free demo. Let us show you how we can grow your business.

    If you’re ready to leave manual, time-consuming service-based manufacturing tasks in the past, drastically reduce your scrap and rework percentage, gain visibility of your production floor processes, and build better relationships with your customers, contact us for a free consultation today!

  • The Critical Role of Quality Control in Manufacturing Companies

    As the coronavirus continues to rapidly spread, the race to develop a crucial vaccine has sped up to try to match its pace. Many pharmaceutical and biotech companies are working through the trials of what they hope will turn into the essential vaccine. Producing so many doses of a critical drug in such a narrow time frame has certain quality control hurdles. The medical field has seldom, if ever, worked at a pace like this before, but quality cannot be sacrificed when human lives are on the line.

    Quality control in manufacturing companies is also critical for keeping the world moving and economies humming along at full speed. It creates a more efficient production floor that doesn’t waste materials or time on reworking defective parts. It can also be the deciding factor between a successful company consistently exceeding clients’ expectations or producing underwhelming output that leaves the client disappointed. Quality control extends beyond the finished product and into the day-to-day operations of the production floor and long-term business health.

    There are infinite ways that implementing proven quality control helps in manufacturing, but here are several examples for companies to consider:

    • Improve customer loyalty and satisfaction.
    • Increase market share.
    • Improve safety.
    • Keep customers coming back for more.
    • Limit wasted materials and rework.
    • Avoid downtime.
    • Stay away from product recalls.
    • Manage scheduled maintenance and staffing levels.

    Any manufacturing company that does not employ a proven quality control system is likely wasting thousands of dollars a year and may be hurting their own reputation without even knowing it. Implementing industry-specific quality control is a must for manufacturers. Not only will it protect the reputation of your business by ensuring that every finished product has been created exactly to the client specifications, but it will also lead to a more efficient production floor, cut down on wasted material and time, improve equipment operation, and make life easier for employees.

    For smaller, service-based manufacturers, choosing the right quality control system can be a difficult task. They need something geared specifically for their industry, such as Bluestreak’s MES/QMS-integrated system. It can align perfectly with the operational procedures of a service-based manufacturer.

    Bluestreak has been designed specifically for the service-based manufacturing industry. Customers can maximize their ROI with this software, thanks to the user-friendly platform that is easy for employees to grasp.

    The most important function for smaller manufacturers is the real-time shop floor tracking with the Production Pathway, which can manage and track work in progress on the shop floor. The software handles work order management, specification data management, quality control plans, scheduling, and other critical tasks, and it does all this automatically. Adjustments, like work order changes, can be made in real time to keep things running smoothly, thanks to a constant inflow of high-quality data. Virtually everything that happens on the shop floor can be tracked and analyzed.

    These are all critical functions of a shop running at full strength. Quality control can become mundane, and the quality of that control can suffer when left completely in human hands.

    An investment in the latest technology is also an investment in the workforce. This shows the team that management is willing to make a strong commitment to helping them do their jobs better and stay safer. With Bluestreak’s automated features, employees are free to focus on more innovative tasks that can invigorate them in the long run, without sacrificing quality. They will feel more involved and will take ownership of the quality control process.

    Quality control is the lifeblood of manufacturing companies, and those that get it right are the winners. The rest will fail. The solutions provided by Bluestreak take the burden of implementing the processes and managing data from the staff and simplify the entire quality control program. Everyone’s life is made easier in the end.

    If you’re ready to leave manual, time-consuming service-based manufacturing tasks in the past, drastically reduce your scrap and rework percentage, gain visibility of your production floor processes, and build better relationships with your customers, contact us for a free consultation today!

  • 4 Trends in Manufacturing Quality Control to Adopt (Unless You Love Losing Money)

    Complacency in compliance

    Before we discuss trends in manufacturing, let’s celebrate! The banners are going up, and the certifications are being posted to the company website. Another successful audit is in the books!

    It’s hard to imagine, but it was only a few months ago that the entire op was failing audits left and right. The risk of losing money, customers, and contracts was an ever-present fear, one certainly not lost on the operations manager, the shop workers, and of course, the head office.

    But what changed? And is that change sustainable? Could the operation, now known for its highly-specialized processes, pull a 180 and head right back to the days where quality escapes were the norm?

    These are questions that you will continue to face so long as there is a need for both make-to-stock (MTS) parts and engineered-to-order (MTO) pieces.

    The latest and greatest in quality management system (QMS) design is a useful place to start, but software is only one factor in an increasingly complex equation that forces entire operational teams to stay up to date on the latest trends in manufacturing standardization, information protection, data management, storage best practices, and continuous process improvement initiatives.

    Here’s how to stay ahead of four cutting-edge trends in manufacturing quality control, as well as how to protect against non-conformance issues in the future.

    1. Defining quality

    It was once considered by many operation managers laughable that quality was one of the leading trends in manufacturing, since that’s the quality assurance department’s problem.

    That said, it’s less humorous to learn that 60% of shop-floor managers are unaware that quality control is not quality assurance and vice versa. They’re actually mutually exclusive! What’s more, every quality escape means that more profit is removed from the company’s bottom line and reinvested right back into its operation (at cost) to prevent defects from traveling downstream.

    Therefore, it is imperative for the operations team to know not only the difference between quality assurance (the macro-level plan to ensure client and end-user confidence in production processes) and quality control (making sure every ETO and MTS item is on-spec and ready to use) but also the cost of one quality escape. This creates an environment that supports automated QMS design and an entire culture of quality.

    Once achieved, a climate of compliance will allow the QMS to automate the control plan, ensure that audits are performed routinely, maintain test results for outside inspection, and track defect injection from upstream partners through production part approval processes (PPAP).

    2. Measuring (to the standard)

    The next of the cutting-edge trends in manufacturing quality systems is in keeping with the standard. When a small outside team is looking to integrate more fully with a large corporate partner (or to make redundant the latter’s internally specialized corps), knowing whether to focus on MTS growth or innovative ETO outputs is critical.

    Automated QMS structures take the guesswork out of version control, while solving for the concept of garbage in, garbage out, through tailorable PPAPs and Supplier Corrective Actions (SCARs).

    Having this type of quality assurance plan in place and integrated across departments and firms means that the integrity of the supplier-to-original-equipment-manufacturer (OEM) relationship remains undisturbed when a trusted data trail is easily accessible, paperless, and reflective of any and all corrective actions.

    3. Designing, testing, monitoring, and improving people and processes

    In keeping with this theme of paperless documentation, it makes sense to avoid complacency in compliance not only within processes but also among technicians.

    You can improve the operational process by reducing shop-floor costs by as much as 23% by making sure the right tech, with the right qualifications, is performing the right job at the right time. In other words, the right QMS software platform can help you maintain an accurate line-of-sight on current and future work orders, machine calibration schedules, and employee training records.

    QMS frameworks can also help reduce administrative costs associated with employee turnover and redundancies by over 20%, since such software prevents shop-floor workers from using an outdated technical specification or accidentally attempting to machine a part on a malfunctioning piece of equipment.

    4. Having control, control, and more (quality) control

    The cost of quality cannot go unstated nor underreported. Imagine being able to make redundant a large internal quality assurance or quality control team through fewer defects, tighter processes, and more timely version control. This can return potential lost profit to investors, customers, or even top-performing employees!

    What’s more, you can hold accountable all supply-chain partners through effective and accurate data monitoring and tracking. This aspect of QMS means that product recalls occur much faster and fewer profitable partnerships are ruined by accusing an upstream partner of a defect injection that actually originated on the shop floor.

    Consider the following case study as a sort of warning.

    An electrifying (car) case study

    Automobiles, like aircraft and other heavy-industry manufacturers, carry a high cost of doing business. This is especially true if there is a quality or safety issue or alternatively, an element that makes the end product appear experimental or untested, as has often been the case with Tesla.

    Like most automotive production companies, Tesla outsources most of its specialized parts. Back in early 2018, however, the firm quickly realized the truth in the adage, “What gets outsourced, gets out of control.”

    Tesla was quick to blame upstream suppliers for out-of-spec parts, which drove an enormous amount of rework for the electric car company. This caused the company to reconfigure its entire supply chain, wrestle back control of technical orders, and ultimately, look to reduce defect injection through statistical variance models, all before even accepting a delivery.

    Talk about waste!

    The large corporation was able to recover, of course, but what about those upstream suppliers? If they survived, which is often not the case, then they would have had to quickly implement a QMS that relieved them of any future claims against their manufacturing practices while simultaneously enabling them to root out any out-of-control processes.

    Conclusion

    A quick review of the trends in manufacturing quality systems should reveal that quality is not so much a fad that is here one day and gone the next. Rather, it is a strong theme that transcends industries and can be seen as either friend or foe.

    In order to keep quality in one’s operational corner, all managers must adopt a QMS that increases transparency, improves insight into problematic processes, and reduces the likelihood of any failed audits, which in turn, will keep those ISO banners flying high!

    If you’re ready to leave manual, time-consuming service-based manufacturing tasks in the past, drastically reduce your scrap and rework percentage, gain visibility of your production floor processes, and build better relationships with your customers, contact us for a free consultation today!

  • Why the Resistance to Technology in the Manufacturing Industry Is Hurting Business

    In manufacturing, the more efficient and productive your operation, the more profitable it will be. Enhancements to processes in the ‘90s and early 2000s made major gains in productivity, but lately, it’s stalled, despite reinvestments in equipment and software. Labor productivity grew less than 1% between 2007 and 2019. In the past five years, there has been no net average growth at all.

    What is the cause of this? Why aren’t manufacturers moving forward?

    The Resistance to Technology in Manufacturing Industry

    On the shop floor, workers are used to doing things a certain way. They are reluctant to make changes. But doing things manually will just keep things at the status quo. With rising costs for raw materials and products, that won’t cut it anymore. To make progress, new technology in the manufacturing industry must be adopted.

    Companies resist implementing tech that can help them grow for a variety of reasons. They may fear that the implementation will be too difficult or disruptive to the operations. It may be overwhelming for the staff or drive them away. In today’s challenging labor market, it’s tough to replace employees.

    Organizations may also worry that any gains from implementing new technology won’t outweigh the trouble. In other words, they aren’t convinced that the technology will truly make them more efficient or productive.

    Technology in Manufacturing Industry: More Productive Manufacturing

    There may also be concerns about the upfront costs in a manufacturing facility to retool. Most companies find that there is a reasonable ROI when it comes to enabling digital solutions. Here are common technologies being put in place:

    • Shop floor automation
    • Work order management
    • Quality control
    • Audit trails
    • Capacity planning
    • Equipment utilization

    These provide managers with data to track processes and make data-driven decisions.

    How Bluestreak™ Can Help

    All these technologies need a robust infrastructure to optimize the technology in manufacturing industry. Here are just a few ways that Bluestreak™ can help you prepare for the future.

    End-to-End Control

    End-to-end control—from quoting to invoicing, maintenance, production tracking, and real-time customer portal access—creates a structured audit trail to track jobs throughout the production cycle. This eliminates information silos by providing a fully extensible and audit-compliant Quality Management System (QMS). All your critical production documentation is available whenever you need it, with full visibility across all departments.

    Bluestreak™ provides total end-to-end control throughout the manufacturing lifecycle. We excel at handling advanced quality initiatives for aerospace, automotive, and medical organizations. You can even use Bluestreak™ to connect directly to customer ERP systems and effectively become their captive department for the services you provide.

    Captive Departments

    Captive departments are typically incorporated into a manufacturing company and provide specific services to parts being produced. Examples are heat treating, AM/3D printing, powder/liquid coating, plating, various metal treatments, etc. These departments usually have detailed processing instructions that can’t be provided by the company’s ERP system.

    Departments may also be able to sell excess capacity on the commercial market. This requires the ability to create invoices separate from an ERP resource. Bluestreak™ has all the capabilities needed by captives and can be integrated with your internal ERP system.

    Captives have primarily the same requirements as their commercial job shop counterparts. The main difference is that many have one customer: their corporate “parent.” They still need to have detailed processing instructions, track the parts, easily access and follow company and quality procedures, collect quality data, and produce. They also need documentation to support their quality accreditations, calibrate machines, and train employees.

    Bluestreak™ can be set up as a single department solution, either separate or connected to the ERP system.

    Manufacturing ERP/MRP

    Bluestreak MES I QMS™ is a control system to manage and monitor work on the shop floor. It tracks information in real time by receiving data from machines and team members. Although MES has typically been used as a self-contained system, it is increasingly being integrated with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Manufacturing Resource Planning (MRP) software.

    The MES improves productivity and reduces cycle time by lowering the total time it takes to produce an order. By integrating an MES with ERP/MRP software, factory managers can be proactive about ensuring the delivery of quality products in a timely, cost-effective manner.

    The Time Is Now

    When it comes to making technology changes to your manufacturing operation, the time is now.

    There are three pillars in manufacturing: cost, quality, and productivity. These have been constant over time, while the tools we use to impact them are constantly evolving. As we shifted from manual labor to machines/technology, costs were reduced while quality and productivity improved. Adapting to today’s technology can do the same while preparing us for a better future.

    There is an urgency in all this as well. A specific issue for the manufacturing industry as a whole is an aging workforce. As senior employees retire, their knowledge base and skills can be lost. Technology allows us to use the information they possess and replicate it in processes and systems before losing it forever. It can also help with training the next generation of workers.

    Automation and technology can make us more efficient. In many cases, it can also help reduce labor costs, which is especially crucial in today’s critical shortage of workers.

    The Bottom Line

    Business consulting firm McKinsey states that we’ve entered a new era of automation in manufacturing that is transforming factory floors, employment, and the economics of manufacturing sectors. Rapid advances are creating new efficiencies that can lead to unprecedented productivity. In fact, studies show that nearly 87% of the hours performed by workers may be candidates for automation. Think about what that could do for your labor costs!

    If you’re ready to leave manual, time-consuming service-based manufacturing tasks in the past, drastically reduce your scrap and rework percentage, gain visibility of your production floor processes, and build better relationships with your customers, contact us for a free consultation today!

  • How Fear of Change Increases Manufacturer Costs of Production

    There is a great deal of resistance in the industry toward implementing new solutions to improve processes and reduce the costs of production. It may be because of the fear that implementation will cost too much or be difficult to figure out, that the system will overwhelm the staff, or that the good still won’t outweigh the bad. So, many manufacturers either don’t change or fail to manage any changes to their process, which leads to a poor outcome.

    Instead, they continue to do things the way they’ve always done it, dealing with the cost of inefficiency, including:

    • The amount of scrap
    • Rework
    • Returns
    • Repeat processes

    Each of these increases the costs of production and can impact the workload and place additional stress on your production time. It can also create quality issues that can cost you customers.

    The Fear of the Unknown

    If you’re thinking about changes to your manufacturing process, know that they may be met with resistance. Even when people believe the changes will bring positive results, people can still be slow to embrace change. The fear of the unknown can negatively impact their work.

    It’s safer for employees and companies to maintain the status quo. It’s often easier to deal with the problems than to fix them once and for all. Without a vested interest in making a change, people can consciously or unconsciously sabotage change.

    Cognitive Inertia

    Another reason that people often resist change is what’s called cognitive inertia. Once practices are ingrained, people tend to assume they are the best way to do things, even in the face of compelling evidence to the contrary. When that happens, it’s extremely difficult to reduce the costs of production.

    This is why employees will go back to “default mode” without supporting systems and monitoring.

    How to Overcome the Fear of Change

    When it comes to managing your manufacturing operations in today’s competitive environment, you need:

    • Effective systems to manage pricing, invoicing, and operations
    • End-to-end integration for fast access to data
    • Simplicity to allow for fast adoption with ease of use
    • Flexibility to handle change requirements, capacity, and scale

    Creating the efficiencies means adopting an agile mindset that facilitates changes as your business evolves. Here are the steps to take to introduce change and get people on board.

    Get Buy-in

    Before introducing change, be sure to meet with key stakeholders, from front office to shop floor. If you can get them on board, you will have an easier time rolling out changes to the rest of the team. It helps to have champions for your cause.

    If you’re announcing changes in a group setting, get a smaller group together first. Then, when you announce it to the larger group, the agreement of those in the know will boost the confidence of others.

    It’s essential to use the principle of WIIFM when rolling out changes, or “What’s in it for Me?” Explain how a change can benefit everyone personally. If it makes them more efficient or productive or provides a positive incentive, point that out.

    Explain the “Why” Behind the “What”

    Throughout the process, you need to explain to people the “why” behind the “what” you want them to change. This means clearly defining the reason and purpose, the expected outcomes, and the impact of the project’s success.

    The clearer you can be and the more transparent you are, the less fear that team members will have.

    Create Defined Systems and Processes

    Before you roll out a change, you should have defined the systems and processes you want to put into place. If it’s a new piece of machinery or production line, you’ll need to detail the step-by-step process and make sure people are trained.

    If it’s a systemic change, you’ll want to inspire confidence that you’ve thought it through.

    Build Feedback Loops

    Throughout the change process, you’ll want to build in feedback loops in order to allow team members to evaluate the changes and feel comfortable with them. It helps them accept the change, and it can also give you valuable feedback about how it’s working (or not).

    Have Accountability

    It’s crucial to monitor adoption and track results. If people are struggling to change, it’s often about their underlying fear of failure.

    Set established benchmarks for accountability, and determine any corrective action that needs to take place if they’re not met.

    Follow Up

    Many manufacturers fail to follow-up at regular intervals after making changes. This is a mistake. Some people will slip back to their old way of doing things, and if you don’t notice, they may assume it’s okay.

    Don’t expect inspections alone to solve problems. By the time you inspect, it’s already defective. You can’t inspect quality into a product. It’s about systems.

    Use the Right Tools

    You may need to adapt the software you’re using when making changes and managing your operations. Don’t make the mistake of choosing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software or other systems to meet the needs of the office staff or accounting department. Make sure the solution you’re using translates to the production floor.

    Bluestreak’s Manufacturing Execution System (MES) and Quality Management System (QMS) can keep you on track. Working in a paperless environment allows visibility and allows you to implement quality controls on the production floor and stop the wrong things from happening.

    Adapt as Needed

    Be open to adapting. Plans are rarely perfect. Listen to people and be willing to evolve as you get more information and feedback from those on the line.

    Plans can provide a false sense of security. After all, the plan is the pathway to the end goal. It’s more important to meet the goal than stick to every part of the plan. From there, it’s about continuous improvement.

    Conclusion

    To stay competitive and increase productivity, change may be necessary. In today’s business climate, it’s likely that you’ll need to continue to improve your process and systems to grow and reduce your costs of production.

    If you’re ready to leave manual, time-consuming service-based manufacturing tasks in the past, drastically reduce your scrap and rework percentage, gain visibility of your production floor processes, and build better relationships with your customers, contact us for a free consultation today!

  • The Root Cause of Corrective Action in Manufacturing

    A good day on the shop floor is one with no machine issues, no breakdowns, and a supply chain that works the way it’s designed. The staff works well together, everybody meets their deadlines, and products are shipped on time without defects. It sounds great, doesn’t it?

    In the real world, we know that it doesn’t always work that way. Equipment does break down, operators make mistakes, and defects occur. When things go wrong, it takes time and costs money to fix and correct problems, and product quality suffers.

    Quality control (QC) depends on continuous monitoring, improvement, and training. Isolating why problems happen and taking root cause corrective action is crucial to QC.

    Root Cause Corrective Action

    We work hard to prevent problems from occurring in the first place, but when the system fails, root cause corrective action is necessary.

    What Causes Mistakes on the Shop Floor

    Some mistakes are simply human errors. Too often, however, they are symptomatic of underlying issues, including:

    • Not having the right processes in place to avoid mistakes
    • Not managing the end-to-end process
    • Lack of QC monitoring
    • Lack of training

    Best Practices for Avoiding Corrective Action on the Production Floor

    When errors occur, it is essential to document what happened, how it happened, and who was involved. If you’re not careful, it can seem like you are calling out individuals for mistakes. What’s important, however, is that you get to the root cause of the problem to take corrective measures to prevent it from recurring. This process is also called CAPA (Corrective and Preventive Action).

    The Right Practices

    To do this, you need to focus on these items:

    • The right practices
    • Accurate management systems
    • Defined and documented procedures
    • End-to-end tracking
    • Proper training
    • Corrective action

    The Root Cause Corrective Action Process

    When you need to take corrective action to address the root cause of a problem, follow these steps.

    Data gathering

    The process starts with gathering the right data. An easy way to approach this is the way that journalists do, which is to employ the five W’s: who, what, where, when, and why.

    Analysis

    While each “W” is important, the “why” (the root cause) is essential. After you gather the necessary data, try to isolate the root cause.

    Discussion

    After analysis, the discussion phase begins. This is where you look at each step of the process to determine if similar causes exist or whether other steps in the production chain contribute to the problems uncovered. Include key stakeholders in the discussion whenever possible. A collaborative approach is more likely to improve buy-in to the root cause correction action that will be initiated.

    Action Plan

    Once you determine the plan of attack, formalize the necessary root cause corrective action. Recognize that change can be difficult for some employees, so it’s crucial to explain not only what needs to be done but also why—and when—it needs to happen. When people understand the underlying reasons for a change, they tend to be much more accepting. The “when” lets them know the deadline for implementation.

    Verification of Root Cause Corrective Action

    It is also important to verify that the necessary changes have been made and to document the results. Set up a formal review afterward. This should include both a short-term and long-term timeline with written checkpoints. At each checkpoint, evaluate the result. If it is effective, celebrate! If it turns out to be less than suitable, the process should start over at the beginning.

    The Right Software

    To make root cause corrective action effective, you must have the proper tools to track your process. This includes software that allows you to:

    1. Track job routing for every part.
    2. Track personnel, equipment, and vendors throughout the product cycle.
    3. Track the shop floor in real time.
    4. Use a defined Quality Management System (QMS).
    5. Use effective Statistical Process Control (SPC).

    If you are using an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, you may think that you already have a way to track the data you need. Be careful: there’s a marked difference between ERP software and a Manufacturing Execution System (MES). MES is more efficient in tracking, controlling, and documenting the steps involved, from work-order creation to the shipping of finished goods. An MES helps optimize throughput on the production floor and reduce bottlenecks. Most ERP systems, however, are not integrated with the floor. So, if you are using an ERP system, there needs to be bidirectional communication between both the ERP and MES systems.

    The Cost of Quality

    Customers typically only care about quality when they find problems with your products. It triggers immediate concerns and can undermine the CLV (Customer Lifetime Value).

    As Todd Wenzel, president, CTO, and founder of Bluestreak said: “Quality is free. Poor quality costs money.”

    Bluestreak is designed exclusively for a service-based manufacturing environment, where the primary focus is processing and not inventory management. You can get the right functionality for your business at a fraction of the price of a customized ERP solution.

    You will significantly improve your throughput with Bluestreak. Contact us today, and let us show you how we can help optimize your processes, reduce error rates, and grow your business.

    If you’re ready to leave manual, time-consuming service-based manufacturing tasks in the past, drastically reduce your scrap and rework percentage, gain visibility of your production floor processes, and build better relationships with your customers, contact us for a free consultation today!

  • The Importance of Quality Control in Manufacturing

    Quality control management—the means and methods of precisely monitoring every step along the manufacturing journey, from raw materials to finished product—can make or break a service-based manufacturer. Being off by the smallest margin or failing to produce a finished product exactly to specification can result in a completely rejected batch, hence the importance of quality control in manufacturing.

    As succinctly stated by the American Society for Quality, “Quality assurance consists of that ‘part of quality management focused on providing confidence that quality requirements will be fulfilled.’ The confidence provided by quality assurance is twofold—internally to management and externally to customers, government agencies, regulators, certifiers and third parties. Quality control is that ‘part of quality management focused on fulfilling quality requirements.” Both of these components come together to form a quality system, the ultimate goal for manufacturers.

    You can count on Bluestreak’s Integrated Quality Management System to seamlessly integrate your floor operations with a powerful suite of tools that ensure tight quality controls and flawless production. The software links the quality assurance and control systems together to individual work centers on the production floor and creates an easily understandable database with cohesive and actionable data points. Bluestreak’s QMS package is especially useful for manufacturing, heat treatment, powder coating, plating, and 3D printing operations.

    Without reliable quality control in place, you will waste time, resources, and money. Your production costs will not be optimized, you’ll be forced to rework processes too many times, and you’ll fail audits. If this continues and affects the quality of product, clients will begin to look for another partner to work with.

    The importance of quality control in manufacturing is more than saving money or protecting your reputation. Setting up sufficient measures improves the overall health of your business and helps you reach goals like lowering production costs, passing audits without lengthy delays, meeting all order specifications, increasing productivity, and making your company an attractive place for talented engineers to work.

    Standardization is the ultimate goal of a robust quality control system. You want to produce a given product perfectly, within a razor-thin margin of error. For example, a company that manufactures bed sheets must hit a specific thread count on every single sheet they make—there can be no deviation from the specification. Knowing the importance of quality control in manufacturing will ensure that you won’t produce deviant batches.

    Employees also need to be included in the quality control process. Skilled workers typically have a strong desire to excel in their careers and embrace the opportunity to work with cutting-edge software. Be willing to involve them in the design of an effective quality control process. This is one aspect where Bluestreak excels. With our proven “Success Support” process, we can work directly with you and your team to ensure that all elements of the implementation are completed correctly and according to schedule. You can hit the ground running and get the most out of our powerful software products.

    Besides providing a strong support system, Bluestreak’s platform is geared toward gradual improvement of quality control without subjecting employees to a steep learning curve. Instead of a whole scale change of your typical process, you can implement a single module of the software at a time. Make the switch gradual rather than overwhelm staff with a massive change to their typical duties on the floor.

    In addition to helping you maintain your status quo, proactive quality control can lead to long-term growth. Customers will bring repeat business back to manufacturers they trust or turn a service manufacturer into a primary vendor for one of their captive departments. Doing the job right the first time leads to better customer relationships and more prosperous business prospects.

    Quality control software brings a higher level of visibility to the manufacturing floor and automates the process for ease of generating reports. Implementing new solutions might cause some pushback, but once the initial shock wears off, the automation of quality control improves a critical process, makes it repeatable, and saves time and money.

    For many in the manufacturing industry, quality control is often the only way you can guarantee the successful growth of business. Companies that are willing to move forward with the most modern software and technology will continue to dominate.

    If you’re ready to leave manual, time-consuming service-based manufacturing tasks in the past, drastically reduce your scrap and rework percentage, gain visibility of your production floor processes, and build better relationships with your customers, contact us for a free consultation today!

  • The Manufacturing Costs of “Business as Usual”

    The cost of doing nothing to ensure solid processes in manufacturing.

    Quality is more than just an end product; it’s the means and methods to get you from point A to point B. Bluestreak works to take business as usual and improve the process through real-time improvements. Quality data is collected directly from the manufacturing floor with the ultimate goal of reducing manufacturing costs. Tracking is vital for improvements, and with Bluestreak, it becomes seamless. In order to know where you’re going, you have to know where you are. Tracking manufacturing processes and costs identifies a starting point upon which to build continuous improvements.

    Re-work costs money. Rejected product costs money. Non-conformance or client dissatisfaction costs money. Manufacturing costs are directly related to the goal of client acceptance of a high-end quality product the first time. The means and methods to reach that goal can be achieved through the use of Bluestreak work order management, specifications, all-inclusive quality control plan (implementation and long-term management), and production scheduler. With control of the process from start to finish, tracking documentation straight from the manufacturing floor, the advanced levels of awareness identify where improvements can be made for an ultimately streamlined process and exceptional quality assurance. For every step in the manufacturing journey where a problem is left unnoticed, the longer it will take to correct it or the higher chance that the product will be disposed of. If correction is not possible, you want to be able to dispose of the item quickly, before more time, materials, and labor are used on a product that cannot be used. Even if a correction can be made, the longer it takes to identify, the more expensive the fix.

    Quality control is the delivery of a quality end product, whereas quality assurance is how to get there. Bluestreak guides you through manufacturing floor processes and improvements toward quality at every step, decreasing rework and increasing profitability through reduced manufacturing costs. When a defect is identified immediately, it can be fixed immediately. Quickly identified defects that are corrected on the spot prevent product from moving to the next step in manufacturing. Through Bluestreak tracking, you can go above and beyond removing a defect. You can identify the criteria around the defect and use that data to prevent it from happening again. For example, if you made a casserole at home and left it in the oven so long that it burned, you wouldn’t do that again—you would use the information of your mistake to improve the next round. That’s the same thought behind tracking real-time data for the identification of when a defect occurs. If you did nothing during all manufacturing errors, the cost of continuing business would never decrease and would even potentially increase as mistakes and defects keep occurring. Doing nothing will ultimately cost you more. While tracking, analyzing, and improving the process may have an upfront investment, overall manufacturing costs will decrease.

    Bluestreak focuses on processes, not inventory, driving to the root cause of non-conformance through data visible any time, anywhere, from any device. With all data collected and maintained in various modules and presented in BlueCharts, the results are clearly defined. Employees and contractors are overburdened with increased organizational complexity and stringent red tape. Simplifying the process helps ensure that everyone works together with the same goal in mind, so you can reach the quality you need.

    We cannot improve by just doing what we always do; we need to utilize the data collected to make the appropriate changes. When we do nothing, we waste money and increase manufacturing costs. Improvement starts with tracking data through Bluestreak and monetizing the value of the process. A centralized tracking platform simplifies each step of the way for all levels of participants to do their part. From each worker on the floor to supervisors and management, visibility throughout the process keeps a finger on the pulse of manufacturing costs from start to finish.

    If you’re ready to leave manual, time-consuming service-based manufacturing tasks in the past, drastically reduce your scrap and rework percentage, gain visibility of your production floor processes, and build better relationships with your customers, contact us for a free consultation today!

  • Two Important Scenarios for Business Owners to Implement a Customer Portal During the COVID-19 Reopening Phase

    The benefits of offering a Customer Portal for your company has never been more important than right now, during the business “reopening phase” of the CORONA Virus.

    A customer portal is a software interface that gives customers online, self-service visibility into their interactions with your company.  For example, in the past, if a customer wanted to know the status of a part being produced on the production floor, he or she would have to contact a member of your support team and wait for a rep to respond.  Now, customers can find this information independently, through a secure login into one easy-to-use location, (online portal).

    Customers want the same things that you do; questions answered and their problems solved quickly- information 24X7 when it is most convenient for them. It’s always an ongoing challenge for businesses to respond immediately with the right answers.  But what about now, post-COVID-19 lock-down? With pent up stress and pressure to rev-up business again, how can a customer portal benefit you/your employees and your customers? 

    Usually, we think of customer portals as a requirement to keep customers happy, but what about keeping your employees happy-working smarter, more efficiently, and likely with less frustration?  

    Doing MORE with LESS
    Scenario 1:  Whether you’ve continued to manufacture or you’re ramping back up after COVID-19, you may find yourself with fewer people due to sickness, extended layoffs, or less employees due to social distancing requirements.  How do you get more done with fewer people?

    Get MORE Done with SAME Resources
    Scenario 2:  You have all your employees, but now you really need to ramp up because demand is increasing from the customers that previously canceled or postponed orders.  How do you get more done with the same people and resources?

    If you find your shop needing to increase productivity NOW, read on …

    Automatized software from Bluestreak I Bright AM™ can increase employee efficiency while maximizing customer satisfaction with Bluestreak I Customer Connector Portal .

    How many phone calls do you receive daily from customers inquiring about order status?  How much productivity is lost fielding these calls and searching for paperwork?  Now customers can self-serve by viewing and printing invoices and credits, shippers, certification statements, see real-time counts of each part number in every stage of processing – from receiving to invoicing status of orders and much more!  Finally, all content within the self-service portal is optimized for desktop, tablet, and mobile users.

    When a customer feels like they have convenient access to important information and can resolve issues in a timely and transparent manner, they are far less likely to go elsewhere.  For more information about all Bluestreak I Bright AM™ suite of software products, visit: go-bluestreak.com or bright-am.com (for Additive Manufacturing).