The biggest story of 2020 was the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent race to test and manufacture a vaccine that could stop the disease in its tracks. But vaccine development is just one part of bringing the world through the crisis. Having a vaccine that works is one thing, but manufacturing billions of doses is another. Every vaccine needs to be manufactured the same way and to the exact specifications of the pharmaceutical companies. Vaccine quality control is a life-or-death scenario, and some drug makers aren’t off to a great start when it comes to their processes.
A coronavirus vaccine might be the most important thing manufactured this year, but it’s hardly the only thing being manufactured that needs to follow strict quality control processes. Every manufacturing company has its own internal quality control procedures and industry standards that must be followed.
Quality control processes and how well they are followed every day are what separate the good manufacturing businesses from the bad ones. As a manufacturer, your reputation hinges on your ability to consistently deliver a quality product for your clients the first time that it comes off the line—no rework, no flawed deliveries or recalls, and no schedule delays. All those depend on implementing quality control processes that can be easily followed with minimal deviation. You get these processes right, and your profit margins go up, your product is better, and your customers are happier. If not, you’re flushing money down the drain and struggling to retain clients. This is why quality control can make or break manufacturers and why so many are willing to do whatever it takes to get their processes right.
Setting up quality control in manufacturing processes is easy in theory but challenging to get right every single day. This is due to the human element and our inability to consistently repeat simple tasks without deviation. Unfortunately, much of manufacturing is based on doing those simple tasks and having them done exactly as specified every time. A good quality control process quickly identifies when something has begun to break from the specifications, and allows workers to take corrective action before it snowballs out of control.
There are steps that manufacturing companies can follow to improve their quality control processes. It’s never a one-size-fits-all approach due to how diverse the manufacturing industry is, but following these five steps would be a great start for a manufacturing company that wants to improve their quality control.
- Get your team on the same page. A manufacturing company is ultimately a team of individuals all coming together to do their job and run the plant. There are multiple disciplines within the company, and everyone’s input needs to be accounted for when analyzing quality control.
- Attack quality control with a customer-first mindset. Quality control might ultimately help a company’s bottom line, but it should be focused on the customer first. Get their order right for the fairest cost. Advocate for the customers.
- Drive home the cost of quality. Everyone on the team should be fully aware of how much it costs to rework defective products in terms of worker-hours, materials, and dollars. In addition to these costs, there could be a hit to your company’s reputation if there are too many breakdowns in quality control.
- Don’t take half measures. If you do find problems in your quality control processes, the team needs to dig in and find the root cause of the breakdown.
- Be sure to discipline, discipline, discipline. Process discipline will keep your team on track after you implement steps to improve quality control. Develop thorough checklists, and hold people responsible for fulfilling their roles in the process.
A strong quality control process is rooted in the proper steps being followed and the data that supports decision making. The business of daily operations on a manufacturing floor can lead to many of the steps in the quality control process slipping through the cracks. This is where modern software for the manufacturing industry comes in. Software like Bluestreak automates much of the quality control process and generates real-time, actionable data that can keep operations humming along at full efficiency. Bluestreak allows manufacturers to develop their own specifications library, generate reports and certifications, automate sampling, and manage maintenance and machinery load. Using a software platform like Bluestreak allows manufacturers to follow the five steps outlined above and bring about tangible improvements in their quality control processes.
There are three features within Bluestreak that can help improve quality control: the advanced specifications manager, which allows companies to build out their own libraries of industry-specific specifications and generate reports and audit trails; the advanced sampling plans tool, which ensures that the correct number of samples is being taken from each batch, guaranteeing that parts and products are being checked as they come off the line at the right intervals; and finally, the statistical process control, which allows manufacturers to track real-time data from all the processes running on their floor.
Quality control can be done without manufacturing software, but it will ultimately fail at some point due to a breakdown in the process, whether it’s missed sampling intervals, gaps in data, or incorrect product specifications. The software provides an extra level of support to ensure that the quality control processes that your staff has worked hard to develop will be followed every time.
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!