Despite the increased use of automation across a whole range of manufacturing operations, the process of quality control has remained reliant on human intervention for a number of very specific reasons. The manual process was kept in place for some time because it was seen as providing more detailed and specific quality assurance checks that machines were not able to offer.
Improvements and changes in technology has meant that the benefits of automated quality control now outweigh solely using human workers. Not only is it more consistent, but cost effective, faster, and they do not suffer from fatigue or tiredness. There is never any room for complacency when it comes to providing quality control and even if you currently automate part, or all of the process, there could still be room for improvement. We look at some of these options below:
Vision and Inspection Systems
One of the key applications vision and inspection systems can provide is the ability to have a positive impact on quality control. With the implementation of both 2D and 3D available for vision and inspection purposes, as well as being able to work quickly and provide reliable feedback, the use of vision inspection continues to grow.
A vision inspection system increases the speed, repeatability and accuracy of the process and removes the scope for human error that is prevalent in a manual quality control check system. Many specialist medical factories worldwide are producing large quantities of specialist medical items using fully automated systems, that include automated inspection and checking, with no manual intervention.
Measuring and shape detection vision systems provide the answer where accurate product measurements need to be checked to ensure the dimensions meet stringent manufacturing standards. The process will also reject any items that do not meet the set criteria, instantly improving the overall quality of the batch.
Barcode reading and label checking vision systems can also be used to ensure that not only are the right labels in place during production, but the printed information being displayed is correct. This is ideal for mass production lines as it allows you to monitor speed efficiency and greatly improve overall accuracy of the product.
As vital as labour is to production, it is also the element that generates the highest costs. Not just through the employment and maintenance of the workforce but the errors caused during production can quickly begin to mount. In addition, the impact is felt in lost production time, missed SLAs and any time and costs that may be given to support services.
What automated datalogging can provide is the ability to spot any issues as and when they occur during production. This allows for problems to be solved there and then, rather than having to deal with a major crisis that wasn’t intervened with earlier.
Accurate tracking records enable you to quickly trace any customer complaints or quality issues back to the source, and rectify the process immediately. This traceability prevents quality control issues from getting out of hand and reduces the need for product recalls. With large amounts of data at your fingertips, small quality issues, intermittent issues, etc. can all be tracked, identified and resolved a lot quicker and easier.
Datalogging systems are also useful in identify bottlenecks within your process as you are able to monitor the flow of product through your workspace. For more information on identifying bottlenecks, read our blog post ‘How Do I Identify a Bottleneck in my Production Process.’
Stringent regulations within industries such as food and pharmaceuticals ensure that extremely low tolerance levels are set during the manufacturing process. Traditional machinery is unable to perform multiple tasks, slowing down production as elements of the process are moved from one machine to another.
The advantage of bespoke automation is its ability to undertake multiple tasks to match requirements within your facility. While you will see an increase in production speed, most importantly, it will improve the accuracy of the production process as less machines are required to complete a product batch. This will reduce wastage and ensure that the production cost is lowered.
All of the processes outlined above can be incorporated into bespoke machinery which means that your bespoke machine will be very reliable; producing only parts that meet the required quality control checks.
The ROI is felt almost immediately and of course it’s worth remembering that machines do not take breaks – their accuracy can be relied upon 24/7. If the consequences of human error can be reduced, then losses are smaller and other areas of the business will naturally benefit from an increased focus.
Cost Effectiveness and Growth
As with any automated system, there is always an upfront cost to consider when thinking of purchasing an automated inspection system. Of course, this has to be factored against the long-term benefits and ROI of using the system within your production. The costs saved on labour along with the increased efficiency will quickly becoming noticeable on the bottom line. As long as the system is installed with due care, defining the correct parameters for quality inspection, and room for improvements are allowed further down the line, then it only offer positives.
Call it the bottom line, the profit margin or the balance sheet – whatever your preference, the company as a whole will see the benefits of automated quality control. If the overall quality of the product being produced is improved, then this should be reflected through increased sales and demand. The precise data captured using automation can also be used to attract new buyers who aside viewing the finished product, get to see the breakdown of every stage of production and the material quality that goes into making it.
We aim to provide as much information as possible so you can make an informed decision about changing your manufacturing set-up. Quality control matters in every step of production and we want to help you create improvements wherever possible. For more information about anything we’ve discussed above, or if you would like to find out more about the benefits of automation in general, please get in contact with our experienced team on 01223 499488, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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