Manufacturing Quality Control Oversight with Software
Since 2006, net premiums for product liability insurance in the US have averaged out to 2.76 billion dollars a year. While this figure doesn’t represent the amount of money paid out for product recalls and related claims, it does show that there is more work to be done in the fight for consumer safety.
Luckily, brands can now turn to manufacturing quality control software as a means of eliminating potential hazards. Software is a preventative tool that gives companies more visibility over their quality control procedures. It’s essential for manufacturing all types of goods—from chemicals to food products. And the best part is that it’s a scalable solution for long-term expansion.
Reactive vs. Preventative Quality Control
While they occupy distinct areas of process improvement, quality control and hazard prevention go hand-in-hand. They both focus on reducing waste and ensuring the safety of the production process. At the end of the day, both consumers and workers win when companies adopt preventative measures.
But not all companies treat quality control with the same preventative mindset as they do safety. Oftentimes, manufacturing quality control measures take place near the back end of the process. And this counteracts the potential benefits of eliminating scrap and reducing costs.
This may not be a conscious decision. After all, quality control is primarily designed to ensure that products are safe for consumers. Brands might not realize that these measures can also have a positive impact on their workers.
This is especially true when you consider the variance in defects across industries. Say, for example, that a food manufacturer makes an error while producing granola bars. The product tastes terrible. Will this affect the workers? Not really. At the end of the day, any last-minute control measures ensure the quality of the product for consumers. In this scenario, the product defect doesn’t affect public health and safety—it only affects the brand’s reputation.
But consider this scenario within the field of chemical manufacturing. Imagine that a paint company has a process defect that results in a high concentration of hazardous chemicals in the product. Anyone who buys the paint could suffer from a preventable health condition.
Furthermore, the longer that this defect slips through the process, the more exposure workers receive to the hazardous chemicals. Having a preventative approach to quality control means that the company protects both workers and consumers.
It’s clear that the stakes vary drastically and that reactive quality control measures aren’t enough on their own. They tend to focus more on consumer health and safety.
That’s why preventative strategies are the best for all-around success. When you check product quality throughout the entire production process, you:
- Protect consumers from things like harmful chemicals and dangerous product defects
- Teach your employees to focus on preventative action
- Reduce downstream costs related to process scrap
- Create a safety culture of vigilance
The key ingredient of a preventative approach is streamlined quality control procedures. Your strategy should focus on lean manufacturing principles which require quantifiable data and a structured method for hazard analysis and prevention.
Lean Manufacturing Quality Control
In the world of manufacturing, continuous improvement applies to both quality control and worker safety. Because where complacency thrives, defects and incidents are bound to happen.
Take lean manufacturing principles as an example. Traditionally, the lean method helps cut scrap in a process. It’s a cost reduction tool. But when applied to important safety metrics, you can use Six Sigma principles to prevent costly incidents as well.
Continuous Improvement Using Quality Control Documents
The past informs the future. Especially when it comes to hazard prevention. Using historical data, whether it’s quantitative or qualitative, is an essential part of quality control. Comparing earlier inspection reports can help you find patterns, and it can lead you to a solution for a common, recurring hazard.
What doesn’t work for many companies is a pen and paper approach to documentation. Managing records this way requires time and resources that could be better spent elsewhere. If you store physical copies of your quality inspections, for example, how are you supposed to perform a quick analysis?
A software solution gives you the ability to record observations, inspection results, and data in the cloud. When you want to deep dive a problem or perform a root cause analysis, you can use your team’s reports to find the answers you need.
Developing Manufacturing Quality Control Training
When you adjust your quality control procedures how do you inform workers? Do you do one-on-one sessions, classroom sessions, team meetings, or another form of training?
In a traditional approach, you have to partner with a learning team to set up and record training. This takes time and isn’t the best for quick changes. Depending on the size of your operation, a traditional method for training updates can work. But if you make a lot of adjustments or find that your training isn’t as effective as you want it to be, you should switch to a digital solution.
With a central learning management system, you can create new manufacturing quality control materials. You can update existing ones. And you can easily get rid of old materials that are outdated.
The best part is that you can pull reports for relevant training modules. When you’re doing food quality inspections or investigating safety incidents, you can quickly check to see which employees completed their training. If anyone who received the training contributed to an incident, this may mean that you need to update your quality control program materials.
Tracking Corrective Actions for Product Defects
Perhaps the most important tracking aspect of manufacturing quality control is tracking batches and ensuring that no defective products leave the facility. So, it’s surprising how many companies still track this process manually. Between the years 2012 and 2021, there was an average of 98.1 food recalls each year.
Software, by no means, eliminates every error in the tracking process. It’s on the user to correctly use the tools within the platform. But a digital solution helps by:
- Getting rid of redundancies
- Delegating quality control tasks to different employees
- Compiling data, analyses, and reports
- Making it easy to sort batch numbers, tracking information, etc. with downloadable analytics
- Uploading quality control checklists and forms
Managers have more oversight over the entire tracking process this way. And with improved oversight comes a decreased chance for quality issues downstream.
From every angle, the benefits of software for manufacturing quality control are impossible to deny. Not only will they help ensure the consistency of your product quality, but they will also make your facility safer. You can use the same software system to ensure that all reports, investigations, and action items are taken care of on time. And that translates into better brand perception and major cost reductions when recalls don’t happen.
Insurance Information Institute, 2020. 2020 Insurance Fact Book. [online] New York: Insurance Information Institute, pp.68, 70. Available at: