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Is Software Alone Enough To Considerably Improve Product Quality?

by Renaud Anjoran on 9 Dec 2019

We have now been equipping customers with our software, SynControl, for more than 4 years, and they sign up in order to enjoy specific benefits. 

Based on our experience, let's look at whether quality inspection software can markedly improve quality on its own in this post...

 

How SynControl commonly improves buying offices' QC inspection activity

Our software has assisted more than 15 buying offices achieve the following objectives in their QC inspection activity:

  • Improve the inspection/auditing process by adding some structure (no corners are cut)
  • Automate some process steps, and reduce the amount of paperwork
  • Get an ocean of data, so that the problems are visible, and the highest risks are identified

However, we have seen many cases where the company that chose to install our software also needs other types of assistance. They chose to automate processes that needed to be re-thought and improved first.

 

What are cases where implementing a new software is only a part of the solution?

cases where implementing a new software is only a part of the solution

A good IT application is not a straitjacket. Changing the way the work is done should still be possible. However, if you count on your overworked quality manager – always putting out fires as they come up – the improvement work might never get done.

Here are a few examples.

What if your checklists are immature (too simple)?

This can easily be refined once SynControl is in place, but at one point it needs to be tackled. Someone needs to go other the checklists and add the level of specificity needed to do the job well.

 

What if your inspectors don’t even know how to do their job?

If your company doesn’t have a well-documented process and hasn’t done the training/coaching work needed, your QC team might lack critical skills. Someone has to work on that.

 

What if your key suppliers don’t know what they are doing?

This is very common in China, for example. A factory has good prices and reasonable lead times, however they're quite inconsistent when it comes to product quality. They just have no idea what to do, no matter how hard you bang them on the head. They need manufacturing consultants to investigate the root cause(s) and tackle them.

 

What if the changes needed are obvious, but they are not getting done?

This is usually not a technical issue, but a “change management” problem. Again, a good consultant can bring what is missing – be it focused effort, a strong push through resistance, technical guidance, and so on.

 

What about after improvements on underlying processes have been done?

Having users work in a certain way, in the framework imposed by an application, is a very good way to ensure they don’t go back to their old habits. 

It means software can bring a lot of value to the LAST phase of an improvement project:

  • The A in PDCA: act/adjust, which often includes finding ways to keep the new standards in place
  • D7 in the 8D: set actions to prevent recurrence 
  • The C in DMAIC: set controls in place


This last phase should never be skipped, as human organizations have a strong tendency to forget about the latest changes. In physics, this is called entropy -- a system naturally tends to move in direction of chaos. Nobody wants chaos in their company, right?

Conclusion

Quality inspection software like SynControl can certainly improve product quality on its own, however in order to get the best possible results it's a common requirement to need to change the way work is done to get the best out of the interplay between factory and quality staff and the new software. In this case, planning and consulting will be an important step requiring input from human experts, too.

 

Topics: quality inspection software, quality improvement, software implementations

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About the Author

Renaud Anjoran

Renaud has 10 years of experience in the quality and manufacturing fields and is a certified ISO 9001 lead auditor and ASQ certified quality engineer. He was quoted in the New Yorker and the LA Times, and his articles have been published in Quality Progress, Business Insider, and more. His role is to ensure SynControl really solves customer's problems and saves them money.

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