Supercharging manufacturing quality

Quality is quality. It’s a simple thing when you cut the fluff.

As people, we get it. We have an intuitive grasp of what it means. We know that a quality product is well designed and well made from quality materials. Simple.

Yet in the world of manufacturing, quality is a word we hear so often that it loses meaning. If you take a step back, it’s easy to see why – quality is entangled in our processes, vulnerable to gaps in the manufacturing value chain and under pressure from the constant drive to cut costs and increase productivity.

Simply put, quality is the most fundamental needle mover in manufacturing. Yet a value chain that is not connected means we miss opportunities to unlock incremental gains at every step. With quality consistently ranked as a top priority for our sector, what strategies do we need to adopt to drive it to new levels?

In this post I will explore how it is possible to drive a multiplier effect across the value chain by creating a quality digital thread that links assets, unlocks insight and puts intelligence to work.

The current status – point solutions and gaps in the value chain

Decades of innovation and problem-solving have transformed our industry, unlocking new capabilities, cleaner production and greater agility. However, this progress has come at a cost.

Many factories today are limited by patchwork systems of point solutions. Gaps in our value chain are more prevalent than ever. With places to hide, quality issues have all the space they need to grow and spread.

As an industry, we have band-aided ourselves into a corner. Point solutions are limiting our ability to root out quality issues and drive output standards to new levels.

Having optimised as far as we possibly can with point solutions, further improvement and leaps in innovation require us to zoom out and take a holistic, vision-level view of our technology requirements.

To plan successfully, manufacturers have to balance their ambitions to transform operations, products and business models with rapid technology advancements to ensure they maximise the benefits of tools such as generative AI and automation.

Eliminate gaps by connecting a quality digital thread across the value chain

Right now, factories are generating, but not leveraging data. To transform impactfully and gain new capabilities, we need to connect our disparate systems, unite data in one place and put it to work.

This is vital because quality is a result of connectivity. Quality only becomes a scalable result when every sensor, every piece of software in your facility is connected. With data as the connecting thread – quality is woven into the fabric of your enterprise spanning everything from products and production to planning and procurement.

Right now, the application of big data for enhancing quality is seriously lacking and fragmented. This is a problem because it obstructs our ability to leverage AI to transform datasets from event-driven to predictive. By setting dimensional quality triggers we can pre-empt quality incidents.

Creating a quality digital thread that connects your ecosystems linking technology across your facilities for full enterprise alignment, means that data can be centralised, mined for generative improvements and acted on. With no need to rip and replace technology, you can maximise existing infrastructure investment.

AI/ML contextualisation of data allows you to make step changes to your business while embedding continuous improvement. Co-pilot assistance gives you the freedom you need to advance towards a long-term vision where high-fidelity data sets are harnessed for full automation.

The structuring and accessibility of relational data is critical. Designing a quality-centric data mart from the ground up that acts as both a system of record (single source of truth) and a system of engagement throughout the enterprise, will provide the versatility needed to meet various stakeholder needs.

Developing a technology plan around the single, connected, quality digital thread will help you structure, mine and leverage data with generative tools to give you game-changing capabilities.

Unleashing the multiplier effect

In the world of manufacturing, quality is a stage at the end of the process. However, to truly boost output quality, it is essential to look at the whole value chain.

Quality begins with design – it spans look, feel and ergonomics. Quality is then realised via choice of materials and is brought to reality in the making. Quality is detail, precision, conformance, tolerance, structure, safety and performance. Quality is ultimately a customer benefit. To those that achieve it, it is the ultimate market differentiator.

To connect the approach, insights gathered from the CAM and inspection phases need to be harnessed to create feedback loops that transform product development by empowering designers with real-world insight that can be used to bake quality into designs.

As well as helping customers solve quality challenges that become apparent at each specific stage of the cycle, by connecting the quality digital thread, Hexagon helps you drive a multiplier effect by unlocking gains across every phase in a circular way, harnessing AI recommendations to support generative, autonomous improvement.

Full ecosystem transformation requires a ground up and top down approach

Quality products are the result of a seamless production ecosystem. Quality levels that redefine manufacturing brands however are the result of whole-of-business connectivity that spans and unites ecosystems.

This is where Hexagon is uniquely positioned to help. Our approach is to build quality up from the shopfloor with purpose built tools, high fidelity data capture, master data controls and connectivity of sensors and software. We then build down from the top-floor by streamlining everything from resource planning to customer fulfilment encompassing customer feedback loops and orchestration of quality processes outside the perimeter of the factory with ETQ enterprise asset management software from Hexagon.

Enterprise-wide visibility is essential to monitor supplier as well as in-house manufacturing quality. A tool like ETQ Reliance delivers in-depth insights into the entire supply chain helping to identify quality issues even earlier, alongside delivering efficiency improvements. We deepen this business wide connectivity yet further by linking technology across your facilities and network for full enterprise alignment via Hexagon’s Nexus digital reality platform. The completes the loop and turns connectivity into oversight and action.

By taking a whole-of-business approach to quality, you gain multiplier impacts from your operational cycle with synergies from across your ecosystems and facilities compounding gains at every stage.

Here top-floor business objectives such as quality, productivity, time to market and agility are delivered via connectivity on the shop floor. On the flip side, shop floor needs such as the timely arrival of high-quality components are accelerated by quality-centric approaches on the top-floor.

This whole of business approach is vital to the creation of a seamless, symbiotic system of constant improvement.

How Hexagon is positioned to help

Over many decades, we have carefully developed an all-of-value-chain solution that gears manufacturers for successful transformation.

Being seamless and circular, it does something unique. It unites production and business cycles. This eliminates places for problems to hide and provides you with total operational oversight.

Rather than trying to identify an issue and resolve it, we dig deep, look holistically at the entire value chain and help you develop a system that delivers permanent root and branch improvement. Our solution takes the data generated by your sensors and software, leverages it to the fullest and sets it to work.

Fusing digital and real worlds, we create immersive digital twins of your products, assets and facilities. We embed advanced automation helping you to drive optimisation and innovation to new levels.

It all culminates in ecosystem orchestration. By managing your production and operational ecosystems in Nexus, feedback creates a truly circular, holistic flow for data-led transformation. Combining insight with corrective action, it’s your single source of truth and because it happens in real-time – there is nothing like it on the market.

Author

  • Josh Weiss

    Appointed President of Hexagon’s Manufacturing Intelligence division in 2022, Josh Weiss leads the division’s global strategy and operations. He has served in multiple leadership roles in Hexagon since 2015 – from his most recent role as COO/CDO of Hexagon’s Geosystems division to the President of Geosystems’ mining and heavy construction businesses. Weiss started his career at ArcelorMittal and prior to joining Hexagon served as a senior manager at Deloitte. Weiss, a certified public accountant and chartered managerial accountant, holds a Master of Business Administration and a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance.

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