In today’s competitive landscape, all manufacturers are looking for innovative methods to stay ahead, and automation is increasingly becoming a supercharged solution.
Quality assurance (QA) automation presents an especially beneficial opportunity, allowing manufacturers to improve quality control with little human input while reducing costs compared to traditional manual labor-intensive QA procedures. Despite the many advantages provided by automated QA processes, many businesses struggle to determine when it is the right fit for them and how to take full advantage of its features.
Automation can free up precious time for your manufacturing business to focus on core competencies and chase opportunities for innovation. But how exactly can automation benefit manufacturers when it comes to quality assurance?
By integrating automation to the QA process, manufacturers can ensure consistent product quality and boost workflow productivity. Today, we’ll discuss five tangible benefits that businesses gain by working with an integrator to implement automated systems for their QA processes.
1. Increased Efficiency
One of the primary benefits of quality assurance automation is increased efficiency. Automated inspection and testing can speed the QA process by reducing the amount of time required to manually inspect or test finished parts, assemblies, or products.
Additionally, automated tests can often be performed at a higher frequency, or with more accuracy, than manual tests, which helps identify issues quickly. Some examples include cameras for visual inspection, sensors that indicate errors with size or weight, and even incorporating coordinate measurement machines (CMMs) to check dimensions or placement of part features.
While human intervention may still be needed in the process, many less-skilled or repetitive QA tasks can be streamlined so that your team can devote more time to highly specialized aspects of inspection.
2. Reduced Costs
Another benefit of quality assurance automation is reduced costs. Beyond saving time, automated QA can help to reduce the need for a large number of manual inspectors and testers, which can save on labor expenses.
Remember, however, that adding automation and robotics is not a one-to-one replacement and you should not expect to replace your entire team. Instead, think of automation as a way to supplement your processes to allow your employees to focus on more advanced aspects of their duties.
When you incorporate automation and robotics into your production lines the nature of employee work and the tasks they complete often change as a result. So for example, employees may become responsible for managing the automated QA system as it operates, ensuring a steady in and outflow of parts to be inspected rather than doing inspection themselves. Or they may be tasked with overseeing the machines and troubleshooting or making adjustments, or manually changing over the automation equipment from one part or product to another (though it is often possible to automate the changeover process as well).
3. Increased Accuracy
When assuring quality of a product, accuracy and precision are everything. Overlooking or consistently missing small details can result in major consequences that impact your business’s bottom line and relationships with contract partners.
Integrating automated QA systems allow workers to quickly check that parts meet specifications. It can also alert them to problems upstream in the production line (e.g., a welding machine needing adjustments to its parameters or a press that’s out of alignment). And the faster you can identify defective or out-of-tolerance parts and correct the errors, the less time and money you spend on reworking or scrapping parts.
Automated QA systems can also reduce human error and sort defective products from those that are ready for distribution. For example, an integrator like Force Design could develop a system with sensors and conveyance equipment that auto-sorts or ejects a product from the packaging line if it is under or over its intended weight.
You can also quickly run the same test multiple times with an automated solution. The inherent repeatability of automation allows for multiple points of verification so that you can identify and/or eliminate any chance of erroneous readings.
What’s more, many automation solutions include software for data collection and reporting so you can track QA data over time. This may provide clues to ongoing problems with materials or machine parameters. For example, tracking quality data for stamped metal parts over time may help you hone in on the number of press strokes at which tooling starts to get dull or requires maintenance.
4. Improved Time-To-Market
Whether launching a new product or ensuring a steady production of a popular, existing one, hitting time-to-market goals are critical for profitability. If something is stuck in an endless loop of QA obstacles, this reduces the amount of movable inventory and the revenue your business can earn in the process.
With QA automation solutions, you can quickly move more product down the line with greater confidence that defective units will be removed before they can be packaged or added to an assembly at a later point. This can also help prevent recalls or delays in the supply chain that prevent new units from reaching store shelves or components from reaching the manufacturers you supply when demand is at its highest.
5. Increased Customer Satisfaction
Finally, an important benefit of automating quality control tasks is increasing customer satisfaction. This is because products that are produced and inspected to high standards are more likely to satisfy purchasers’ expectations, whether they are consumers, OEMs, or other manufacturing partners.
For example, if you accidentally package and ship a quantity of laser-cut frames for office furniture with tabs in the wrong location, this will most likely result in the furniture manufacturer being unable to assemble their finished product and a new shipment of frames to be cut.
Once it is determined that poor quality control of the frames and tabs are to blame, your business is at risk of losing the contract. Depending on the product, there may be additional risks to consumer safety.
QA deficiencies like that can initiate a chain reaction situation where a damaged relationship with a contract partner hurts consumer trust in the brand, lowers demand for the product, and by extension, orders for the components you manufacture. This risks not only your profitability but your reputation. Implementing QA automation helps you consistently deliver at a high quality for your in-house operations or as a contractor so everyone’s expectations are met and all parties benefit.
Get Custom-Designed Quality Assurance Automation for Your Operations
At Force Design, we understand quality builds on quality. Ensuring that parts are manufactured to spec and meet quality guidelines, adds a level of security to the final product or assembly as well. This big-picture outlook goes into all of the bespoke automation solutions we design.
Your production requirements are unique and to be most effective and provide the greatest ROI automation equipment should not be one-size-fits all. We begin every project by learning the details of your manufacturing and quality inspection processes in order to create a system that meets your needs. Our team brings years of manufacturing, automation, and robotics expertise to all of the work we do.
To learn more about how you can streamline your operations with improved, efficient QA automation equipment, contact us today to speak with someone from our team.