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November 30, 2016

Digitize and automate quality inspections for improved product quality

Keith Chambers
Keith Chambers

Keith Chambers is responsible for the strategic direction, commercialization and development of the operations management portfolio globally. This includes our Wonderware MES, Wonderware InBatch, Wonderware Recipe Manger Plus and Wonderware Skelta BPM portfolio of products.

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No matter where or how you work, producing quality product is key.

In industrial manufacturing, quality can be roughly defined as the capability to reliably produce and supply products to specification in compliance with industry best practices and regulations.

Quality commitments are a high strategic priority for most consumer packaged goods manufacturers, along with reducing risk and the costs of regulatory compliance. Manufacturers are also implementing quality initiatives to improve operational processes to further optimize performance and return on plant assets.

Many manufacturers have been investing in production process and equipment automation to improve repeatability and throughput, leading to higher product quality and reduced costs.

Low Automation of Quality Operations Today

One area where automation has not yet been widely implemented is quality inspection. According to a recent Automation World survey many quality inspection processes are not automated, nor do they leverage automated instrumentation. Nearly 44 percent of respondents rely on mostly manual quality inspection.

Those respondents who leverage automation for quality inspection processes indicated several benefits, namely improved production throughput (46.6 percent of respondents), lower costs (43.9 percent), and most importantly, higher product quality (57 percent).   

This alignment of manufacturing IT systems across the business is the beginning (or continuation) of a transformation to provide both operational and business improvements. We can think of such Manufacturing Operations Transformation (MOT) as a maturity model for manufacturing operations.

Manufacturing Software Helps Ensure Product Quality

Manufacturers can improve their product quality by incorporating automation into their quality operations with a Manufacturing Execution System (MES).


F&N Dairies secured significant gains in quality and reduced production, logistics and inventory costs by automating quality operations.

Comprehensive MES solutions manage product specification data as bill of material, formula parameter or procedure information. The product specification information can be used to verify bill of material information using barcode or RFID reader, is provided to operators in current job context or even downloaded directly to production equipment control systems. Such systematic enforcement of product specifications helps reduce quality losses and non-conformance by reducing the risk of human error. Automatic electronic execution, genealogy and material traceability records provide additional assistance in reducing the cost of regulatory compliance and quality documentation.

Implementing digitization and automation into quality operations can have an immediate impact. At F&N Dairies Thailand’s Rojana factory, the existing quality operations system was almost entirely manual. Employees were manually reviewing paper QA documentation in a time-consuming process that could take up to four hours to complete one traceability report. When F&N installed Wonderware MES, the system immediately proved its worth – quality traceability time fell to one minute. Most importantly, the Rojana plant achieved a “100% First-Time Quality” ranking, which is a lean metric that indicates products are manufactured correctly the first time without the need for further inspection, rework or replacement.

Watch the video to learn how F&N Dairies Thailand's Rojang facility, the largest canned milk factory in the world, improved product quality with Wonderware MES

Automation and Integration of Quality Inspections Increases Agility and Assists Regulatory Compliance

The digitization of quality operations offers additional benefits when seamless integrated with other operational domains such as inventory and production management in a complete system.

Operational quality management has been traditionally set up as a separate domain with separate teams, expertise and systems, but in order to optimize operations quality operations have to be executed in synchronization with the ever-changing production schedule. Fully integrating these operations or at least integrating quality operations with material receiving or product sign off processes minimizes delays and production throughput time.

In production, quality operations are often already partly executed by line operators for activities such as picking product samples and taking preventive or corrective actions.  Digitizing and automating the procedures that involve operational people and equipment in overall production context brings peace of mind from knowing that your products have been tested to comply with customer, internal and regulatory requirements.

Integrated quality operations management and sample plan execution from Wonderware helps free operators from distracting and difficult coordination tasks, assuring that quality documentation and control are always in line with the specifications while increasing scheduling flexibility in response to unplanned events.

Users of Wonderware report 30% average quality improvements, among other significant benefits achieved:

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