The power of cloud-based quality management

Cloud

Manufacturing has a history of moving at a glacial pace when adopting new technology such as cloud-based solutions, but cloud is not new anymore. In recent years, cloud computing and SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) have begun to dominate. More and more manufacturers are looking to switch their quality management to a cloud-based quality system.

Simply, in today’s ever-changing and volatile manufacturing climate, the cost advantages, power, and versatility of the cloud have become essential to survival.

The stakes are high when it comes to quality and safety

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Many food and beverage manufacturers are searching for new strategies and tools to help address their quality and safety challenges. Fortunately, the most powerful and valuable resource is already at their disposal -- data.

Quality data produced on the plant floor enables manufacturers to keep products and processes within specification, constantly producing high-quality products while maximizing yield and minimizing waste. However, this is only possible when that data is accessible and actionable.  Regrettably, a lot of food and beverage manufacturers keep their quality data protected away in paper checklists, spreadsheets, or siloed databases -- leaving all those cherished insights unused.

Investing in quality data management now will allow manufacturers to reap future rewards

The cloud upends how manufacturers can collect, store, analyze and utilize quality data. With cloud-based quality management software, data from all processes, lines, and sites -- and even data from suppliers -- are unified in a centralized repository. The data and subsequent analyses become rapidly available and effortlessly consumable.

By bringing quality data online, manufacturers gain many valuable benefits. The following advantages help to drive higher levels of quality, safety and sustainability across processes and supply chains:

  1. Collection and analysis of data from production processes in real-time

Manufacturing is a continuous and real-time activity.  Collecting data in batches, and performing analysis or reporting on that data in batches (if it is even at all) inevitably means that quality issues and performance bottlenecks can potentially go unchecked for some considerable time.  However, when data is collected and analyzed in real-time, then trends or problems can be detected before they manifest themselves into significant events. 

When a quality, safety or performance issue is detected, alerts can be immediately issued to the appropriate operators or quality personnel. They can adjust or make corrections early on, ensuring products and processes are continually optimized. This proactive approach is the key to reducing waste, protecting profits, and keeping defective products from ever making it out the door.  

Cloud-based quality management software offers the visibility process manufacturers need to break out of firefighting mode. Rather than reacting to one problem after another, they can work on preventing problems from getting out of hand or even happening in the first place.

And because all that information is instantly available via the cloud, plant leaders and quality managers can stay on top of what is happening without being physically present on the plant floor. Whether they are in a back office, on the road or otherwise working remotely, they have all the information needed to ensure operations run smoothly.       

2. Utilizing advanced analysis tools

With paper-based systems -- or even legacy on-site software -- quality data is often siloed between disparate production sites across an enterprise. What is more, data is often not standardized across those sites or systems. This makes comparative analysis nearly impossible and fraught with difficulty.

But that all changes when data from every process, every line and every site are standardized and aggregated in the cloud. This single source of truth can guide decisions about the enterprise-wide quality and performance improvements, compliance and more.   

For instance, modern cloud solutions offer innovative real-time data visualizations and advanced analysis tools that help executives and quality pros compare performance across all sites. They can spot problem areas in need of abrupt intervention, better prioritize resources and recognize sources of best practices to benchmark against across their organization.

3. Ensuring compliance

Food and beverage manufacturers must comply with national and international regulations, as well as numerous industry standards. Meeting those stringent requirements -- and all the documentation, reporting and auditing involved -- can take up serious time and resources. Cloud-based quality systems make it easier than ever to uphold compliance and make audits a breeze.

Compliance can also be enhanced through the systems themselves. When quality checks or data collections are missed, automated notifications remind operators and alert supervisors. This keeps everyone on top of critical quality and safety checks.

With historical data stored in a centralized cloud repository, plant managers can easily generate reports to verify compliance. And in the event of an audit, they can collect and present requested data in minutes -- rather than the days or even weeks it has historically taken to sift through mountains of paper files and spreadsheets. With the cloud, everything manufacturers need to maintain compliance is right at their fingertips.

 4. Visibility upstream

Safe, high-quality food products start with, high-quality ingredients. Cloud-based quality management helps ensure that incoming raw ingredients are up to quality standards -- before they are accepted and incorporated into final products.

Food and beverage manufacturers can demand that their suppliers digitally collect and share quality data through the cloud-based system. They can then observe this data in real-time to monitor the quality of raw ingredients coming from suppliers around the globe. They obtain oversight over third-party quality inspections and, thus, ensure only the highest quality ingredients get used in their products. On top of that, food and beverage processors can evaluate the capabilities and performance of various suppliers over time to establish the best suppliers to work with.

Overall, this upstream visibility helps preempt quality and safety issues, even before those ingredients arrive on site.

Getting the ball rolling

One way to get the ball rolling with a phased approach is to start with a small-scale deployment concentrated on a single process that will produce quick wins and evidence of the value -- a low-effort, high-return project. This will prove the value of the cloud-based quality solution to stakeholders, get plant employees happy using a new solution and lay the foundation for wider utilization across the enterprise.

Manufacturing needs to move more quickly to adopt new technologies. SaaS technology is the answer for many manufacturers. The power, flexibility, and versatility of the cloud have become essential to manufacturing survival.

Photo Credit: TierneyMJ/Shutterstock

Jason Chester is Director of Global Channel Programs, InfinityQS.

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