LNS Research has been tracking and influencing the market’s use of Industry 4.0 technologies to improve quality for several years. These technologies have proven to be transformative, and include advances in connectivity and sensors, data management, analytics, app development, and collaboration. LNS calls this Quality 4.0 and recommends all quality teams include Quality 4.0 in their strategies. To better understand it, read the blog post and eBook.
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LNS has been working with several manufacturers on a specific Quality 4.0 initiative, “Zero Defects.” Wondering what is a Zero Defects initiative, why should you care, and what are some considerations when implementing one?
What is a Zero Defects initiative?
While all manufacturers perform quality checks and inspections, and many have effective continual improvement competencies, we still expect some level of in-service failures resulting in customer complaints or warranty returns. But what if we could eliminate nearly all these in-service failures through new insights? What if we digitalized our quality and manufacturing data, applied advanced analytics, and came away with understandings that could predict when a serial number was likely to fail in warranty?
This is the goal of Zero Defects initiatives. Zero Defects is an aspirational target, but one which is much closer to reality with the advent of Quality 4.0.
Manufacturers deploying Zero Defects initiatives trace quality planning data, inspection data, and manufacturing operations data including sensor data from manufacturing equipment. This data is located by serial number, building a digital thread of creation and inspection of each serial number. These digital threads are gathered in a data lake, and compared to in-service quality events captured against these same serial numbers (complaints, warranty claims, and recalls) to identify correlations between a serial number’s experiences in manufacturing and its in-service performance.
Why should you care?
There are three reasons to care. First, given sufficient data and effective analytics, the correlations gained in a Zero Defects initiative accurately predicts in-service quality issues, allowing manufacturers to react before shipment. This has a direct impact on the bottom line through reduction of warranty accrual, returned material authorization, failure analysis of a returned product, etc. It may influence the top line as well, as fewer quality issues often translate into more satisfied customers, better internet marketplace reviews if applicable, and thus newer and repeat business.
Secondly, in some cases, the correlations also reduce the frequency of less effective quality checks (obviously caution is needed), which lowers appraisal costs.
Finally, while Zero Defects initiatives are new, they are not unproven. LNS Research is working with several manufacturers on Zero-Defects initiatives that have already demonstrated success.
Manufacturers looking to embark on a Zero Defects initiative should consider these points:
- Zero Defects initiatives require closed-loop feedback from the field, ideally tied to the serial number. Some manufacturers do not have such visibility, and therefore may elect to prioritize other initiatives.
- Zero Defects requires a sound quality and operational data foundation. LNS's experience has shown that applying advanced analytics to poor veracity data results in weak predictions. This doesn’t mean manufacturers must transform data across the entire corporation. Instead, pick the right application that will provide the best chance at early success, and use the credibility gained from that success to make corporate-wide improvements.
- This isn’t just about data and tech; process, behaviors, and competencies are critical and may need to be enhanced to improve predictability.
- How much do supplied goods contribute to finished product quality? LNS’s research identified supplier quality management as one of the most critical quality processes. Consider including supplier quality data in your Zero Defects initiative, perhaps as a future phase.
- Don’t do all the heavy lifting yourself. Is there a Smart Manufacturing or other Digital Transformation initiative underway in operations? Consider bolting the Zero Defects initiative onto this effort. Many operations leaders are prioritizing quality improvement as a top goal for their Smart Manufacturing initiative and need quality to take a role.
Zero Defects initiatives are a vital Quality 4.0 use case for manufacturers. They easily connect to existing Digital Transformation efforts in manufacturing and deliver meaningful improvements to quality and the bottom line. LNS recommends quality leaders incorporate Zero Defects initiatives in their 2018 strategies.