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Why quality management is a vital part of digital manufacturing

Why quality management is a vital part of digital manufacturing

Like the first, second, and third industrial revolutions before it, Industry 4.0 will precipitate major changes in the way products are manufactured. But it also signals an important shift in quality processes and systems from being isolated to following an integrated quality management approach.

The concept of ‘quality’ has evolved to mean far more than the integrity of a manufactured product. Quality today represents a philosophy, a system of methodologies and practices, and an ongoing commitment to business excellence that encompasses all aspects – and engages all individuals – within an organisation.

Granted, technological change may well have thrown a wrench into quality management, but, at the same time, it offers quality managers an opportunity to both redefine quality and become quality champions in new fields. New standards and customer requirements are emerging, and innovative quality methods such as real-time community feedback, big data, and predictive quality management will all enable next-level quality performance. These new methods have been dubbed ‘Quality 4.0’ to mirror the global shift to Industry 4.0.

But rather than be intimidated by these next-gen technologies, you’d do well as a quality leader to do a deep dive and learn how your organisation’s quality management stands to benefit from them. There’s no need to go into a digital transformation blindfolded – with a well fleshed-out strategy, you can create a road map to fuse these new technologies with traditional quality methods to drive new levels of operational excellence, performance, and innovation.

DOWNLOAD How To Guide: Developing a customer-focused quality improvement plan to help you embed a culture of quality improvement that drives customer satisfaction and builds brand loyalty.

Why a Quality 4.0 strategy?

Much of industry has often been plagued by the same persistent quality challenges associated with a poor quality culture, lack of data-driven quality decisions, and insufficient cross-functional visibility into quality. With an effective Quality 4.0 strategy, however, you can enable your quality teams to solve the challenges that have prevented them from innovating and improving quality practices.

This strategic approach to quality improvement is important because the new technologies can help you solve long-standing people and process quality challenges, such as evidence-based decision-making, collaboration, design transfer and organisational culture. Such a strategy also presents an ideal opportunity to realign quality management to the organisation’s corporate strategy.

To ensure success, new quality management technologies shouldn’t be deployed in a vacuum. They must build upon a traditional, mature quality best practice foundation, as automating poor processes with poor data often results in making a lot of poor decisions. A properly executed quality strategy can result in these potential benefits:

  • Increased reliability of production output with less variation
  • Improved Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) and lower maintenance costs
  • Fewer health and safety risks to employees
  • More tightly integrated supply chain management

Big data and advanced analytics

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has created a golden opportunity for manufacturers who can now use massive data volumes in unexpected new ways. Using big data and advanced analytics, manufacturers are able to view product quality and delivery accuracy in real time, making trade-offs on which suppliers receive the most time-sensitive orders. Armed with this information, you can give preference to top suppliers and thus improve quality over time.

The use of big data also means that quality can be integrated throughout the entire value chain, rather than at the end of the production line. This level of knowledge increases quality while reducing waste. Most importantly, it has been estimated that by embracing and participating in the technologies and other elements of Industry 4.0, manufacturers can potentially reduce their total Cost of Quality by 22%–50%.

However, for Industry 4.0 initiatives to be successful, a cultural shift will be required, calling for additional investment in both people and change management. It will be critical to involve employees throughout the organisation, including the Quality team, in the change process, training them along the way as enhanced or different skill sets will be required in the new Industry 4.0 paradigm.

The challenge for quality managers moving into the future is largely about allowing for change in a field that relies on constants. While so much attention today is paid to the bottom line, quality has a profound impact on the top line as well – remaining fluid to recognise, respond to and anticipate customer wants and needs to drive satisfaction and loyalty. Such a focus grounds the future firmly in the concepts taught by the original quality leaders almost a century ago.


The TRACC framework helps organisations build standardised and integrated good practice and performance capacity across their Plan, Source, Make and Deliver functions. Simultaneously it accelerates their collaboration and alignment capacity to build world class end-to-end value chains, enabling the organisation itself to become the ultimate source of sustainable competitive advantage.


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