How to Level Up Quality Control in Manufacturing with IoT
Quality control is fundamental in every industry, but in manufacturing, it’s hyper-critical. Volatile market demand, high material and production costs alongside the mission-critical nature of end products impel OEM and manufacturers to pursue nothing but first-rate quality and a minimal rejection rate. With the Internet of Things (IoT) gradually hitting its stride in manufacturing, quality management is deemed an area with transformational opportunities.
The Quality Management Challenge at a Glance
Effective quality management relies on the ability to constantly monitor and control a host of machine and process parameters that impact product quality. To ensure product properties are consistent and up-to-par, equipment recalibration is constantly performed as process drifts and other changes in the production line crop up. Yet, with the growing complexity of tooling systems and manufacturing processes, many process variables are left unattended due to the limits of bulky wired networks.
While ideal for high-throughput, time-sensitive automation tasks, wired communications lack the flexibility and affordability needed to capture telemetry data at scale and beyond the machine level. Typically, factors like environmental conditions, despite their major influence on quality variability, are often not studied and controlled. For example, in auto manufacturing, unfavorably low room temperature can reduce the quality of 3D printed components by causing them to cool too quickly.
What’s more, designed in the last century, the majority of wired-driven industrial systems aren’t intended for data exchange beyond the factory floor. This creates disconnected islands of data that couldn’t be used to enhance production efficiency and throughput. Instead, process optimization and quality management often depend on reactive, manual post-production inspection. Besides expensive human intervention, this introduces significant quality variability and associated costs while making it challenging to trace the root cause of quality issues.
Entering Industry 4.0: Proactive Quality Management
The pressing quest for improved process visibility speaks to the tremendous potential of IoT and its counterpart – Industry 4.0 for proactive quality management. Wireless instrumentation isn’t necessarily new to manufacturing, but most legacy solutions fail to live up to crucial requirements in terms of range, power and ease of integration in industrial operations. A new generation of IoT connectivity delivers not only industry-grade reliability and security for dependable communications, but also a high level of scalability, cost-efficiency, and interoperability needed to overcome the manufacturing inertia.
Wireless IoT networks that can capture vast, granular critical data points along the production line, render manufacturers with unprecedented control over their operations and product outputs. Beyond reactive, end-of-run quality inspection, IoT data empowers a proactive quality assurance approach to diagnose and prevent defects much earlier in the process for peak production throughput and repeatability alongside reduced costs and waste. Concurrently, it provides valuable insights for achieving and maintaining storage best practices.
- With 24/7 remote monitoring, quality managers can instantly detect off-spec conditions among running equipment and processes that give rise to potential product defects. A prompt following quality check helps to reaffirm the problem at the source and facilitate troubleshooting to hinder future defects.
- Once different quality problem sources have been diagnosed and verified, manufacturers could even develop and implement a quality control model to further optimize product properties. Capitalizing on ongoing sensor inputs, such a model allows machine operations to automatically adapt to unwanted fluctuations in variables like environmental conditions, to achieve the top and consistent product attributes.
- When it comes to industries like pharmaceuticals or food and beverage, quality management doesn’t stop at the end of the manufacturing line. Temperature, humidity, shock and other factors during storage all have an impact on the product shelf life. IoT sensor networks can thus help monitor and achieve an ideal storage condition.
Retrofit and Future-Proof Wireless Connectivity for Industry 4.0
With data acquisition an inherent challenge in most industrial environments, IoT deployments often appear to be overwhelmingly complex, expensive and intimidating. The reality is, it all boils down to choosing the right technology for the right business case. Speed and ultra-low latency have been a top priority in industrial communications for decades. Nevertheless, as the new wave of IoT telemetry applications kicks in, these become peripheral in many use case scenarios outside automation. Instead, what really matters is the long-term reliability, integrability and manageability of the communication network as it scales to accommodate thousands of connected endpoints.
MYTHINGS is purpose-built to address such critical requirements for industrial networks of the future. It introduces a robust, cost-effective and retrofittable solution to help manufacturers swiftly transform legacy assets and equipment into dynamic connected systems. At the same time, it allows you to tap into a new host of data like environmental parameters that were previously unaddressed due to the high cost and complexity of traditional communication solutions.
Ultimately, the transition towards the next industrial revolution by no means requires a costly and daunting rip-and-replace of existing equipment. Quite the contrary, versatile IoT technologies should enable you to harness Industry 4.0 values directly from legacy systems in a straightforward and streamlined fashion.