We’re far beyond the arguments for or against quality assurance and management technologies — they have been around for some time now, and they have a lot to offer. More importantly, they allow organizations to truly measure and maintain service or product quality, among other support features.
Because of the technology, quality standards have improved considerably across the board. Engineering processes have become much more efficient and reliable, operations are better controlled, and the related system architecture is much easier to maintain and manage.
While QM technology may be tried and true, various applications are still considered relatively young. These trends are on the bleeding edge of the field, offering their own sets of advantages. Provided the technology and necessary infrastructure is already in place, here are the top quality management technology trends you should be keeping an eye on.
1. Big Data, IoT and Analytics Spur New Information Channels
Emergent technologies are now being combined to collect, process and manage varying sets of information. IoT sensors embedded within production machinery, for example, can highlight performance and maintenance stats, cluing technicians in about important hardware conditions. Warehouse management systems can be incorporated with digital tracking tools to alert managers about incoming and outgoing freight. Production line sensors can measure product and goods properties to identify potential control issues.
These are but a handful of examples of how big data, IoT, advanced analytics and even automation are being put to use. The most important element is that the tools are being used to both develop and monitor new forms of data — particularly real-time information that allows for an immediate response.
2. Improved Traceability and Counterfeiting Protection
One of the more challenging sides to quality management, especially when sourcing goods internationally, relates to fraudulent or counterfeit products. Recently, China was responsible for the widespread use of “spy chips” embedded inside the servers of major tech companies. Apple, Amazon, Super Micro and many others still deny they were affected, but one thing is certain: Something happened, and that something stems from altered or counterfeit chips.
Anyone with business experience knows this happens quite often, and so there needs to be systems and processes in place to counteract it. Improved traceability across the entire supply chain is one way to make such a thing possible, and there’s a lot of talk surrounding blockchain technology. It’s not a far-fetched idea, as retailers like Walmart currently leverage the technology to trace goods back to the source. Walmart even deployed blockchain to track leafy greens in the wake of a major E. coli outbreak.
For the uninitiated, blockchain is essentially a secure digital ledger, originally developed to support cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin. When applied to the supply chain, it allows parties to track goods with full transparency, from their source to their distribution or sale.
Expect to see a lot more of this technology as more organizations and supply chain proponents adopt it for increased transparency and quality control.
3. Advanced Manufacturing Will Boost Build Quality
One of the major reasons for having control measures in place is to explicitly test and improve the build quality of goods and products. This is a huge part of quality assurance, in general, which has admittedly changed in the age of instant gratification.
For decades, this has been a long, tedious process that required a lot of back and forth between development, QA and management teams, especially when creating a prototype or conceptual design. Thanks to modern technologies, that is no longer the case.
In fact, with something like 3D printing — also called additive manufacturing —- it’s possible to move that entire process closer to the consumer. Design teams can build and print early models, release them for testing, and then collect the performance and usability results. Then, they can simply upgrade the new models to perfect the final build. This also allows for on-demand product development, which means teams can make on-the-fly adjustments to improve product waves.
These smarter, more advanced manufacturing processes will ultimately boost build quality.
4. More Sustainable, Resource-Friendly Operations
Another element of quality control — that may seem disjointed at times — relates to the materials and resources used during development. It’s not necessarily the QA department’s job to build a more sustainable operation, but they can certainly play a role. At least one-third of consumers prefer buying from a brand that’s efficient in their use of resources. No one wants to know the products they are buying are draining the world of valuable resources, or worse yet, causing significant damage to the surrounding environment and communities.
Collectively, however, the smarter and more advanced quality control technologies can allow for more efficient use of resources, specifically when it comes to waste. Reclaiming and repurposing waste, better use of available resources, 3D printing and on-demand technologies are all solutions that can help create a more sustainable operation.
Building a Better Future
These four quality management technology trends will be instrumental in improving the future and efficiency of the field.
Different though they may be, each one offers a distinct upgrade over conventional practices. Big data and advanced analytics can help drive operational efficiency and monitor quality control in real-time. Improved traceability through blockchain will help boost trust and ensure counterfeit goods are not an issue. Advanced manufacturing will be used in new ways to enhance build quality, providing massive benefits to consumers. Finally, more sustainable and less-resource-intensive processes will mean a positive impact on the environment.
If you haven’t already, you should consider incorporating these practices within your operations.