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Why We Built a Shop Floor Quality System from Scratch

Sep 27, 2016 9:12:32 AM

A letter from InspectionXpert® founder Jeff Cope.

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For most of our customers, employees and partners, it is easy to take for granted the current inspection planning and reporting technology in the marketplace and how the QA/QC and supply chain processes have evolved as a result of that technology. However, as the founder of InspectionXpert Corporation (Extensible CAD Technologies at our inception in 2004) who introduced the manufacturing world to automated inspection planning and reporting in 2004, I often reflect on the exhilaration of replacing the time-consuming and error-prone manual inspection-planning process of the 19th century with a 21st century inspection planning solution.

In the twelve years since we set out to make manufacturing quality simple by delivering software that didn't suck and introduced our inspection planning tools, we have helped over seven thousand users at over two thousand companies drastically improve their quality inspection planning and reporting. We have drastically reduced the burden of inspection planning and reporting from the world's largest manufacturing companies such as United Technologies and Medtronic to cutting edge companies like Virgin Galactic and Penske Racing down to the smallest single-person job shops all over the world. In spite of these accomplishments, I believe we have just scratched the surface in terms of revolutionizing quality processes in manufacturing. It is much faster and less error-prone to plan, record and report a quality inspection today than it was twelve years ago but the inspection plans and results still live in disconnected silos today. Analysis and SPC reside in another silo. Gage Management and Gage R & R are in another silo. Production Part Approval Process, PPAP, documents are stored in yet another silo. Because of these silos, it is difficult to analyze the relationships among these areas of data for trends. Because much of this data is still stored in spreadsheets, paper drawings and paper check sheets, there is often little consistency in how these processes are managed.

Don't get me wrong, there are some software applications out there that aim to integrate all of the quality functions of manufacturing into a single system. However, these applications, known as Enterprise Quality Management Software (EQMS), were mostly written in the 1980s or 1990s, using 1970s relational database technology, based upon the quality needs of large enterprises. Because these systems were built with large enterprise in mind, they are typically very expensive and require lengthy and complex implementations. The excessive initiation costs for these systems places implementation risk squarely on the manufacturing organization. Additionally these EQMS systems, although a big improvement in their heyday, carry a lot of baggage due to antiquated programming languages and development methodologies, legacy technology and antiquated delivery models. The result is a very poor user experience for the end user and an unacceptable distribution of risk for the organization.

So, we built QualityXpert, a shop floor quality platform, from scratch for the following reasons:

Manufacturing Has Changed - Manufacturing has changed dramatically in the past twenty years. More and more manufacturing is being done in deep and globally distributed supply chains versus at OEM and Tier 1 suppliers. Legacy EQMS was never designed for this challenge of globally distributed supply chains made up of smaller and smaller suppliers, and inspection on the shop floor.

Software Technology Has Changed - We are in the midst of a period of profound and unparalleled technological advancement with regard to software development technologies and processes. Monolithic relational database technology requiring expensive hardware has given way to flexible, agile database technology that can scale to millions of users on commodity hardware. Heavy, administrator-installed software that only runs on a single machine has given way to browser-based software that runs on any computer.

Manufacturing Organizations Need Relief - Burdens on small to medium manufacturers are increasing rapidly due to industry standards such as AS9102 & PPAP and methodologies such as Lean Six Sigma. This coincides with increased price pressure due to globalization and shortages of skilled workers due to demographic trends. In spite of these challenges, most small and medium sized manufacturing organizations are still using paper inspection drawings, spreadsheets and paper work instructions. We believe we can revolutionize this paper-based process by integrating inspection planning, in-line or in-process inspection, real-time SPC, non-conformance tracking and gage management into a single system that is accessible by any user on any device at any time.

I love the satisfaction of knowing that something I created, made a big difference in our customers' businesses. I hope you will take a look at QualityXpert to see how we can make a big difference in your business.

Jeff Cope

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