Inline quality control in production processes:
Maximise efficiency and minimise defects
Quality control is a crucial part of any production process. It ensures that every produced product meets the customers’ expectations and requirements. Quality control in a production line can take place afterwards (outline), but also during the process (inline).
With inline quality control, the process is continuously monitored and the product is inspected inbetween production steps. In this article we will discuss the benefits of inline quality control. We will look at different methods and we will share a few tips to get started yourself.
Advantages of inline quality control
There are several advantages to the inline inspection of product quality:
- Early detection of errors and defects. By continuously monitoring the production process, you can identify defects at an early stage. What’s even better, you can prevent defects. By continuously monitoring you can see all deviations in the output quality. These deviations are, at the beginning, acceptable, minor errors in the products. By intervening in the process, when you identify these deviations, you prevent these errors from eventually turning into defects. This is a big step towards zero-defect production (read our knowledge article about zero-defect manufacturing here).
- Increased efficiency. the entire production line becomes more efficient from the use of inline quality control. Because there are fewer defects, less production and labor time is lost, there is less waste and therefore more efficient use of raw materials. Continuous monitoring makes it easier to carry out preventive maintenance on the machines because there is a good picture of how they are functioning.
- Increased customer satisfaction. Because the inline quality control inspects each product, defective products will not reach the customer, in contrast to a final inspection with a random selection of products. The customers’ set specifications can be closely followed during the entire process, if the customer has different expectations or has stricter requirements, this can easily be adjusted for the relevant production step.
Methods for inline quality control
The basis for interim quality control is collecting and processing data. By not only giving each product a pass/fail, but by monitoring the functioning of the product line as well, you can work towards zero-defect manufacturing. Collecting data can be done in different ways:
- Statistical Process Control (SPC). SPC is a method for continuous monitoring of the process as described above. This method analyses the data from the production machines and extracts patterns and trends from it. This allows the aforementioned deviations to be detected.
- Vision systems. By means of cameras and software, the products are inspected for the pre-issued specifications. For example, correct assembly, missing parts, surface quality and colour are inspected. These systems are often self-learning through the use of AI (artificial intelligence), so that they perform better over time and detect deviations in a trend earlier.
- Dimensional inspection. In dimensional inspection, the shape and size of a product is measured against the given specifications. This can be done using various techniques, such as laser scanning, measuring using coordinates and mechanical solutions. By collecting the measurement results and analysing the data, the quality can be further optimised.
Getting started with inline quality control
A few tips we would like to share with you:
- Start small. It can be overwhelming to implement an inlinequality control system in your production process from scratch. So start step by step, with one production step or machine. This allows you to test and refine the process of inline inspection before rolling it out across the entire production line.
- Get you colleagues on board. Inline quality control is most efficient when everyone participates. Ensure that all employees involved know their role in the process and follow the procedures closely. A zer-defect production makes everyone happy!
- Use the available technologies. As mentioned, different methods and technologies are available. Consider what investment you want to make and which method will achieve the most effect within your production process.
- Keep monitoring and improving. Inline quality control is an ongoing process. By keeping a close eye on the data and making smart use of AI software, you will soon have collected enough information to control the quality even more accurately. This way you can further refine the quality system to increase your efficiency and output quality.
Finally, inline quality control is a strong way to help manufacturing companies further in improving the efficiency of their production process. By using the right method for your production process, you can detect errors earlier than before. With a better output, customer satisfaction will also increase. By taking it step-by-step and having a well-thought-out approach, manufacturing companies can successfully use this method of quality control!