Behind the hype of the Internet of Things, how will this exciting innovation impact the quality manager and the enterprise’s wider quality culture?
The Internet of Things, the rapidly-growing network of connected devices, is already having an impact on all our lives, but as well as consumer-facing applications, this technology has the potential to transform quality management. With sensors and monitoring devices installed in critical areas throughout the supply chain and production process, argues Dan Bigos of IBM, “the Internet of Things is reshaping or redefining industry practices.”
The Internet of Things and Quality Management
There are many possible applications that could make the lives of quality managers far simpler. For example, the Internet of Things offers an opportunity to detect at the earliest possible stage when sub-standard materials have been introduced into the supply chain, or when the attributes of a product have deviated from specific quality criteria. That enables organizations to intervene very rapidly, saving time and money costs that would have been incurred when the problem came to light later on.
Internet of Things technologies can also be used to monitor the production line – for example, to sound an alert if equipment is no longer functioning within a specific range, which might indicate a problem with the set-up or an impending breakdown. This enables quality managers to identify problems at source and to intervene before a costly outage occurs.
Another area now being explored by many organizations is robotics and artificial intelligence. By automating their operations, organizations often secure greater consistency and reliability, while AI offers the opportunity for smart production processes that deliver greater quality over time as the equipment “learns” from its work and the environment – Internet of Things technologies underpin this learning experience, providing the automated production line with constant feedback about the quality of its output. Risk management solutions such as complaint-handling can act as an important input source, to develop the business case that will identify what to monitor and where to make investments.
Beyond the production process too, the Internet of Things is beginning to have a substantial impact on quality management. With connected sensors built into increasing numbers of products – whether for consumers or business customers – it is possible to assess how the organization’s products are performing, whether customers are using them in a particular way, and where problems are occurring. Using this feedback to improve future production, organizations can gain a competitive advantage over rivals that lack such data.
Overall, the Internet of Things now enables quality managers to take a much more proactive approach to their work, continually making improvements to the organization’s processes and systems in order to deliver better performing and more reliable end products. This technology promises to be a valuable quality management tool.
Find out more about the latest innovations and processes in best practice quality management by downloading our free handbook The Quality and Compliance Management Handbook: Supporting a Quality Culture Across Your Business