Product Quality and Manufacturing Technology Management

Product Quality and Manufacturing Technology Management

Manufacturing technology is defined as the act or process (or connected series of acts or processes) of actually and physically making a specified product from its material constituents. It is central to a production system which produces the specified product as required by the customer. Manufacturing process takes place when some input occurs in a production system and it appears as an output and provides result in the form of a product. On the other hand, manufacturing technology is that knowledge which is used in the production system during the process of manufacturing.

Manufacturing technology is an interacting combination at any level of complexity, of people, materials, tools, machines, automation, software facilities, and procedures designed to work together for the common purpose of producing product of that quality which is needed by the customer. It provides the tools which enable production of the specified products.  These tools of the manufacturing technology magnify the efforts of individual workers and turn raw materials at the affordable cost into the quality products required by the customers

The objectives of the manufacturing technology (Fig 1) are namely (i) low cost operation, (ii) high performance, (iii) consistent product quality, (iv) high productivity level, (v) high yield, and (vi) product customization.


Fig 1 Objectives of manufacturing technologies

There is a close link between the quality of the product and the manufacturing technology. An appropriate manufacturing technology is normally needed to produce product of quality since the technology is the principal quality determinant. In fact, manufacturing technology is to have capabilities to produce products of predictable quality at the productivity levels which keeps the product production cost under control. The technology needs not be unique, but it is to be mature and is to have innovative applications which enhance the quality of the product as well as the safety.

Manufacturing technology plays very significant role during the process of manufacturing the product of desired quality. In this context, the technology consists of operations which involves flow of materials, design of the processes (even the layout), use of the appropriate and necessary equipments, and cost of the end product. It includes the machines, equipment, tooling, monitoring and inspection instruments, and devices which contribute to an operation transforming the input materials to the specified product as per the processing procedures. It adds value to the input materials and provides the customers desired products as per the standards and specifications. It reduces manual labour and manual interference which are generally involved during the process of manufacturing.

Manufacturing technology is normally used to instill quality in the product and is considered useful when it (i) predicts product quality from operating conditions, (ii) derives better operating conditions which can improve the product quality, and (iii) detects faults or malfunctions in the process and/or equipments for preventing undesirable operation and production of the products which are off in specifications.

Manufacturing technologies are to include systemic processes which are interrelated. They are to make the interrelated production processes stable for smooth production of the quality product. The technologies are to be simple and are to require such skills for which operators can be trained. The technologies are also to support economies of scale for the manufacturing of the products.

Manufacturing technologies play the role of catalysts in introducing quality in the products while they are under manufacture. The cutting edge manufacturing technologies are those technologies which are flexible and produce the product of that quality which is required by the customer on a continuous basis without any chance of rejection/diversion. These technologies are normally flexible, standardized, highly productive, and exceedingly automated with minimum of human interference. These technologies are capable of producing small batches of the products for meeting the specific requirements of certain customers. With these technologies, it is easy to set the process parameters quickly before the start of continuous production.

Processing procedures are the important components of the manufacturing technologies. These procedures need to be developed with carefulness since they influence the quality of the product. The procedures need upgradation on a continual basis till the manufacturing process and the resulting product reaches a level of maturity. Operators are to be trained well in these procedures.

Normally two types of technologies are used for producing products of the required quality. They are (i) basic technologies, and (ii) advanced technologies.

Basic technologies

Basic technologies are those technologies which are fundamental to the production processes. They are generally the traditional technologies developed based on scientific principles. They are those technologies which are necessary for the production of the product at the needed productivity and efficiency level with low specific consumption of input materials.

Basic technologies normally consist of chemical, mechanical, metallurgical, and production technologies.  Any missing step in the production process based on these technologies can cause havoc to the product quality. Basic technologies are usually supported by support technologies like electrical, instrumentations and control technologies.  Maintenance and enhancement of the product quality through an effective basic process technology include the following.

  • Improvements to established and emerging technologies and processes for enhanced product quality, production efficiency and product safety along with the strategies for their introduction at proportionate cost.
  • Prevention of cross-contamination (mix-up) during manufacturing and distribution which normally compromises the product quality.
  • More effective on-line technology for monitoring and predicting product quality during production.
  • More flexible approaches to manufacturing to enable rapid but efficient (low waste) responses to customer requirements

Advanced technologies

Manufacturing technologies of these days, often known as ‘advanced technologies’, create new kinds of products which cannot be made cost effectively with conventional processes. These technologies, besides boosting innovation by allowing the manufacture of new kinds of products, also produces high quality of products made to customer’s exact specifications. Further, these technologies are good for the environment because they often consume lesser raw materials and generate less scrap. They improve safety as well, by exposing workers to fewer hazards. Additionally these technologies are to be consistent, reliable, and robust. They along with the appropriate inspection and testing aims at zero defects in the products

Application of advanced technologies to the basic technologies in the manufacturing processes is a recent trend. Advanced manufacturing technology applications have a big impact on the product quality. Rapid advances in information technology, sensors, and nano-materials are dramatically not only lowering the costs of leading edge manufacturing processes but also improving their performance in a big way with respect to the quality of the products. Slowly but surely, digitization has begun to permeate every aspects of the production processes, from engineering to management of the supply chain to the shop floor which is making production systems more intelligent and highly networked and more product quality oriented.  This is helping the organizations not only to improve the productivity but also to become more responsive to shifting customer needs.

The advanced manufacturing technologies of today use the following five technological tools to have the greatest potential to influence the quality of the products besides influencing the improvement in the productivity and process efficiency.

  • Automation – A new generation of automation systems are used in the production process which link the manufacturing process with remote control systems frequently through information technology. These new automation systems are equipped with remote contact or non-contact sensors and standardized interfaces, and, in some cases, eliminate totally the human interferences. This helps in eliminating the quality deficiencies in the products introduced through human errors. Automation also enables the manufacturing of the product with better precisions and close tolerances in a cost-effective manner.
  • Integrated computational materials engineering – This tool creates computer models to simulate the properties of the products. By equipping the production processes with these models it not only helps in production of the products which meet the specification requirements bur also reduces product rejection rates. This tool helps the process stabilization very quickly during the start of the manufacturing process. It also reduces the product testing load after its manufacture. This also helps the process to produce products in a better, faster, and cheaper way.
  • Digital manufacturing – Digitalization of controls during the manufacturing process helps identifying and automatically correcting the flaws in the products during each step of the production process. This in turn improves the product acceptance rates.
  • Industrial internet and flexible automation – With the help of such automation, process hardware can be linked together so that the equipment and machines are able to communicate with one another and automatically adjust product quality based on data generated by sensors.
  • Additive manufacturing process – This is a very advance tool which creates three-dimensional objects based on digital models by successively depositing thin layers of materials. Use of this tool totally eliminates production of the products which are off in dimension tolerances.

Advanced manufacturing technologies help in addressing a number of the organizational needs. These new process technologies boost productivity and responsiveness to the customers by making it possible for the organization to quickly and easily modify and adjust the production processes according to customer requirements. As a result, the organization can generate a greater diversity of products from the production processes. These advanced technologies combine the efficiency of mass production with custom manufacturing with products made specifically to meet the needs of the customers. This is somewhat difficult, and often prohibitively expensive to do while using conventional technologies during the manufacturing processes.

Advanced manufacturing technologies are not only innovative but they also improve the product quality besides having a positive impact on the production efficiency. Further since these advanced innovative manufacturing technologies are heading in dramatically new directions, it has become important and necessary to keep pace with the latest developments for the organization to remain competitive.  It is worth paying attention for the organizational management for utilization of the opportunity of accepting and implementing those technologies which are promising and not disputed.

With the manufacturing technologies heading dramatically towards the new directions, keeping pace with the latest developments is more important than ever. To be successful in the future, organizational management is required to keep the following at the top of their minds:

  • Continue to actively and systematically scan the new technology frontier and take the advantage of the supplier and customer know-how and industry panels. Cooperation with research institutes can also to be used to remain up to date.
  • Develop a clear road map to test and adopt the most promising technologies, so that the organization is quick to identify which new technological direction to take and ready to move in that direction as soon as the opportunity or the need arises.
  • Assess the organizational operations at regular intervals and prepare them to quickly adopt towards the new technological direction. This requires a rigorous self-assessment of the organizational capabilities to take advantage of the technologies which are in the horizon.