Inspection and Quality Control in Manufacturing

Written by: Claire Cavanaugh

Read Time: 5 min

Inspections and quality control are vital steps for manufacturers. For automotive manufacturers and suppliers, these checkpoints are necessary for ensuring quality and safety throughout the production process. As such, driving improvements to inspections and quality control measures are an ongoing priority. Manufacturers are now taking a second look at their traditional inspection processes. Many of these seemingly tried and true approaches have long been complicated by manual and inefficient methods, introducing risks for costly rework, safety issues, and recalls. When customers can’t be certain about your product quality, their loyalty and satisfaction are likely to degrade over time.

Automotive manufacturers and suppliers have seen rapid digital transformation in their products, but for so many manufacturers, the tools provided to frontline workers are years behind. Augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) can transform inspection and quality control in manufacturing. Specifically, augmented reality quality control provides frontline workers with step-by-step guidance from quality checks to documentation in ways previously out of reach.

What is quality control?

ASQ defines quality control as “part of quality management focused on fulfilling quality requirements” or “the operational techniques and activities used to fulfill requirements for quality.” The overall Cost of Quality (CoQ) accounts for the costs of good and poor quality:

  • The costs of good quality encompass your business’ investment in systems that ensure quality.
  • The costs of poor quality (CoPQ) include the costs of scrap, rework, warranty claims, recalls, and more.

Poor quality can cost your business through capacity issues, employee overtime, marketing efforts to address damaged brand reputation, and health and safety issues for employees and customers alike. Not only can these costs add up quickly, but they also have a negative impact on your employee experience and customer satisfaction.

What is quality inspection?

Quality inspection is one of the main checkpoints that manufacturers rely on to ensure quality control measures are being met. From pre-production inspections to end-of-line inspections, quality engineers have several opportunities to spot defects and address problems before they impact the customer. But manual methods introduce inefficiencies and opportunities for error that can limit the benefits of inspections.

What are the benefits of using inspection and quality control in manufacturing?

Inspections can happen during any part of the production process, with end-of-line inspections being one of the final steps for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to address quality or safety concerns before the product leaves the facility. Effective inspection and quality control ensure the safety of the product, minimize CoPQ, and improve brand reputation and customer satisfaction.

Improved safety

Automotive manufacturers and suppliers are working with complex products. Wires and plugs must be connected properly, welding points must be set accurately, and many other components must be assembled correctly. By identifying defects during production or at the end of the line, quality engineers can address any safety risks that could result from incorrect assembly—and minimize associated costs.

Increased customer loyalty

Consistent product quality is vitally important to your customers. Inspections and quality control help ensure your customers are always receiving products that meet their high standards. Effective quality control processes help your business build a strong reputation, improve brand loyalty, and boost customer satisfaction over time.

Lower costs of defects and waste

Finding defects early in the production process (typically during in-line inspections) is critical for quality engineers to avoid costly rework and waste later. According to ASQ, companies could see quality costs up to 15-20% of their sales revenue—with some up to 40% of operations. Successful companies should aim for CoPQ to be 10-15% of their operations.

Reduced recalls

A global consulting firm estimated, “the average cost of an auto recall over the last 10 years was about $500 per vehicle.” And consider that in 2021 alone, roughly 80 million motor vehicles were produced. When automotive manufacturers and suppliers fail to identify defects before the product is sent to the customer, they face the costs of recalls and rebuilding brand reputation. Inspections help quality engineers identify and resolve issues at the right time. Major automotive executives would likely concede that heavy investments in quality are well worth the return of avoiding a major safety recall.

Quality control vs. quality assurance

While both quality control and quality assurance are integral to the quality management process, ASQ makes a clear distinction in their definitions:

  • Quality control refers to operational efforts (such as inspection) that are focused on meeting quality requirements. Quality control is part of quality assurance.
  • Quality assurance is the process of assuring both internal management and external customers that the product or service will meet quality requirements.

As an important step in quality assurance, quality control is where your workforce has the biggest impact—but they might not be working with the best tools for the job. In fact, 67% of manufacturers still have manual inspection processes, while best-in-class manufacturers are leveraging AR to improve inspection efficiency and accuracy.

How does augmented reality impact quality control and inspection?

Inspections include some of the final chances for automotive manufacturers and suppliers to confirm the product meets quality requirements. But manual methods—from paper-based instructions to non-automated protocoling—invite the risks of human error, safety issues, scrap and rework, and poor quality. Quality is paramount for your customers’ safety and continued loyalty. That’s why leading manufacturers are investing in AR for improved quality control.

By using AI with an AR application, frontline workers can use both the visual guidance of AR and the perception of AI to improve workforce efficiency across the industrial enterprise. For the inspection use case, AI-enhanced instructions visualized in AR empower your quality engineers through guided assessments, real-time feedback, visual hints and warnings, and automated reporting. These features result in clear benefits throughout the inspection process:

  • Accelerated inspection cycles through simplified quality checks that eliminate the need to juggle a paper-based instruction manual
  • Real-time, at-scale warnings overlaid on the physical environment to minimize human errors that often result from lengthy, repetitive processes
  • Automated inspection reporting through a single system that streamlines the process of documenting inspection results and recommending improvement areas
  • Improved KPIs, including decreased ramp-up times, reduced test failures and omissions, and increased throughput

Through AR inspections enhanced with AI, leading automotive manufacturers and suppliers are realizing faster, easier, and more effective inspections that transform quality control, improving the employee experience, brand reputation, and customer satisfaction.

How do you implement inspection and quality control in manufacturing?

Implementing augmented reality quality control is the first step to maximizing the business benefits of your inspections and quality control initiatives. PTC’s Vuforia enterprise AR platform and mobile inspection feature Step Check are empowering automotive manufacturers and suppliers to get better results with quality control, with the most notable value from end-of-line inspections. Having the best tools to streamline quality checks and documentation is especially critical in end-of-line inspections, as they represent one of the last opportunities for manufacturers to resolve issues that weren’t caught during pre-production or in-line inspections.

Take control of quality and end-of-line inspections with augmented reality

Inspection and quality control are essential for manufacturers—and there are huge opportunities for AR to support quality, reliability, and efficiency and optimize CoQ. That’s why leading automotive companies are embracing AR to revolutionize their inspection processes.

In the “Upgrade Your End-of-Line Inspections” eBook, you’ll learn:

  • Common pain points during end-of-line inspections and how they impact production time, product quality, safety, and customer satisfaction
  • AR and AI solutions for end-of-line inspections and how they help improve efficiency, accuracy, guidance, and insights
  • Real-world examples of AR inspection use cases and results at leading automotive manufacturers and suppliers

Discover how to implement inspection and quality control in manufacturing for faster and easier inspections that build customer satisfaction.

Explore AR Solutions for End-of-Line Inspections

Read more about inspection pain points, AR solutions, and real-world examples from leading manufacturers. Download the eBook
Tags: Augmented Reality Digital Transformation Automotive AR Workforce Efficiency

About the Author

Claire Cavanaugh

Claire is a Content Marketing Manager on PTC's Commercial Marketing team. She creates content in support of PTC products and solutions.