What’s Getting in the Way of Your Quality Goals?

Written by: Jeff Zemsky

Read Time: 5 min

This blog was originally published in February 2024 but has since been updated with new information.

Quality is top-of-mind in the world of manufacturing because it impacts so many things: customer satisfaction, a company's reputation, and ultimately the bottom line. However, for many manufacturers the path to achieving and maintaining quality is not as clear as it could be. By investigating the most common obstacles to quality and their far-reaching impact – as well as the limitations of your current solution – you can determine the right quality initiatives for your operation.

Common obstructions to quality

Gatepoint Research conducted a survey in 2022 with IT, engineering, and quality experts to determine the biggest roadblocks to closed-loop quality. 51% of respondents cited siloed systems as their biggest obstacle, followed closely by manual processes (46%), and product complexity (38%).

Siloed systems

Siloed information systems are the most common roadblock to unlocking your quality potential. When different departments within an organization use disparate software and databases, it’s challenging to share crucial product information – including quality data – efficiently. Siloed systems hinder collaboration, increase the risk of errors, and make it difficult to track and analyze quality issues. This can cause you to suffer higher defect rates, longer production cycles, and increased costs.

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Manual data processes

Manual data processes are time-consuming and error-prone – yet commonplace in manufacturing environments. When manually inputting data from one system to another, the likelihood of mistakes increases drastically compared to connected, automated transfers, and can ultimately lead to miscommunications, scrap, and rework. This manual effort takes valuable time away from more productive tasks and can lead to delays in addressing quality issues or making improvements.

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Complex products

Manufacturing products with increasing complexity poses another significant quality roadblock. Complex products often require sophisticated quality control measures, which can be costly and time-consuming. Ensuring that every component meets the desired quality standards can be challenging, and deviations can be difficult to detect until it's too late. Complex products also increase the risk of defects, rework, and product recalls, which can have a substantial financial impact.

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How QMS falls short

While quality management systems (QMS) have been the standard in many manufacturing industries, they won’t address your systemic sources of poor quality. QMS cannot solve for miscommunications or manual entry errors, which can have a prolific effect on quality when there are manual processes, siloed infrastructures, and complex products.

Although QMS can be used to resolve quality issues for complex products, they do nothing to manage complex product data and its related workflows at each stage of their lifecycle – increasing the likelihood your operations will be impacted by mismanaged data and subsequent quality issues.

The advantages of PLM

Product lifecycle management (PLM) offers a comprehensive solution to the challenges posed by quality roadblocks. Unlike QMS, PLM is designed to manage the entire product lifecycle, from concept and design to manufacturing and beyond. There are several key advantages of using PLM to address common quality hurdles, including:

Integration: PLM systems can integrate seamlessly with other software to break down silos and enable real-time data sharing between departments.

Automation: PLM automates many processes, reducing the number of manual data transfers and minimizing opportunities for human error.

Traceability: By providing a holistic view of a product's development, PLM makes it easy to identify and rectify quality issues early on.

Product complexity: Complex product structures are more easily and efficiently managed and changed in PLM systems, thus improving quality control, reducing defects, and supporting compliance.

Customer point of view: Terumo BCT

In January 2024, Engineering.com hosted a webinar with our customer Terumo BCT to discuss the role that modern PLM and the digital thread play in improving change management and product quality.

PLM Image Terumo BCT Sarah Gawlik Quality PLM system

Here's the full clip:

"Jim Anderton (Engineering.com):
Sarah, those of us that are involved in making things in manufacturing, as we both are, we think the whole world boils down to faster, better, cheaper. After implementing this PLM system, which one of those things, what combination of those things, got better?

Sarah Gawlik:
I think quality, right? Probably the first, right? The better for sure is what we improved by implementing the PLM. I think we have better products. We're able to see more, make better choices, and probably faster. Definitely faster. Imagine. Literally, we were walking things around the facility to get it signed and it sat on one person's desk, and if they were out for a week, it just sat. Whereas now as we have a virtual desk and you say, "Hey, it's been sitting there for a day. I see they're out. We're going to switch it over to this virtual desk," so we can move things along a lot faster, for sure. "

You can watch the full interview here.

A clear path to better quality

While QMS offers a lot in terms of quality management, it is not a comprehensive solution to the most systemic quality pitfalls and on its own falls short in the modern manufacturing landscape.

Industrial manufacturers pioneered automation to produce goods in ways that weren’t possible using manual methods; while it’s overdue, market leaders are now applying those same principals to how data is being automated and integrated to improve quality and reduce costs. PLM emerges as a more comprehensive solution that enables manufacturers to reduce hidden quality barriers and enhance their performance in the market.

Overcome Quality Roadblocks Now

Explore how manufacturers can overcome roadblocks on quality through PLM and the digital thread. Read the eBook
Tags: Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Windchill Windchill+ Closed-Loop Quality PLM Improve Quality SaaS Improve Quality

About the Author

Jeff Zemsky

Jeff is the VP for Windchill Digital Thread. His team leads Navigate, Visualization, Windchill UI and Digital Product Traceability. Prior to joining PTC, Jeff spent 16 years implementing and using PLM, CAD and CAE at Industrial, High Tech & Consumer Products companies including leading the first Windchill PDMLink implementation in 2002. He was active in the PTC/USER community serving as Chair for the Windchill Solutions committee and on the Board of Directors for PTC/USER helping to bring voice of customer input together and create a community where people could network for tools and processes. Jeff attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Lehigh University.