The number of companies using Additive Manufacturing (AM) for full-scale production has nearly doubled in the past year alone. Almost half of all manufacturers are in the AM business at some level nowadays. Leads teams are shortening, new designs have shorter go-to-market times, and customer demand is being met more quickly. However, with this rapid adoption, not everyone using Additive Manufacturing is having a great experience. That’s because their quality control process needs improvement.
Do any of the following warning signs sound familiar?
The Warning Signs of Quality Control Concerns in AM
Here are the seven warning signs that indicate that your quality control might need a bit of work. If you’re experiencing any of these, your quality control process needs improvement:
- Excessive scrap and waste
- Excessive post-processing
- High maintenance and support costs
- Failed audits
- Missed deadlines and/or budgets
- Customer complaints
These warning signs are most likely symptoms of a bigger issue: your quality control process needs improvement. You must get past the symptoms, however, and look for the underlying causes to fix the overall problem.
Think of doing this investigation process in the same way that you would track down nonconformances: search for the root cause of the problem to determine the correct course of action. Corrective and Preventative Actions (CAPAs) result from carefully analyzing the situation, crafting a solution, and then communicating the results. The process is reinitiated and tested to verify that you’ve solved the problem. Make sure to document everything for audit purposes and future work, down to the operator level.
You’ve probably used the CAPA process several times to make adjustments to your production pathway, but have you done the same for your quality control program? You might find that you’ve been too busy treating the symptoms without finding out the root cause.
The Hidden Costs of Poor Quality Control
You know the obvious costs of poor quality: higher costs and lower profit margins. However, it goes deeper than that.
Preventable errors are one of the most frustrating aspects of Additive Manufacturing. Without the right quality control program, it’s easy for errors and waste to become part of your AM experience. There are also the hidden costs that can be more expensive in the long run:
- Disengaged and frustrated workforce
- Wasted time due to incorrect, lost, or out-of-date documentation
- Reputational damage
- Unhappy customers who take their business elsewhere
There are also the lost opportunity costs. When your materials, equipment, and operators are tied up doing rework for nonconforming parts, dealing with high levels of scrap and waste, or having to perform excessive post-processing, that’s time that they could be doing more productive work. Dealing with these problems raises your cost of production and lowers your profitability.
Wouldn’t you rather spend your time going after new business rather than trying to salvage the business you already have?
How to Improve Quality Control in Additive Manufacturing
If your quality control process needs improvement, you need a manufacturing execution system (MES) and quality management system (QMS), such as Bluestreak | Bright AM, that can maintain the control you need over the entire Additive Manufacturing process.
One of the biggest barriers to quality control is the lack of real-time information. Outdated spec sheets, lost or misplaced paperwork, or changing work orders can cause all sorts of problems in the production process. Even if things ultimately turn out fine, it’s often difficult to track down all the information that you need to comply with an audit process.
A real-time paperless workflow ensures that everyone knows exactly what to do every step of the way, from the front office to the production floor. An MES/QMS system:
- Minimizes waste
- Improves communication
- Analyzes workflow
- Reduces lead time
When every person in the production chain has real-time, up-to-date, and accurate information, it reduces errors, delays, and rework.
How Bluestreak | Bright AM Manages Quality
Bluestreak | Bright AM has built-in traceability and trackability to identify any conflicts in the process, quickly recognize quality issues, and help define any necessary corrective and preventive actions. This provides better visibility, control, and quality.
- Visibility: Have real-time visibility for each operating step in AM production.
- Control: Have better control of the build plate/platform process.
- Quality: Tie quality control management processes, procedures, and specs directly to individual operators.
Protect Your Additive Manufacturing Business
When your quality control process needs improvement, you’re wasting time and money. You are also putting future business at risk, and we know how small of an industry this can be. Dissatisfied customers tend to spread the word to their colleagues, which can hurt future sales. Recognize the warning signs and take action today by contacting Bluestreak | Bright AM.
If your service includes Additive Manufacturing, we provide specific solutions in our Bright AM software. To request an Additive Manufacturing software demo, click here!