One of the most important but often unappreciated aspects of manufacturing is QA or quality assurance: the bit at the end of the production process where the final product gets checked for errors and defects before it’s shipped to the customer. The importance of QA in the entire process is obvious, as it not only helps keep production errors in check but also keeps faulty and even potentially hazardous items out of consumers’ hands. This, in turn, can prevent PR and revenue losses, among many other [positive outcomes.
However, as it is the last part of the manufacturing process and many manufacturers today place much value on high-volume product turnout, QA may not receive as much attention or manpower as it should. This is why it’s a good idea for manufacturers to look into improving their their visual inspection processes by automating them. With technologies and components like split-axis XY gantry systems that allow for high-speed, high-precision movements with sub-micron repeatability, manufacturers not only stand to address the manpower issue when it comes to product QA but also make the inspection process much more efficient.
The following is just a short list of benefits that manufacturers stand to gain with automated visual inspections.
- Faster Turnaround Times or TATs. Once an automated visual inspection machine is properly programmed and tuned to the specific manufacturing process it’s overseeing, it can easily perform a complete product check in a shorter amount of time compared to a manual inspection. Even if we consider the added time it would take for the machine operator to double-check the machine’s results, it’s still a net gain as far as decreasing the final TAT is concerned.
- Increased A Human error will always be a factor where manual labor is concerned, even if the employee is already highly experienced and a well-regarded authority in the field. Fatigue, distractions, and the repetitive nature of QA can also increase the chances of an error being let slip. Having automated product inspections automated may help remove or at least reduce the chances of inspection errors from the equation, resulting in greater accuracy and higher product quality. The measurement parameters can also be adjusted more easily, should the standards be changed or if additional parameters need to be included.
- Increased E As automated visual inspection machines can catch errors faster and earlier, this means that feedback is much more immediate and corrections can easily be made in the up-line. This results in greater production line efficiency, as all the kinks are quickly ironed out no matter where they are in the process.
- Decreased Strain on Manual I No manufacturing company can afford to replace their entire inspection team with automation – human touch, not to mention critical thinking and spontaneity, is still needed. However, by augmenting a manual inspection team with automation technologies, not only can they perform their job much faster and easier but it will also cause them less stress and strain in doing so. This translates to happier, healthier, and more efficient employees. This also makes the personnel much more alert and attentive for any errors that the machines may fail to catch.
By automating their visual inspection processes, manufacturing companies can push for faster production rates without sacrificing product quality. However, it must be said that automation should not be considered as a final solution when it comes to QA errors, as machines are not 100% infallible. It must be there to augment and to assist, not to completely replace. At the end of the day, a competent QA/visual inspection team is still key to preventing flawed products and rejects from ending up in consumer hands.