Modern factory using IoT technology for quality control

IoT and Quality Control: Ensuring Precision and Consistency in Manufacturing

Explore how IoT technology revolutionizes manufacturing by proactively managing quality and increasing accuracy and efficiency. Our article covers the fundamentals, challenges, tools, and benefits of the IoT in quality control.
JAN KUCERA, CEO & CPO at Spotflow
Jan Kucera
CEO & CPO at Spotflow
Published on:
April 4, 2024

Imagine a factory floor where every part, process, and product is continuously monitored and optimized in real time. Leveraging IoT technology for more precise and consistent quality control is the key to this manufacturing paradise.

In this article

You'll discover how the Internet of Things enables the shift from reactive to proactive quality control (QC) processes. We'll go over:

  • What is QC, and why is it essential,
  • IoT implementation and challenges in manufacturing,
  • IoT tools and methods for quality control, and
  • Benefits of using IoT in QC.

Introducing Quality Control

In manufacturing, quality control is a set of defined processes and practices that ensure your products meet the required standards. From detecting product anomalies and adjusting environmental conditions to asset tracking and even facility management, quality control gives you insight into what’s going on during production.

Another term that goes hand in hand with QC is Quality Assurance. And while they both aim at the same thing, they're fundamentally different:

  • Quality control gives an insight into what’s happening at the production level, like when a motor is heating up more than it should or when a part's dimensions are out of spec.
  • Quality assurance is a set of processes designed to prevent issues from occurring in the first place, such as employee training or updates to best practices.

Why is QC Important?

Most equipment issues happen slowly and in several phases. Therefore, one of the most effective ways to manage quality is real-time monitoring and control of production. If the insulation on one of the factory's machines fails, the machine will start heating up. But it will take hours, even days, before the machine fails completely, and if you regularly check the machine's temperature, you can fix the issue and prevent the worst from happening.

The main benefits of quality control:

  • Reduced costs and improved output quality
  • Lower number of product returns
  • Decrease of waste and labor costs
  • Protection for companies from damages and liabilities resulting from defective products
  • Increased customer satisfaction

Let's see how to achieve all of this by implementing modern technology.

IoT Implementation and Challenges in Manufacturing

Historically, quality control has been done in person and manually—workers on a factory floor pick a random finished product to check its dimensions or any other specifications. Today, the Internet of Things allows for automated real-time monitoring and data collection throughout production, resulting in faster and cheaper processes with fewer mistakes.

Unfortunately, most manufacturers have to overcome several hurdles when implementing IoT technology. It starts with the fact that much factory equipment predates modern technology and ends with questions like: "Is it worth the investment?" Let's tackle the three biggest challenges you'll face.

1) Connectivity of Legacy Equipment

IoT devices eliminate the need to replace old machinery. Rather than investing in entirely new equipment, just add the IoT sensors and modules to the ones you already have, and voila, the machines are now connected to the network. Then, the data immediately starts streaming into industrial IoT platforms like Spotflow.

2) Data and Systems Integration

Once the machines are connected, you need to understand the data and ensure you can use it in your systems. That's where Spotflow shines because it makes integration with any system a breeze. Our Device SDK supports multiple languages for embedded software and the platform supports a range of data storages and data queues.

Moreover, the whole platform is data-agnostic, so you can work with any data format, such as binary, unstructured, or structured. Whatever information you process, from telemetry to videos or logs,  just make sure your IoT platform can handle it.

3) Questions About ROI

Moneywise, the best approach is to start small and scale up. That's why we recommend kicking off with an out-of-the-box IIoT platform rather than developing a tailor-made solution. And you'll see the benefits as soon as you start getting insights into your data. Here’s an example.

After implementing Spotflow, you start collecting basic data, such as scrap_rate per machine. The data will show you that machine A produces 10% more scrap than the average machine of its type. Before you started collecting data, you couldn’t average the scrap rate. But now you know, and you can ask other important questions, like:

  • Is there an issue with the machine settings?
  • Are its settings different from those of the rest of the machines?
  • Are any of its components worn out?
  • When did the machine last undergo maintenance?

Even this simple metric can drive significant changes because you will start analyzing the data, identifying trends and deviations, and recognizing areas for improvement. All of this quickly leads to monetary savings.

IoT Tools & Methods for QC

While some operations need devices to monitor processes in real time, others implement tools for remote control or automated visual inspection. However, most quality control processes in manufacturing will rely on a mixture of tools from the following groups.

Real-Time Monitoring Sensors

IoT sensors are responsible for continuously monitoring any number of parameters, from temperature and pressure to fill levels and scrap rate. Moreover, continuous data collection in real time makes predictive maintenance possible. And we've already seen how even a single measured parameter can dramatically improve performance while lowering costs.

Automated Visual Systems

Cameras, in connection with machine vision systems, can monitor the accuracy and consistency of individual parts and the final product while detecting and notifying managers of any defects. As we mentioned, Spotflow is data agnostic, so it's easy to incorporate a video feed into your data streams. Also, our Device SDK transfers big data (think video files) to the cloud securely and reliably without the need to code anything extra.

Automated Data Analysis & Alerts

The industrial IoT platform analyzes the incoming data almost instantly. You can set alerts that notify selected groups when a monitored value is outside a given threshold—for example, when a scrap rate is above the average/median value of all machines within a specific time window. This means that people are notified as soon as a problem is detected, reducing the delay for remediation action.

Wireless Connectivity

Sometimes, the location and environmental conditions do not allow for a stable connection. That is why we developed the Spotflow Device SDK to prioritize critical data to be delivered to the cloud first while deprioritizing other data. This is handy in applications with low or fluctuating data upload speeds. The Device SDK also ensures that no information is lost, caching the data even when the connection is down for an extended period.

The Journey to Smart Quality Control

From production to the transport of physical goods, quality control is essential for smart manufacturing. Implementing automated QC processes is the starting point for this transformation, leading to higher-quality products, lower costs, and increased customer satisfaction.

The future of manufacturing lies in successfully integrating IoT into all aspects of operations. If you'd like to gain a competitive advantage in your industry, contact us today, and we'll get you started.

About Author

JAN KUCERA, CEO & CPO at Spotflow

Jan Kucera

CEO & CPO at Spotflow
Jan has a passion for computer science and technology. His expertise lies in creating cutting-edge technological platforms, which have been widely adopted by many Fortune 500 companies. Jan believes in prioritizing the product and placing users and their needs in the center. His ultimate goal is to revolutionize the rigid IoT industry and position Spotflow as the leading provider of IIoT platforms, helping IoT solutions builders to achieve their goals.
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