Nobody questions the need for a quality focus in manufacturing. By actively working to maintain and improve product and process quality, manufacturers drive down the costs of scrap, rework, unplanned downtime, and warranty claims, while improving customer satisfaction.

But traditional quality systems have always had gaps in coverage caused by disparate systems and the difficulty of gathering and analyzing quality data across multiple systems during the product’s entire life cycle. Now, by using a digital thread throughout manufacturing, closed loop quality is finally possible.

Closed loop quality solutions help drive down the cost of manufacturing.

The Digital Thread

A digital thread is the entirety of information about a specific product’s performance and use, from the earliest design stages through the complete manufacturing process, to its sale, usage, and ultimate disposition or recycling.

But because of the multitude of disparate systems manufacturers must use to operate effectively, achieving a complete picture of any product’s history has been difficult, cumbersome, and usually expensive. However, with the advent of modern PLM systems such as Windchill that can function as the backbone of the digital thread, this problem no longer needs to be an issue. Closed loop manufacturing and closed loop quality are well within the reach of even the smallest manufacturers.

Closed loop quality relies on the digital thread for its data.

Closed Loop Manufacturing Definition

Closed loop manufacturing is an integrated system of processes that continually feed information about how products perform back into the production cycle, enabling the company to adjust the process quickly, before scrap and rework get out of hand. While closed loop manufacturing has always been a goal for manufacturers, analyzing the data quickly used to be impossible. Now, with the IIoT, the closed loop manufacturing definition includes real time or near-real time information, and data from products while in design, in production, or in use at customer sites.

Closed loop manufacturing definition: an integrated system of processes that continually feed information about how products perform back into the production cycle.

Enabling Closed Loop Quality

It wasn’t that long ago that many manufacturing companies used separate quality systems, or offline quality systems, to manage and monitor quality. While the dedication to quality was admirable, the realities of the systems available meant that often products had been released to customers long before the quality systems in place identified potential problems. The result was needless expense as companies had to scramble to recall products from the field or dispatch service techs to make changes at the customer’s facilities. Products that were in finished goods or still work-in-process required rework. It was an expensive and wasteful way to operate, and data about some parts of the product life cycle remained inaccessible.

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) Helps Enable Closed Loop Quality

The introduction of the Internet of Things enabled companies to receive immediate feedback during production or product use, but because the data came from different business systems, it could still be difficult to analyze it fast enough to take rapid action when necessary.

Product lifecycle management solutions are the ideal solution to this problem. Unlike other enterprise applications such as ERP, SCM, or CRM, which focus on a single phase, PLM solutions like Windchill are designed to contain information about every phase of a product’s history. Making the PLM system the backbone of the digital thread rather than one of the other enterprise solutions, eliminates the need to integrate these other data sources and convert their data before analyzing it. As a result, actionable information and insight becomes available in near real-time, allowing the company to act before the problem expands.

The Internet of Things (IoT) enables data from the production floor and customer sites to inform closed loop quality

Because the information comes from every part of the product lifecycle, from design through production, customer use, field service updates and disposal, the manufacturer now has the information necessary for a closed loop quality system.

No more waiting for data consolidations. No more spreadsheets.

Just fast, accurate, and complete information to enable and support optimum, fact based decisions.

Learn More About Closed Loop Quality

If you are interested in learning more about using Windchill to enable your manufacturing company’s closed loop quality system, contact us today. We’ll be happy to discuss your needs, answer your questions, or provide a demo.