Quality management is the process of ensuring that the output, products, and services of an organization, as well as the means and processes used, are consistent. It is key to maintaining the desired level of quality and meeting stakeholder requirements within an organization
Quality management has four main components- quality planning, quality assurance, quality control, and quality improvement. All these components contribute to an organization’s efforts to achieve the long-term success that results from the delivery of high-quality products and services, thus leading to customer satisfaction and loyalty.
It is not difficult to see how important quality management is to an organization. From ensuring efficient processes and workflow to meeting high standards of quality on all outputs consistently, it helps in brand positioning, creating loyal and happy customers, and, eventually, higher revenue.
Industry 4.0 is a new phase in the industrial revolution with a focus on interconnectivity, automation, real-time data, machine learning, and cloud computing. Industry 4.0 can be broken down into four main components, which are described below:
Industry 4.0 visualizes a smart and integrated industry that can be achieved using sensors embedded in devices and equipment. For example, machines used in factories will be embedded with sensors that gather and transfer data, thus allowing improved efficiency.
The sensors embedded in various equipment are capable of retrieving data and transferring them to quality professionals or machines that are capable of performing data analysis.
Industry 4.0 is not possible without the cloud. Every aspect of the vision is based on cloud-based technology, from sensors to data transfer to process integration, and more. Cloud computing is key for industry 4.0.
Automation is another major component, as industry 4.0 becoming mainstream relies heavily on the rapid expansion of automation of processes and tasks with minimum human intervention.
In the context of industry 4.0, Quality 4.0 is the improvement and transformation of quality that industry 4.0 would bring. Quality 4.0 makes use of both new technologies, as well as traditional methods, to raise the standards of innovation and operational excellence.
It is important to note that although quality 4.0 is about the digitization of quality, it does not focus solely on the technology aspect, but also on the improvements in processes, competency, culture, and collaboration that the technology enables.
Traditional Quality Management
While Quality 4.0 focuses on technology, processes, collaboration, culture, and more, traditional quality management focuses exclusively on the quality of a product or service. While this may be profitable in the short-term, it is not suitable for long-term excellence, which is exactly why the industry needs Quality 4.0.
Quality, as a concept, has existed for a long time, but its meaning has changed over the years. From focusing only on the quality of products and services to the achievement of short-term objectives to increase profits, quality today refers to the improvement of a more expansive range of industry processes, products, and services.
This also means that increasing sales and profits are no longer the only goal. Instead, organizations invest in creating a deep-rooted culture of quality.
Quality Management and Quality 4.0
It is important that Quality 4.0 grows on top of traditional quality management so that industries and organizations can blend the best of both worlds, step by step. It will take time for Quality 4.0 to become a norm across industries, and to achieve this, completely replacing traditional quality management in an instant is not the answer.
No matter which phase of development quality is in, people will always remain its most important asset. As much as automation plays a huge role, there will always be tasks and processes that require human skills.
For Quality 4.0 to become a reality, quality management is the first step. In the next decade, we will see organizations shifting their focus on quality improvement and transformation so that they can benefit from Industry 4.0.