Automotive manufacturers orchestrate some of the most complex supply chains that sometimes span multiple geographies. Moreover, they play in a competitive market where customer expectations are rising by the day, and distribution networks add further complexity to the sales processes. In this light, flawless quality control is an essential element of a competitive operating model in this industry.
Our client, one of the leading LMV (Light Motor Vehicle) automotive manufacturer, was facing quality control challenges with its existing processes. They were experiencing high rejection rates and recall repairs as a result. The underlying cause was the lack of visibility into manufacturing and assembly processes, which led to a delayed response in quality control mechanisms.
The client engaged Birlasoft to mitigate these challenges and build real-time visibility into manufacturing and assembly processes. Birlasoft delivered an Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) powered solution based on the PTC ThingWorx IIoT Platform to digitize quality processes. In addition, we also helped the client monitor key performance indicators (KPIs) for quality control with a performance monitoring dashboard. The solution brought upto 30% reduction in rejection and mitigated a significant chunk of recall repair overheads. Read the detailed aspects of this engagement below.
The Challenge
#1. Lack of visibility into manufacturing and assembly processes impacting end-product quality
In the automotive industry, quality control can prove difficult for several reasons. One of the most challenging factors is the sheer number of suppliers that automotive manufacturers source their components from. For instance, most automotive businesses source raw materials like steel and plastic components, powertrains, electronic and electrical components, safety systems, fasteners, interior and exterior trims, and other items from suppliers on a large scale.
Ensuring consistent quality of the end products becomes difficult when suppliers lack visibility into the quality of each item, and every process that goes into its assembly. Beyond suppliers, internal processes can also cause quality issues in the end product. For instance, during different stages of assembly, a vehicle can be subjected to quality problems resulting from component tolerance and fastener alignment issues. Moreover, with cost pressures, manual quality inspections for each unit can quickly increase the cost of production.
In the end, ineffective quality control results in diminished reputation, increased recall repairs and scrap, and erodes the margin on the vehicle. Our client wanted to mitigate these issues arising from a lack of visibility into quality control processes by building real-time monitoring for critical processes.
#2. Delayed response in controlling critical quality parameters due to lack of visibility
Vehicles are complex products comprising several components. When manufacturers lack visibility into quality control processes, an issue with a component may be discovered too late. Sometimes, the vehicle may even be returned to the manufacturer because it was shipped with manufacturing or functional defects.
If quality issues are not detected as and when they occur, the problem is usually discovered through post-production testing or customer complaints. The latter will result in a diminished reputation, whereas the former will increase the production costs. Late detection of defects leads to scrapping of defective parts (which cannot be traced back to the supplier) or may incur expensive repairs, which lowers operational efficiency and increases production costs. Lastly, sluggish quality control may also cause a rise in warranty claims and lead to supply chain disruptions.
Our client wanted to build more agile and responsive quality control processes, for which it was crucial to achieve real-time visibility into manufacturing and assembly processes.
Birlasoft Solution
To mitigate the problems arising from the lack of visibility into quality processes, the client engaged Birlasoft intending to modernize its quality control function and transform its manufacturing facilities into plants of the future. Birlasoft has been delivering cutting-edge Industry 4.0 solutions to manufacturers over the last several years.
With significant insights into such challenges, Birlasoft quickly mobilized a team of IIoT experts to build a world-class quality control monitoring solution. Ultimately, the quality monitoring solution was a major step in transforming the client’s manufacturing facilities into plants of the future. Read the architectural and functional details of this solution below.
#1. Real-time monitoring solution for 85+ processes spanning in-house and supplier locations
To mitigate quality issues at the earliest point of occurrence, Birlasoft implemented a solution that offered insights into critical quality parameters for both in-house and supplier processes. The solution offered intuitive monitoring with color-coded criticality measure indicators to track key parameters of the processes. For instance, the parameters where quality levels fell below thresholds were flagged with red as requiring attention, whereas those approaching the threshold were issued as warnings.
The solution offered extensive insights into the quality parameters of each process. For instance, paint shop pre-treatment quality was measured with parameters like Recirculation with De-mineral water (RCDM) micro-conductivity, spray flow, degreasing temperatures, fresh DM pH, and so on. These parameters brought extensive insights into quality at each stage of product manufacturing and assembly, which enabled shop floor engineers and technicians to respond promptly to quality issues.
#2. A scalable and secure IIoT solution based on the PTC ThingWorx Platform
One of the key challenges in building profitable IoT solutions is ensuring scalability and security. In fact, the former aspect of IoT projects has been captured in terms like pilot purgatory which is now well-known amongst tech executives of manufacturing businesses. To avoid these challenges for our client, Birlasoft created the IIoT solution on a highly scalable and secure foundation by deploying it on PTC’s ThingWorx IIoT Platform.
The platform offered a powerful data architecture to stream, ingest, and analyze real-time data from hundreds of connected assets across multiple locations. This enabled us to build complete visibility into the current state of quality processes for the client while ensuring data security at rest and during transit.
#3. Integration with PTC Kepware and OPC connectors to minimize the cost of maintenance
When building IIoT solutions at scale, integrating data from manufacturing assets, IoT devices, and SCADA systems can prove challenging due to the lack of uniformity in the communication protocols used by these systems. Creating connectors for each interface not only adds to the cost of the solution but also to the long-term maintenance expenses. Some connectors may need to be rewritten as other technologies in the stack evolve over time.
To mitigate these issues, Birlasoft leveraged PTC Kepware, a solution for building connectivity with SCADA and MES systems with a unified architecture. Moreover, Open Platform Communications (OPC), an interoperability standard for data exchange, enabled us to connect machines and assets from different vendors without having to write and maintain custom Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) for them. This simplified the solution architecture and reduced the overall costs of maintaining the solution in the long run.
#4. Vendor SOP tracking to enable built-to-specification manufacturing
By tracking vendor SOPs continuously, manufacturers can hold vendors accountable for non-compliance or deviations from the committed quality standards. With early detection of these deviations, manufacturers can then prevent rework at the later stages, reduce the amount of scrap, and mitigate a significant chunk of the burden of those costs. This not only results in improved end-product quality but also enables a more efficient supply chain.
To this end, Birlasoft devised a solution to help the client continuously monitor and track vendor SOPs. This enabled them to forgo inspections at the later stage of assembly and testing, which resulted in significant cost savings and reduced scrap volume. Moreover, it contributed to reduced defect rates after the implementation of the solution.
#5. Customized quality performance monitoring dashboards with role-based access
Finally, the solution offered real-time insights into quality control metrics through live dashboards and reports. These were customized to quality management roles of varying functions and seniority, which enabled improved decision-making and brought significant productivity gains. Moreover, the dashboards delivered the necessary quality metrics pertaining to a function, eliminating the need to go through various roles to evaluate quality control effectiveness.
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Key Business Benefits/Impact
The quality monitoring solution enabled the client to transform its legacy manufacturing facilities into plants of the future. It enabled a more responsive quality control function, increased productivity, and delivered a significant boost to the bottom line. Some of the business benefits that the client realized through this solution include:
1. Reduction in rejection rates
With enhanced quality control and real-time monitoring of quality parameters across 85 processes, the client was able to reduce the rejection rate by upto 30%. This lowered the workload at the manufacturing facilities, minimized wastage of effort, and improved customer satisfaction.
2. Rework and recall repairs reduced by upto 35-40%
By actively tracking vendor SOPs and catching defects early in the manufacturing process, the client was able to reduce the rework on end products by upto 35-40%. This reduced quality assurance overheads and improved the profit margin on the end product.
3. Reduction in cost of scrap
Recall and rework reduction also lowered the scrap volume, resulting in approximately 10-15% reduction in scrap costs. This not only reduced the wastage but also improved plant efficiency.
4. Digital foundations for advancing Industry 4.0 maturity
Finally, the quality control monitoring solution powered by a scalable IIoT platform has laid the foundations for implementing more advanced analytical and automation solutions at the client’s manufacturing facilities. This has set them on track to transform their manufacturing facilities into full-fledged plants of the future.
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