Quality pays, but it’s not always easy to manage because so many disciplines contribute data that is stored in separate places. These might include product and process engineering analysis, plant floor readings such as statistical process or quality control, labs or testing areas in a laboratory information management system, and incoming supplier certificates of analysis in the supplier management portion of ERP or PLM.
Disjointed quality data leaves a company open to higher costs and higher risks. To best control quality, all of this data needs to be correlated to become useful. Vendors are battling it out to make their software the system of record for quality information.
Quality management system (QMS): These systems have broad and deep capabilities focused on quality processes, such as quality planning, non-conformance management, corrective and preventive action, customer complaints, audits, and risk management. These systems usually are based on an electronic document management system. Major providers include AssurX, bizzApps, CEBOS, EtQ, IBS, IQS, MasterControl, Pilgrim Software, Sparta Systems, TIP Technologies, and Waypoint Global. Despite the comprehensive capabilities, a QMS is often not well-integrated with design, procurement, and production systems, which can limit its ability to enforce changes once they are identified.
Product lifecycle management (PLM): Clearly, designing quality into a product and the process by which it is made is the goal. Increasingly, these providers are building in specific capabilities for product and supplier quality. Last month’s Methods column listed PLM providers for various industries. Digital manufacturing software from Dassault Systèmes, PTC, and Siemens can simulate the production process on the virtual product model; this is often used in aircraft and automotive industries.