Any manufacturer operating under quality management system mandates, such as ISO9001, ISO13485, or AS9100, must at the very least maintain a measurement tool library database. The specific quality system might also dictate varying degrees of tracking for those gages, such as calibration details and usage history. The data this process produces is critical in industries such as aerospace and medical, especially if there’s a catastrophic part failure. There are recent advancements on this front that makes the gage management task easier, faster, more accurate, and reportable to your customers.
As manufacturers embrace Quality 4.0, more are using integrated quality management software that offer such features as automatic ballooning of drawings and 3D models, GD&T extraction, results tracking, and reporting. While these features are important, software should also include a comprehensive and integrated gage management and tracking capability. Combining a manufacturing quality management system with gage management provides a single, seamless, streamlined platform. A company’s entire library of gages can be imported into such a system.
Once the gage library is imported into the inspection program, it morphs into a true gage management database and tracking system. The important aspects of each gage are categorized by type, identity number, status, location, owner, current user, and next calibration date.
For wireless and Bluetooth gages, their companion receivers and software should also be in the system and tracked. Users who have permission to access the system check gages in and out so that the current location and active user of any given tool is always up to date. The manufacturing quality management software platform should make this as easy and as portable as possible with shop floor apps loaded onto computer devices at convenient locations in the production area.
Another significant advancement is the ability to track the calibration status of each gage within the inspection software platform. Again, if reviewing different packages, ensure that the calibration alert signals are easy to discern at a glance and that the system can also send proactive alert emails. The calibration status, vendor, and the next calibration due date details are of paramount importance in a true gage management system.
The ultimate value, however, of having the manufacturing quality management software linked with a company’s gage database is that the two automatically merge in a seamless way. At the inspection planning stage, the production planner selects the general gage category. Once the part is ready for production, the machine operator or quality technician chooses the specific gages that are currently available in the system. As the component is measured for first article inspection (FAI) and other reports, the operator notes the result as well as the ID of the gage used to collect the result. The system tracks parts and gages, giving the supplier and the customer several different levels of reporting—all in one platform.
Later, should the customer discover a part defect, the supplier can quickly review the results, identify the measurement tool used on the out-of-spec feature, and pull it for analysis. The user can identify each and every part that was measured with that particular gage. Having this ability is a huge benefit for tracking and liability exposure.
In light of these new advancements, particularly with comprehensive manufacturing quality management software platforms that include gage management, we are getting closer to seeing “Quality 4.0” in manufacturing.
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