The 2014 Smart Manufacturing Technologies Survey, commissioned by Ubisense, found that worker error is the single biggest cause of quality control issues for manufacturers today. According to the Ubisense survey, nearly 85 percent of respondents cited worker error for the cause of quality issues. While new workers may lack in skill and experience, possibly the more significant factor fueling this issue is consumer demand for customization which drives greater product variability and task complexity.
To address this issue, 55 percent of survey respondents indicated that better worker training offers the biggest opportunity to decrease the cost of quality. But this may not be the best solution as staff cannot be indefinitely upskilled to keep pace with product variability without costs spiraling upward as a result. Automation, controls and error-proofing technologies may offer a better solution.
“Task variation can be partly managed using adaptive instructional displays, pick-to-light systems and advanced error-detecting tooling,” said Adrian Jennings, CTO of real-time location intelligence solutions for the Americas, Ubisense. “These types of technologies can guide workers through processes and alert them when mistakes happen. Moving to Industry 4.0, the workplace becomes significantly more flexible, with tooling and workspaces reconfiguring themselves according to product specs and guiding workers to implement the correct process. This will offer incredible strides in manufacturing efficiency but most just aren’t there yet.”
For example, today the majority of manufacturers currently use less than 10 percent of wireless tools, but the survey showed they are gaining popularity. Within five years, 12 percent of respondents believe more than 50 percent of the tools they use on the manufacturing floor will be wireless. While this is a step toward embracing Industry 4.0, this also presents more variation on the assembly line where wireless tools free workers from fixed workstations. This kind of flexibility is critical for managing task complexity but could also bring an explosive increase in quality issues if automation and error-prevention technologies are not correctly adopted.