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Modern manufacturing is complex. It requires proven, repeatable processes to ensure that finished goods are produced efficiently and defect-free. Regular audits to monitor and assess production processes are also critical to maintaining high quality.
Audits ensure that processes and procedures are consistent and that finished goods are manufactured according to quality standards and specifications. Audits are especially critical for compliance. With ever-increasing regulation, companies that fall short on audits could risk safety lapses, product recalls, and significant fines.
Audit data plays a crucial role in identifying areas that need improvement, streamlining operations, improving processes, and complying with regulatory requirements.
Manufacturing audit data can be classified into two categories: internal and external. Internal audit data refers to the data collected and analyzed by the company. External audit data refers to the data collected by third-party auditors who assess manufacturing processes and products. These audits may be conducted by government or standards bodies to ensure the company complies with relevant laws and regulations. Or they may be performed by a customer as part of the producing company’s supplier report card.
Manual audits use paper-based forms and checklists to collect data. The data is entered into a spreadsheet or other database for human-based analysis. Manual audits are time-consuming and error-prone. And because they’re labor-intensive, the volume of data collected is less than an automated audit, reducing their accuracy and value.
Software-driven audits use specialized software, often part of an advanced QMS or ERP system, to collect and analyze data. The software is customizable to users, and the data is in real time. These audits are more comprehensive because of their analytics capabilities across a broad range of data streams like process, quality, and environmental.
Automating the audit process with software provides significant benefits, including:
Automated audits eliminate human error, ensuring the data collected is accurate and reliable. It can be configured to identify defects, uncover hidden trends in production performance, and identify areas that need improvement.
Software can be configured to capture data from multiple sources, including sensors, databases, and other systems within a smart manufacturing environment. This capability eliminates the need for manual data entry and increases the data’s value for process auditing because it reveals what is happening now.
Automated audits can be performed more quickly than manual audits, allowing companies to assess manufacturing processes more frequently. The speed translates into actionable insights through analytics so operators and managers neither miss the event nor intervene too late. This feature improves efficiency, reduces costs, increases productivity, and drives better quality control.
Software allows companies to deploy operating procedures to enforce standardization. This standardization helps keep processes consistent, forms the basis or training for repeatable processes, and improves accountability.
Automated audits make it easy for team members to collaborate on the audit process. In a smart manufacturing environment, systems use unsiloed data and operate under a single version of the truth. This centralized data access and usage approach makes collaboration easier because everyone is on the same page.
Manufacturing audit data is critical for maintaining quality and compliance, streamlining operations, and identifying areas for improvement. But manual auditing is error-prone and puts a company at risk. Robust automated software like an advanced QMS can deliver real-time data and analytics, increasing efficiency, accuracy, and consistency.
If you want to learn more about auditing data, QMS, and other critical software work within a smart manufacturing environment, read our Smart Manufacturing Software Buyer’s Guide for more insights.
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