Quality Management: Navigating through the Digital Paradigm


Quality management is an integral part of businesses across various industries to ensure that the final product meets quality standards. A substandard approach to quality management can have a negative impact on an organization and lead to customer loss, decreased revenues, and tarnish overall brand image. While many organizations have automated the quality control process, the textile and apparel industries still rely on manual inspections which can increase the likelihood of mistakes due to human error.

Today, digitalization is shaping the role of quality management in organizations from top to bottom. Quality management in the digital age can have various benefits and enable organizations to enhance efficiency, productivity, and optimize performance. However, the transformation is more than the integration of digital tools, it requires a shift in strategy, people, skills and culture.  

Industry 4.0: Brief Introduction

Industry 4.0 leverages digital technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, automation, and advanced analytics amongst other innovative tools to enhance operational efficiency, increase visibility, improve product quality and optimize overall performance. Industry 4.0 helps facilitate the factory of the future’ which is more connected from end-to-end, efficient, and green.

The concept of industry 4.0 has been around for a while, however, disruptions that negatively impact businesses such as the COVID-19 pandemic have accelerated the adoption of industry 4.0 technology. Companies that were further in their adoption of industry 4.0 were able to better respond to the crisis compared to laggards. A study by McKinsey discovered that 94% of participants believed that industry 4.0 allowed processes to flow even during the crisis while 56% believed it enabled them to better respond during this time.

Organizations that digitally transform operations will see value across their entire business including their quality management process. The pandemic has further highlighted the importance of adopting industry 4.0 tools with the market expecting to reach $337.10 billion by 2028.

Quality 4.0: Introduction & Benefits  

Quality 4.0 is a big part of the new industrial reality that relies on a data-driven approach to quality initiatives and impacts every aspect of the value-chain. At the most basic level, quality 4.0 introduces new technology such as artificial intelligence, big data, and smart solutions to the conventional quality management process to enhance performance, boost growth, and provide a better customer experience.

Even though the COVID-19 pandemic caused severe disruptions, investment in automation continued to grow to improve operations.  A combined study by BCG, ASQ, and DGQ discovered that two-thirds of executives and quality managers surveyed believed that quality 4.0 would reshape processes through automation in the next 5 years.  Additionally, 57% of those surveyed cited quality initiatives as a part of their higher level plan.

Organizations that are successful in their digital transformation efforts will find themselves better positioned in the new normal compared to their counterparts.  Digital technologies enable stakeholders to have greater visibility and better insight into their supply-chain. With access to real-time data and predictive analytics, stakeholders are able to detect quality issues ahead of time and take preventative measures promptly.  60% of survey participants believed that predictive analytics would significantly affect performance and the bottom line within the next three years. Leveraging analytics also enables leaders to make better, more informed data-driven decisions and adapt to uncertain environments.

Digitalizing the quality management process can have positive implications for businesses. Smart solutions allow individuals to do their jobs more quickly and efficiently while simultaneously reducing cost, waste, and improving product quality. It was discovered that 96% of manufacturers had product recalls in recent years. Using the right digital tools decrease the risk of human error in processes and minimizes physical tasks while improving the precision and accuracy of quality checks for maximum returns.

By digitally transforming their businesses, leaders will see an increased return on investment and additional benefits such as improved quality, increased customer loyalty, and overall growth. With digital solutions, there was a 90% improvement in achieving the desired quality in the first go.

Leaders that implement quality 4.0 technology will see improved performance, however, a study by BCG, ASQ, and DGQ found that 63% of participants had not begun their quality initiatives.

Quality 4.0: Challenges

The shift to digital has highlighted how dependent manufacturers and individuals within an organization are on manual tasks and exposed the major gaps that exist in current processes such as delays in reporting. It was discovered that manufacturers were only operating at 40% of their full potential before digitally transforming their operations. Quality teams spend a large amount of their time gathering and organizing data and manually inputting it into systems instead of streamlining operations.

Other barriers teams face that increase inefficiency and decrease speed is the lack of communication between systems, departments working in siloes, outdated systems, and bad data quality. Implementing a centralized source and access to real-time data can increase transparency across the board and increase speed.

Quality 4.0 also requires more than the integration digital technology. Often, one of the biggest challenges faced by companies when digitally transforming quality initiatives is the lack of skills, talent, and capabilities in the field. This was ranked as the top barrier in the BCG, ASQ, and DGQ survey of quality managers and executives followed by an ambiguous strategy. A study by McKinsey discovered that 90% of manufacturing and supply-chain professionals surveyed planned to invest in talent for digitization as they reinvent processes. Hiring the right people will enable businesses to be successful in their industry and quality 4.0 initiatives. Additionally, having a clear strategy in place will enable businesses to overcome challenges.

A study by McKinsey discovered that 90% of manufacturing and supply-chain professionals surveyed planned to invest in talent for digitization as they reinvent processes.


Future Outlook

Quality 4.0 will play a major role in the factory of the future. In order to be successful, organizations need to look beyond technology and have a clear strategy in place with the right people and skills. Leaders will see a return on investment along with increased efficiency, performance, product quality and customer satisfaction.

Organizations that are quick to adopt industry and quality 4.0 technology will leverage its true benefits and achieve competitive advantage whereas laggards will struggle and get left behind as the market moves on.

Quality Management: Navigating through the Digital Paradigm
Rijah Mazhar (Product Marketing Executive - Triple Tree Solutions)
Published 12 July 2021

Further Reading