How AI and Machine Vision Systems Improve Reputation
May 29, 2020 01:28
In times of interrupted supply chains – as has occurred with the international Covid-19 epidemic – nearly every sector can suffer in terms of its performance. Manufacturing businesses can face problems with both suppliers and deliveries which will mean that sometimes orders are deficient or not fulfilled at all. Even service companies may find it harder to source supplies and components. What makes it even more of a problem - regardless of the reason for the interruption to normal services – is when quality control issues occur on top of supply problems.
Let's put it this way, with orders delayed and perhaps only the partial delivery of goods possible, the very last thing you want is to supply faulty goods, too. And yet, in any kind of crisis, rushing to get assemblies, parts and manufactured goods out of the door can be only too tempting. Production managers are usually trying to work close to their capacity even in the best of trading conditions. With extra measures to think about, such as social distancing, many production lines can see an unwelcome drop in performance further pressurising processes.
In the end, such issues lead – for the majority of businesses, at least - to reputational damage. Supplying faulty goods when there are already difficult logistical problems to overcome is much more of a headache for all concerned. Customers can end up returning entire orders with all of the hassle and expense that goes with that. Even long-standing business clients may decide to look elsewhere for future orders if they consider that quality control is not up to scratch.
Of course, this is where automation can make such a big difference. By deploying the latest machine vision systems into your production lines, so the ability to maintain very high levels of quality control becomes much easier. In the short-term, of course, this means being able to mitigate any other production difficulties your business might be going through. As normality returns to the economy, however, the long-term reputational benefits of artificial intelligence systems monitoring your goods for quality become even more pronounced. Let's look at a few examples of the reputational value of machine vision systems in different sectors.
Food labelling has, perhaps, never been more of an issue for consumers as it is today. Any business that makes food products needs to adhere to strict guidance. Failure to do so may lead to a product recall but, worse still, consumers may never trust a brand again following a serious failing. With the need to be right the first time demanded by most food retailers – not just the big supermarkets – the use of vision systems to automatically check on labels can make all the difference.
By using a machine to do the work – rather than a manual inspection process – there needs to be one fewer people in your production facility. There are social distancing and labour cost benefits of having things like label print quality checks carried out using this sort of technology. Other quality control checks which can save a food processing company's reputation include identifying damaged packaging, food colour inspections and checks on products' seals, among others. Indeed, such technology can also be adapted for new product lines and changing consumer tastes at will.
In the car manufacturing sector, last-minute deliveries have long been used as the lifeblood of the industry. However, global crises can impact very badly on the efficiency of production facilities if parts and components don't arrive on time. Clearly, vision control systems using artificial intelligence software cannot make car parts arrive any quicker. On the other hand, they can make sure that when they do so that they are fit for purpose.
Investing in poka-yoke inspection benches is a good first step in automating quality control systems so that they are more reliable and effective. Larger manufacturing businesses can also consider robotic inspection cells for a complete level of quality assurance. Maintaining a solid reputation for reliability has never been more important in the sector as car manufacturing workforces across the world only now start to return to something like normal production. In this sector, anything from VIN inspection to bead and seal verifications – and a lot more besides – can be automated quickly and effectively.
The pharmaceutical sector is not much different from car making or food processing in many regards. Reputations are earned and lost over reliability issues in much the same way. Of course, in pharmaceuticals, errors can have life-changing effects which is why, if anything, protecting your reputation with world-class machine vision technology is even more important. After all, this technology doesn't only maintain a higher level of quality assurance but provides all of the data metrics you might need to prove your production methods were being accurately followed. Along with optical sorting technology, today's generation of machine vision systems is capable of performing unique device identification (UDI) tracking and confirmation. This is the sort of thing that is required according to many international regulations, such as those set out by the FDA, for example.
Pharmaceutical companies can further enhance their reputation for quality with automated inspection systems by enhancing their product traceability. After all, it is not just pills and medication that many medical companies manufacture but things like contact lenses, hypodermic needles and infusion bags, too. All of these product types are suited to machine vision systems as well as traditional medications. Some systems - such as in-process vision inspection machines, for example – can even test products from multiple viewpoints assessing their build quality in astonishing detail.
Whether it is packaging and labelling, colour matching or simple product verification, machine vision systems are now at the cutting edge of maintaining exemplary quality control processes. They are deployed in many other types of business, too, including electronic manufacturers, glass production companies and military hardware makers, to name but three. Not only are they ideal for workplaces which should have as few people in them as possible, but they can work night and day, tirelessly, to produce superior results. This means that they can fit in with altered production schedules and even short manufacturing runs, further enhancing your company's reputation for flexibility and, above all, quality.
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