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Quality management is an essential part of manufacturing, and this is rarely more evident than at Cascade Engineering. The company, based in Grand Rapids, Mich., specializes in large-scale plastic injection molding for a variety of manufacturing markets, including automotive, solid waste, furniture, and material handling. If its products are not of the highest quality it will not be in business very long.
A couple of years ago, Cascade realized its aging quality management software was not up to snuff, so it searched for a replacement and found QAD QMS. The company started implementing it in 2011.
The new quality management software has vastly improved Cascade's quality process and allowed it to manage risk proactively, according to April Dines, the company's senior quality engineer. The latter has become increasingly important for businesses supplying the automotive industry as OEMs have implemented new supply chain risk-management requirements, such as Materials Management Operations Guideline/Logistics Evaluation (MMOG/LE).M
The main quality-management challenge Cascade faced was that with so many customers in different industries, it has a multitude of regulations and standards to deal with, Dines explained. The company had its data stored in QAD's ERP system and it was difficult to get at the data for quality audits. CEBOS QMS, in contrast, integrated seamlessly with QAD ERP.
The tight integration between the QAD and CEBOS products was not coincidental. QAD acquired CEBOS, a vendor of manufacturing software and services, in 2012. (After the acquisition, CEBOS QMS was renamed QAD QMS.)
For Dines, the wisdom of the choice was obvious once Cascade started implementing QAD QMS. The previous system was mainly a document store that didn't allow for crucial processes like workflow. "It was inefficient primarily because it could not talk to QAD, so that resulted in time consuming and inefficient tasks like manually accessing documents and entering information," she explained. "The linkage between QAD [ERP] and QMS is very intuitive and people could easily understand how to use it."
Templates helped ease implementation
Cascade began a nine-month plan to gradually roll out the key functions of the quality management software. The most important of these was the interface between the ERP and QMS, which served as a central repository for instant access to data and documents, real-time information on system status, and notifications of any problems or issues from internal manufacturing as well as suppliers and customers.
As its first task, the implementation team used the document control module in QMS to set up automated workflows to migrate all of the 78 different document types into the system, according to Dines. This led to much improved visibility of the data, as documents that were once held by individual owners were made available to everyone. All other aspects of the document-control process were automated, including editing, routing, and approvals.
Cascade then implemented four QMS templates: Advanced Product Quality Planning (APQP), which automates the process for creating and managing process workflows; Audits, which automates Cascade's entire audit process; E-sync, for automatic data synchronization; and Gauge (Calibration), which captures and generates calibrations, cost, status, and trend analysis of Cascade's gauge system.
Templates handle processes that have been defined by subject matter experts in a variety of quality areas, such as quality control, environmental management and safety management, according to Bob Herdoiza, president of CEBOS; but they are designed to be configurable for each customer's needs.
"We try to make it simple, so that when organizations deploy they can decide to use as much of the templates as they want or they can configure it however they want," he said. "And configuration does not mean customization. We made it so a business person can use the interface. That was really important to us. We wanted to put control in the hands of the business process owners."
Significant involvement from CEBOS was key in the successful rollout. Dines maintains that there has been no change in the vendor relationship since QAD acquired CEBOS.
"One key for us was to work together with them to create a realistic project plan," Herdoiza said. "What worked well was that we have the predefined processes right out of the box. They didn't have to take months and months to develop something."
Maintaining an ongoing relationship with Cascade has also made a huge difference in the overall success of the QMS, he said. "Cascade had a very strong project lead [Dines] so we really focused on making sure that she knew that we could hand the baton off so that they actually could roll it out to the users and we would then support them," he said. "But you definitely want to have some sort of handoff to make sure that it's going to stay alive when you leave the project."
Dines said the quality management software has exceeded expectations. The benefits have included improved productivity, time savings in labor and better quality. The company reports that it has saved more than 3,500 man hours annually by eliminating manual data entry and redundancies.
"Better visibility of the data leads to more improvements in the process," she said. "It can get current information to operators, so when they run a line they can hit one button and see all of the information related to that particular job -- such as any alerts or quality notifications -- in real time."
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