DIGITAL QC: Revolutionizing Quality Control for Roof and Floor Trusses.

8 min read | Posted on 15 Sep, 2023
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“I think it is a really powerful tool to the components manufacturers.  The data that we are going to collect is really awesome.  It’s going to revolutionize the way our industry functions.”

– Scot Ward
Chair – SBCA Quality Control Committee &Principal Officer – Southern Components

September 2023 marks the first anniversary of the launch of the new Digital QC. This application is a demonstration of the Building Components Manufacturing industries commitment to building high quality products.  This article will focus on how Digital QC came into existence; its benefits for the industry members and how it helps in planning and engaging with clients.

Developing Digital QC

One of the key issues faced by the Building Components Manufacturing industry was how to ensure quality of the trusses manufactured as they come off the assembly lines and loaded for transport with efficiency and efficacy.  Manual quality control was time consuming in an industry struggling to meet the demand and tight deadlines.  The solution envisioned by the SBCA was to automate the quality control process.

An initial basic prototype was developed to test the waters. However, it was fully developed using MATLAB and was not suitable for production. It was neither user-friendly nor met the industry’s requirements. This led to SBCA’s partnership with Q4US to turn this concept into a functional software application that can address all member requirements.

Evaluation of the prototype by the Q4US team resulted in identifying limitations such as lack of speed, high dependence on hardware which increased costs, not user friendly, difficulties in facilitating change requests and not intuitive. 

By working together with Q4US, SBCA was able to launch the Digital QC product at the BCMC 2022.  The new Digital QC addressed all the above limitations and provided new features that would revolutionize the components manufacturing industry. 

Key Benefits of Digital QC

“The new Digital QC program is remarkable.  It solves all the challenges we used to face in conducting manual in-plant quality control inspections.”

– Mike Honeycutt
Manager of component systems-implementation and training for Builders FirstSource (BFS).

In an article in the SBCA’s magazine, Mike elaborated the benefits of the new Digital QC developed by Q4US. 1

1. Easy to use

The new software analyzes all of the complex factors within a matter of seconds with great accuracy. Even a fresher can be easily trained to use the software to conduct thorough QC inspections in a matter of days.

2. Accuracy

Highly accurate inspections.

3. Effective and Efficient

Now software analysis is faster and more accurate. Mike elaborated that Digital QC allowed them to “gather a larger sample size out of each plant and call out non-critical joint errors and fix them before they leave the facility.” This has resulted in an increase in the efficiency and effectiveness of the industry in meeting client demands.

4. Savings

A key was to demonstrate the savings that the software brings to the users was shared by Mike. “With the new Digital QC software, we can effectively track plate rotation and missing plates on the backside of trusses. A missing plate can result in back-charge from the framer in hundreds of dollars. Being able to catch those problems and fix them in the plant saves us real money. From that perspective, it’s easy to say the new Digital QC program is saving us money.”

5. Availability of Data

Having historical data from QC inspections that will give a clearer picture of the progression of every location.  This will facilitate better planning of seasonal hiring and training to ensure quality of its product. This would also enable the users to look at the impact of various lumber defects coming out of a particular mill or at how different equipment impacts product quality. 

Digital QC for Improved Client Relationships and Proactive Planning

Scott Ward and Kirk Grundahl in one of SBCA interviews enumerated how digital QC can be used to improve client relationships and facilitate proactive planning.

1. Digital QC inspection report ensures that no defective product leaves the assembly line.  If there is an issue with the product, this gives a good starting point to investigate and implement corrective actions for future.    

2. The information gathered through Digital QC enables the industry to identify where training is required to enhance product quality and reduce errors.  Either as an industry or by individual plants, training can be organized and made available to ensure that the work force is skilled to create a high-quality product.

3. Data will also enable industry to identify the quality of input received from the suppliers.  With this data, industry can communicate with the suppliers on how to improve the quality of the supplies, leading to overall quality of the product.

4. Data will also enable the managers to identify star performers and use their skills to upgrade the skills of the others.

5. Analysis, planning and forecasting will all become more accurate with the availability of current and historical data.  This would be a great tool for management in putting together plans to meet the market needs in an efficient and effective manner.

A key problem with the earlier system was the length of time taken to process the data.  Digital QC provides real time information.  Now the Inspectors, quality personnel, managers and other staff can use the data to further improve performance.  Data thus has become an enabler of staff growth by giving them time to focus on adding value to their output.

Digital QC since going live

Since going live, SBCA and the membership have been exploring how Digital QC can be used to further improve industry’s efficiency, efficacy and quality.  A lot of attention has been spent on optimizing the application and making it more robust.  In addition, in response to its memberships’ needs, following changes have also been facilitated.

1. Enhanced truss drawing and visualization where splice plates can be clearly displayed with an offset.

2. Giving authorization for the manager in charge to sign off on corrected issues that were initially rejected after inspection.

Digital QC server also saw some significant changes aimed at continuous improvement of the components manufacturing industry.

1. Scheduling of email reports

SBCA now can get a summary report of uploaded inspections by day, week, and month of all the plants belonging to the membership.  This enables SBCA to look at where potential errors may come and identify strategies to minimize / mitigate them. 

2. Summary reports

Summary reports which can be used to analyze uploaded inspections and time logs.  Different types of reports are available to analyze different aspects, such as critical plates, inspection comments, setup-shift wise weekly time logs. This will facilitate generation of smart data targeting specific improvements.

3. Log Report signing capability

This enables managers to review the time logs and sign off. This enhances supervision and accountability in each plant.

4. Review dashboard

An entirely new section to review and evaluate QC plants based on a point system on a quarterly basis.

5. Inclusion of ‘Regional Manager’ user role

This was created to provide give regional manager more flexibility relating to factories in different locations.

6. Active monitoring capabilities with Alerting

Q4US now monitors the servers on accessibility, resources usages, response times and error rates. This is done to ensure servers are running in optimal condition and to quickly respond in the event of failure or prevent failure even before happening. In the event of an anomaly, alerts are generated automatically to ensure corrective actions are taken.

7. Enhanced inspection handling capabilities including corrective actions

Now, inspections can be updated after uploading. Inspectors can add sign-off, mention corrective actions taken and upload additional images.

8. Cloud resources enhancement

The benefit to the client is better usage of servers on AWS.  This is about cost efficiency.  Migration into newer servers that better serves the industry facilitated savings.

9. Database migrations from the old databases

Now the old inspections can be seen using the new server making everything available in one place. 

10. User subscriptions to scheduled summary emails (on going)

Once completed the users will be able to subscribe to emails enabling them to have access to specific information (location / company wise).

Conclusion

Quality bar is constantly rising. Any organization or an industry committed to high quality and meeting customer expectations will need to constantly work on appropriate digitalization. New discoveries will lead to different strategies resulting in better quality. The continuous improvements sought in the Digital QC Application is proof of SBCAs commitment to quality and its commitment to the end client.

Q4US is proud to be part of SBCA’s digitalization initiatives.

  1. Extracted from https://www.sbcacomponents.com/media/a-better-mousetrap
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