The limitations of QMS software for manufacturing

Last updated on February 5th, 2024

Quality Management System (QMS) software has gained popularity in automotive manufacturing, offering various solutions for tracking regulatory compliance. While these tools excel at regulatory tracking, they have limitations when it comes to actually improving product quality.

For those seeking to enhance key quality metrics such as scrap and rework reduction, cost containment, and first-time-through success, alternative software categories may offer a more significant impact. However, if your primary goal is to streamline compliance document storage and audit processes, QMS software remains a valuable option.

What is QMS software?

QMS software originally began to be used as a digitized solution for the paperwork-heavy process of tracking quality conformance and regulatory compliance. This software is especially relevant for industries such as automotive or medical, where there are numerous quality standards and regulations that must be adhered to.

All QMS software has a variety of features and functions. Here are a few of the most common elements that they contain:

  1. Document control – Stores quality and compliance related documents
  2. Non-conformance management – Tracks and manages non-conformances or deviations from standard procedures.
  3. Audit management – Facilitates planning and scheduling of internal and external audits and stores findings
  4. Corrective and Preventive Actions (CAPA) – Manages corrective and preventive action processes.
  5. Compliance management – Provides resources around regulations and compliance, and generates compliance reports
  6. Employee training management – Stores records of employee training and certifications, and scheduling required training
  7. Customer feedback and complaint management – Provides a place to enter customer feedback into the quality management process and track it with other quality documentation.
  8. Supplier quality management – Assesses and monitors supplier performance and quality.

By centralizing all of this information in one place, QMS software organizes documentation around quality and makes it easy to find, sort through, analyze, and share. All competing solutions are excellent at document storage and control.

However, some manufacturers are unaware that there are other categories of quality software on the market that may offer a better return on investment than leaning on QMS software to reduce critical quality-related metrics such as scrap and rework.

Limitations of Quality Management System software

1. Inherent software constraints

QMS software can be complex and may require extensive training to use effectively. This complexity may get in the way of its application, particularly in smaller or less technologically advanced facilities. Tailoring QMS software to specific manufacturing needs and processes can also be challenging and resource intensive. Some aspects of the platform may not be customizable enough to integrate into every manufacturing environment.

2. Overemphasis on compliance over quality improvement in QMS software

QMS software excels at tracking compliance documentation. Though there may be a number of different features and functions for the software, they are all built on this core capability.

Excessive focus on documentation in QMS software can detract from practical measures needed to enhance product quality and reduce scrap. A common complaint of quality engineers and managers is that the time spent on documenting and tracking often eats into the time that they have available to act proactively to prevent defects from happening in the first place.

3. The data in QMS software is qualitative

QMS software is designed to gather qualitative data, mostly entered by humans. It can be especially challenging to try and look at data in this format and analyze it with quantitative data from the manufacturing line.

The data housed in a QMS software is siloed from manufacturing process data. This makes it even more challenging to analyze all quality related data together and derive actionable insights from it.

4. QMS software does not process data in real-time

QMS software is a “reactive” tool, used to record and track when production issues occur, and how they were resolved. It helps create structure and organization for how issues are dealt with. What it lacks is an effective ability to prevent production issues from occurring. QMS software does not provide real-time data insights, which are crucial to make immediate corrective actions in manufacturing processes.

Without real-time insights, QMS software can only do so much to improve manufacturing quality.

5. QMS software may not integrate well with your manufacturing tech stack

There may be difficulty in integrating QMS software with other operational systems (like ERP), leading to disjointed or duplicated processes. If processes overlap or software can’t be connected optimally, this can negate any time saved by using QMS software.

There could also be a mismatch between the technological capabilities of QMS software and the existing manufacturing infrastructure. Some manufacturing technology companies do not build in flexibility into their various platforms, meaning that information cannot flow from one platform to another. This can drastically limit the benefits that can be derived from a QMS.

When selecting software, it is important to find applications that are flexible, and provide options to integrate agnostically with other data sources and tools.

6. Limited analytical capabilities

Most QMS software available acts like a content management system, structured to sort data entry and documents in an organized way. These tools are not built to analyze quality data or provide insights on how nonconformance events can be eliminated or prevented. They usually aren’t helpful for root cause investigations on the shop floor either.

Manufacturers looking to make a significant impact on quality metrics like scrap, rework, containment costs and first time through should seek other categories of software to help them achieve their goals.

Alternate software to improve quality in manufacturing

Better tracking and management of regulatory compliance documentation are worthwhile reasons to invest in QMS software. However, claims from QMS software companies to actually improve quality and make processes more efficient should be taken with a grain of salt. It is important to understand the capabilities of each software, and their limitations.  

If your goal is to impact metrics like scrap and rework rates, cost compliance, or first time through, then you need another solution. For example, LinePulse, a predictive quality software solution, processes manufacturing data in real time and uses AI modeling to accelerate root cause analysis and predict defects before they occur. 

Conclusion

While QMS software is a helpful tool in the manufacturing industry, understanding its limitations is key to leveraging its full potential. Manufacturers should approach QMS implementation with a balanced view, recognizing that it is not a solution designed to improve quality or first time through.  

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