Increase Reliability And Production Quality In Manufacturing With Predictive Analytics

Predictive analytics in automotive manufacturing.
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Like many industries today, manufacturing is experiencing transformation at a staggering pace. With the current pandemic and economic situation, evolving customer demands, and growing digital commerce, manufacturing is evolving very quickly as we reach the point of Industry 4.0. In particular, predictive analytics plays an important role in improving product quality and reliability across the manufacturing sector.

Data and analytics are no longer ‘nice to have’ on the factory floor. Whether used to ensure product and inventory availability, increase equipment efficiency, or perform market analysis, data plays a key role in manufacturing.

By grasping operational insights, manufacturers can effectively: 

  • Understand the cost and efficiency of every component in the product life cycle. 
  • Develop systems that consistently gauge the need for repairs and provide early alerts.
  • Gain real-time insight into how manufacturing lines are operating, on a micro and macro scale.
  • Use predictive insights for smarter forecasting.
  • Optimise the warehouse with insights into efficient product flow and replenishment procedures.

Overseeing production and quality is crucial for any manufacturer. But it can be challenging to harness large volumes of data across multiple workstations to gain a holistic, comprehensive view of production.

With greater visibility and insights at the point of decision, manufacturers can harness the benefits of the smart factory. A great example of this is Volvo Construction Equipment (Volvo CE).

Following the acquisition by Volvo CE in 2014, their Motherwell plant became one of 13 global Volvo CE manufacturing locations which support an extensive product range of construction machinery. 

The facility in Motherwell produces two brands – the Terex Trucks articulated off-road hauler and the Volvo rigid off-road hauler.

These large-scale machines are used for hauling materials for extreme mining, quarrying and construction jobs. The plant constantly aims to improve customer experience in terms of quality, cost and delivery. 

Operations director, Paul Hudson, is a firm believer that data is the key. However, data access was sporadic and there was a heavy reliance on gut feelings and personal experiences across the multi-disciplined teams.

“Data transformation is driving our customer experience. For me, it is all about how we can improve on-time delivery and how we could hone-in on the real root causes of quality problems to drive effective, corrective action as soon as possible,” said Hudson.

To help bring data into the business, the company sought a new data analytics platform.

“We evaluated a number of solutions and, at that time, Qlik Sense set itself apart, predominantly because of its ability for self-service analytics,” said Scott Motion, IT Service Delivery Lead. 

“With its user-friendly dashboards, Qlik empowers people to create their own visualisations without having to rely on someone in IT.”

Qlik has now been used to create many applications throughout every area of the Motherwell business from technology, customer support and finance to manufacturing and health and safety. 

Instant Access To Vital Data

The business achieved a three-month return on its Qlik investment thanks to the automation of time-consuming manual processes, report generation and administration. 

The data for one weekly report that used to take a day to extract is now available instantly and another automated report makes parts shortage figures dynamically available to everyone directly from the shop floor. 

The people involved in these routine tasks are now free for more creative work. Qlik apps have also helped to improve quality on the assembly line. 

Previously the team was finding that there were too many defects per truck when they reached the final check. 

Although the number of defects had been halved, it had hit a plateau and was costing the business a lot of money due to re-work or additional checks on the trucks before they were shipped.

“When we introduced Qlik Sense, the trend started to go down and very soon we were actually at less than one fault per truck. That is a 90 per cent reduction in failure,” said Motion. 

This was achieved by identifying repeat faults and tracking problems down to the lowest level, resulting in bottom-up problem-solving.

“Qlik allows us to tick off issues one by one and that has been a game-changer here at Motherwell,” said Hudson. “Customers also benefit from the insights we are getting from the data because they have got a better, sounder product that works hard for them and makes them money.”

“Rather than gut feel, conjecture and opinions, we are now using data to make decisions,” added Robert Beveridge, manufacturing engineering manager. “We can now measure our production KPIs for how quickly or slowly we respond to issues on the line. We input faults into Qlik and that allows us to identify trends and data patterns.”

Better Understanding Of Business Operations

Health, safety and care for the environment are three core values at Volvo and when Qlik came into play, it prompted a rethink in these areas.

“Once we started using the apps to analyse data coming in from the safety observations, we realised that what we thought were significant risks and areas of concern were not what the team members on the shop floor were concerned about,” said Karen Anne, senior HSE Advisor, Duffy. 

“We thought the high-risk activities would be the most significant ones in terms of shop floor focus but we found out that it was the day-to-day, nitty-gritty things that were an annoyance. With this in mind, we tailored reports for each area based on data and the insights visualised by Qlik. 

“These let staff view what they have reported, what the recurring themes are, what we are doing about it and how we are acting on their concerns. Qlik has given us a better understanding of the business and, from that, we are able to make improvements every day that make this a safer, healthier and a better place to work.”

Solution To Many Issues 

Qlik also enables the company to solve many individual problems. When a faulty fuel pump on one of the trucks was costing a lot of money on warranties, a full root-cause analysis was run on the part and data revealed that it was not a fault with the pump but with the fuel tank itself.

“That would never have been possible if we had not had the Qlik Sense data and insights,” said Motion.

When an electrical issue affected the production line there were many possible causes but, with Qlik, the team drilled down, found the root cause and quickly eliminated it. 

“It is a very intuitive product. It was very easy for us to get up and running quickly and it is cross-platform, so you can use it on a number of devices,” concluded Motion. 

“Data analysis is the future for our business. We have already done a lot but we are just scratching the surface. Qlik Sense is providing data that we will be able to use in the future in really good ways.” 

“When we talk about Industry 4.0, we just need to take it to the next level so we must drive continuous improvement which is all about focusing the resource and the time you’ve got. Qlik allows you to do that,” said Hudson.

Article by Jeremy Sim, senior director, Retail, Manufacturing & High Tech, Qlik


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