Predicting is difficult, especially the future. Yet that is what several speakers – including yours truly – tried to do on this second issue of the Quality 4.0 Summit. From different angles, an attempt was made to paint a picture of the future of quality and of the quality functions in a world that is being digitally disrupted by big data, machine learning, artificial intelligence, digital twins, robotization, etc. Some lectures were highly technical, others were more philosophical, but a number of points emerged strongly through the various contributions. Points that may be important for every quality manager.
- Quality control is dying. Not that there will be no more control, on the contrary, there will probably be much more control but fully automated. This applies to both product control and process control. The same applies to many functions in the services sector (and especially in the financial sector) that will be completely replaced by automation and digitization.
- Partly as a result of this, attention for quality will have to shift from operations to design, both product and process design. The idea that we are launching something on the market and that design errors can still be addressed afterwards through continuous improvement must be forgotten. There will be no more time for that.
- Quality must think much more strategically and the added value of quality within the organization will have to be proven, or the position of quality manager will no longer have a reason for existence.
- Without having to become a specialist, a quality manager must have insight into the possibilities and basic principles of the various new digital technologies. Based on our process and product knowledge, it must then be possible to help shape and direct that digital revolution. Not in how it should be done technically, but in what needs to be done to make the company better: what data do we need, what information do we want to get from this? We should not leave this to IT and there is a great opportunity for quality.
- In order to achieve this, in order to have a chance of survival at all, we must be open to Alvin Toffler’s Learn – Unlearn – Relearn cycle. And especially the Unlearn part will take a lot of effort because quality is a conservative world that has problems with letting go of the past. It was striking how many speakers specifically referred to this. We are facing a process of knowledge transformation.
- Those who are still working on preventive maintenance, are hopelessly behind and have an unreliable and too expensive maintenance system. All maintenance will be predictive and based on data that displays the condition of the critical components in real time.
So a lot of challenges but also many opportunities. You can find our presentation here.