Computer-aided quality (CAQ) is quality management software (QMS) that helps manufacturers ensure consistent process and product quality from design through production (“idea to shelf”). While “computer-aided quality” is sometimes used interchangeably with “quality management system,” CAQ software sometimes refers to a subset of QMS functions. Specifically, QMS software includes quality planning or advanced product quality planning (APQP), continuous quality improvement throughout the product lifecycle, and quality assurance or quality control during production; and CAQ software focuses on the last of these.
To achieve desired product and process quality, manufacturers must implement quality methods and activities across their core processes. Under its broader definition, computer-aided quality is comprised of (1) quality planning software for product design and engineering phases; (2) quality assurance software for procurement of raw materials, components or complex assemblies from suppliers; and (3) quality control software to manage quality data during product manufacturing. In all product lifecycle phases, computer-aided quality software contributes to process optimization, quality consistency, and complete documentation of a product’s quality history.
In today’s regulated manufacturing space, computer-aided quality software must also support international guidelines and standards, like ISO 9001, IATF 16949 (Automotive), IAQG 9100 (Aerospace), IRIS (Railway), FDA 21 CFR Part 11 (Food and Drug), and GMP/GLP (laboratories, process industries).
Computer-aided quality (CAQ) supports manufacturers in inspection plan management, statistical process control (SPC) and supplier quality management. Specifically:
Inspection plan management—Complex process, product, and supplier structures require effective quality and inspection planning in the early stages of the project lifecycle. Inspection plan management is a vital component of quality control software. The inspection criteria of the company’s entire quality-related activities are defined here in conjunction with the control plan for the assurance of product and process quality.
Quality inspection and SPC—Statistical process control (SPC) helps manufacturers measure and control quality throughout the product lifecycle. SPC includes tools to detect tolerance variances, identify root causes, and correct defects. In a typical SPC process, users create control charts to graphically plot and distinguish between coincidental and systemic quality factors that can influence production.
Supplier quality management—As companies continue to look for ways to improve quality and reduce costs, they are more often engaging suppliers to provide selected product parts and components. A strong supplier assessment process helps to clarify roles and set appropriate expectations. This process supports manufacturers in ensuring that each supplier is performing to their standards and is a suitable match as a business partner.
By employing computer-aided quality (CAQ) software for quality planning, assurance and control operations, manufacturers are enabled to improve operational excellence and customer satisfaction.