How Machine Learning Improves Manufacturing Inspections, Product Quality & Supply Chain Visibility
Bottom Line: Manufacturers’ most valuable data is generated on shop floors daily, bringing with it the challenge of analyzing it to find prescriptive insights fast – and an ideal problem for machine learning to solve.
Manufacturing is the most data-prolific industry there is, generating on average 1.9 petabytes of data every year according to the McKinsey Global Insititute. Supply chains, sourcing, factory operations, and the phases of compliance and quality management generate the majority of data.
The most valuable data of all comes from product inspections that can immediately find exceptionally strong or weak suppliers, quality management and compliance practices in a factory. Manufacturing’s massive problem is in getting quality inspection results out fast enough across brands & retailers, other factories, suppliers and vendors to make a difference in future product quality.
How A Machine Learning Startup Is Revolutionizing Product Inspections
Imagine you’re a major brand or retailer and you’re relying on a network of factories across Bangladesh, China, India, and Southeast Asia to produce your new non-food consumer goods product lines including apparel. Factories, inspection agencies, suppliers and vendors that brands and retailers like you rely on vary widely on ethics, responsible sourcing, product quality, and transparency. With your entire consumer goods product lines (and future sales) at risk based on which suppliers, factories and product inspection agencies you choose, you and your companies’ future are riding on the decisions you make.
These career- and company-betting challenges and the frustration of gaining greater visibility into what’s going on in supply chains to factory floors led Carlos Moncayo Castillo and his brothers Fernando Moncayo Castillo and Luis Moncayo Castillo to launch Inspectorio. They were invited to the Target + Techstars Retail Accelerator in the summer of 2017, a competition they participated in with their cloud-based inspection platform that includes AI and machine learning and pervasive support for mobile technologies. Target relies on them today to bring greater transparency to their supply chains. “I’ve spent years working in non-food consumer goods product manufacturing seeing the many disconnects between inspections and suppliers, the lack of collaboration and how gaps in information create too many opportunities for corruption – I had to do something to solve these problems,” Carlos said. The many problems that a lack of inspection and supply chain visibility creates became the pain Inspectorio focused on solving immediately for brands and retailers. The following is a graphic of their platform:
Presented below are a few of the many ways the combining of a scalable inspection cloud platform combined with AI, machine learning and mobile technologies are improving inspections, product quality, and supply chain visibility:
- Enabling the creation of customized inspector workflows that learn over time and are tailored to specific products including furniture, toys, homeware and garments, the factories they’re produced in, quality of the materials used. Inspectorio’s internal research has found 74% of all inspections today are done manually using a pen and paper, with results reported in Microsoft Word, Excel or PDFs, making collaboration slow and challenging. Improving the accuracy, speed and scale of inspection workflows including real-time updates across production networks drive major gains in quality and supply chain performance.
- Applying constraint-based algorithms and logic to understand why there are large differences in inspection results between factories is enabling brands & retailers to manage quality faster and more completely. Uploading inspections in real-time from mobile devices to an inspection platform that contains AI and machine learning applications that quickly parse the data for prescriptive insights is the future of manufacturing quality. Variations in all dimensions of quality including factory competency, supplier and production assembly quality are taken into account. In a matter of hours, inspection-based data delivers the insights needed to avert major quality problems to every member of a production network.
- Reducing risk, the potential for fraud, while improving the product and process quality based on insights gained from machine learning is forcing inspection’s inflection point. When inspections are automated using mobile technologies and results are uploaded in real-time to a secure cloud-based platform, machine learning algorithms can deliver insights that immediately reduce risks and the potential for fraud. One of the most powerful catalysts driving inspections’ inflection point is the combination of automated workflows that deliver high-quality data that machine learning produces prescriptive insights from. And those insights are shared on performance dashboards across every brand, retailer, supplier, vendor and factory involved in shared production strategies today.
- Matching the most experienced inspector for a given factory and product inspection drastically increases accuracy and quality. When machine learning is applied to the inspector selection and assignment process, the quality, and thoroughness of inspections increase. For the first time, brands, retailers, and factories have a clear, quantified view of Inspector Productivity Analysis across the entire team of inspectors available in a given region or country. Inspections are uploaded in real-time to the Inspectorio platform where advanced analytics and additional machine learning algorithms are applied to the data, providing greater prescriptive insights that would have ever been possible using legacy manual methods. Machine learning is also making recommendations to inspectors on which defects to look for first based on the data patterns obtained from previous inspections.
- Knowing why specific factories and products generated more Corrective Action/Preventative Action (CAPA) than others and how fast they have been closed in the past and why is now possible. Machine learning is making it possible for entire production networks to know why specific factory and product combinations generate the most CAPAs. Using constraint-based logic, machine learning can also provide prescriptive insights into what needs to be improved to reduce CAPAs, including their root cause.