Benefits of a Single Database Solution: Improved Enterprise Quality Management from IQMS

Benefits of a Single Database Solution

Embedded third-party solutions in enterprise applications often deter small and medium enterprise (SME) customers. However, enterprise resource planning vendor, IQMS ( has a value proposition that differentiates itself by gladly touting the benefits of a single database/single vendor software solution. Here, the one database rule creates ease of use, implementation, and maintenance, and real-time transactions because there are no unwieldy batch interfaces from third-party software. Reports also become easier to write in a cohesive environment.

Part Four of the IQMS Prospers by Helping Enterprises Work Smarter series.

Part One presented the company background.

Part Two began a discussion of the market impact.

Part Three continued the discussion presented more product differentiation.

Part Five will cover integrated EDI and miscellaneous utilities.

Part Six will present challenges and make user recommendations.

EnterpriseIQ Information Flow

To illustrate, let us try to understand the typical flow of information through EnterpriseIQ. It may start with the creation of a bill of material (BOM), which defines how items are manufactured, and includes prescribed raw materials, tools, production times, packaging, work center types, instructions, etc. Then, the Quotation module allows users to examine costs and profit margins on new or existing manufacturing configurations. The structure is similar to that of BOM, but users can run unlimited "what-if" scenarios and, when satisfied, they can fairly easily roll over a satisfactory quote to a BOM without reentering the data.

Later, actual sales orders—which are the actual demand that consumes the forecasted, hypothetical demand—will drive the creation of work orders. If parts are already in inventory, they can be shipped immediately. If not, then a work order will be generated through the optional Update Schedule facility. This option analyzes both the demand and supply and then builds work orders that meet demand.

Then, the IQ RealTime Production Monitoring gives users a view of production as happens. The work-in-progress (WIP) information in EnterpriseIQ can be updated as often as every fifteen seconds, and users can see how long a machine has been running, its total cycles, or whether is has gone down during the run. Unnecessary down time can be reduced when job status is identified because operators can be alerted when to prepare material for the next order. Additionally, one can record any bad parts when they occur and the system will automatically recalculate the number of parts left to produce. Consequently, corrective decisions can be made regarding stopping and starting production runs based on the scrap.

In addition to determining quotes and monitoring, users can also automatically create production shift reports. The application fills in the data for total cycles, good parts, and production hours for the user, making both reporting and verification easier. The final step closes the manufacturing loop. Daily production of the work centers is documented and the subsequent reports tell EnterpriseIQ exactly what raw materials were consumed and what was manufactured. This puts finished goods into inventory and can backflush raw materials used to make those parts.

Because work orders are based on how BOMs are setup, precise and near real-time information is important to get work orders right. Also, inventory and open orders play a major role in determining what must be produced, purchased, and inventoried. The IQ Preventative Maintenance module can play a crucial role in this. It is an intrinsic part of the core EnterpriseIQ system that tracks machines, tools, auxiliary equipment, quality inspection gages, building maintenance, maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) inventory, etc., and prevents reliance on schedules based on out of service machines and tools. The module also tracks maintenance intervals based on equipment usage, including the number of cycles on tools, hours or cycles on machines, or daily for other equipment. It also automatically generates work orders for maintenance where necessary, which can be preventive, repair, and emergency work orders. Moreover, IQ Preventative Maintenance has direct links to labor reporting, inventory, accounting, and purchasing applications, and provides up-to-date financial information on maintenance work.

Also helping to achieve real-time information is IQ WebDirect, a Web-based customer and supplier self-service portal technology, which enhances supply chain communications, improves customer and supplier relations, and reduces customer and supplier service costs. It runs on an Apache server (included) with an Oracle database (although IQMS recommends a separate Web server it there are more than five concurrent users of the module). WebDirect also has full security control features and allows 24x7 access to data. The portal allows customers to add, edit, or change orders; to check order status, inventory availability, shipments, invoicing, vendor managed inventory (VMI) entry (based on flexible rules), and to publish reports. On the other hand, suppliers can check purchase order information, inventory, receiving, invoicing, cash payments, and published reports. Similar portal solutions for the user enterprise's internal employees are still in the works, though.

Quality Management to Boot

The competitive bar for single-database software solutions and seamless ERP system access, may also be raised by IQMS with its vast, native, IQ Quality Management suite. IQ Quality Management adheres to the most stringent quality requirements including medical, automotive, International Standards Organization (ISO), and QS standards by International Automotive Sector Group (IASG). IASG is an international ad hoc working group consisting of automotive original equipment manufacturer (OEM) representatives, accreditation bodies, registrars, and suppliers. To accommodate the quality management processes of their customers (whether as a part of the lean manufacturing initiative or not), most other ERP vendors have to team with the likes of Powerway, Pilgrim Software, Qualiware, or other niche providers of quality management software for the manufacturing industry. They must ensure that these providers comply with the widely established QS-9000 quality system requirements, including Advanced Product Quality Planning (APQP) and its obligatory Products Part Approval Process (PPAP).

With the standard EnterpriseIQ system configuration, users should be able to automate paper-intensive revision processes with the Document Control module. Employees should be able to gain real-time visibility into the key documents so that the right people can view the right documents as changes occur. The module also stores documents in secure libraries allowing for secure document control throughout the enterprise. Documents can be linked and viewed throughout EnterpriseIQ, which can also automatically keep revisions for future access.

The module uses the EnterpriseIQ Workflow facility with Web- and e-mail-based collaboration, routing, and approval process, and has support for personnel outside the user enterprise. It alerts team members about issues requiring attention via e-mail notifications that contain hyperlinks to the document. Information on changes and approvals are also included. The underlying security mechanism tracks edits, notes, and even ideas through authorizations and authentication. The processes are managed by "team members" responsible for approving or reviewing changes and additions to the documents. Approvals can be handled sequentially or as a group, where all members receive notification simultaneously.

IQMS also offers a higher level of quality functionality. The corrective actions requests (CAR) module, which is linked to return material authorizations (RMA) and inventory locations, manages, schedules, assigns, and monitors the status of corrective actions for process, product, or system audits. It is customizable with user-definable formats, including pertinent 8D and 7D formats as the standard. It also has user-definable drop downs for quick adding, sorting, and tracking of information. Further, the engineering change orders (ECO) module is linked to part numbers and BOMs and monitors changes associated with BOMs and routings. It provides specific templates for tracking ECOs and can automatically update BOMs based on user-defined effectivity dates, with costing comparisons for future and current BOMs. These quality modules use EnterpriseIQ Workflow for Web-based approval processes giving easy access to remote suppliers, customers, and employees.

Useful For Repetitive Manufacturers

Last but not least, the highest optional level of the quality management system should especially help repetitive manufacturers to reduce scrap, rework, variations, and defects. Accordingly, the first module involved in this process is the Statistical Process Control (SPC) module that uses quality management tools to collect, manage, and analyze an organization's gauge and machine data to identify out-of-tolerance processes. This process is fairly quick and allows users to automate time-intensive data entry through real-time integration with their gauges and machines. The module delivers SPC data analysis with graphing and export capabilities by supporting gage selection and maintenance, part dimension maintenance, and the manual or automatic input of data from serial and universal serial bus-based (USB) devices, such as scales and calipers. Sample set sizes are user-defined and can be changed between subgroups, while output and analysis options include full access to historical data collection used for free-form reporting. The system also has ample data export capabilities that include histograms, and capability analysis. It also provides for X-bar, which is a control chart where the subgroup average (X-bar) is used to evaluate the stability of the process level; and R charting, a control chart where the subgroup range, R, is used to evaluate the stability of the variability within a process.

Further, with the Gage and Device module one can track and maintain gages and devices. Users can also access and maintain their repeatability and reproducibility (R & R) studies to identify and reduce measurement variation, capability studies, set up instructions, schedule calibrations and so on. In other words, R & R provides tools to conduct measurement system analysis to assess the accuracy of gages and operators in measuring dimensions. With this timely information, one can thereby reduce data entry efforts and identify sub-standard quality much earlier and keep customers happy. The module also has a direct link to the IQ Preventative Maintenance module.

To create visibility at the component level in quality processes, users can use the APQP module with integrated templates for automotive requirements. These requirements are based on the Ford and General Motors' APQP programs, and should tremendously help users link and manage APQP-process related component-level documents. For example, a user can design according to the Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) methodology and analyze potential reliability problems early in the development cycle. Because it is easier to take actions and overcome issues early in the cycle, users can enhance reliability through design. FMEA is used to identify potential failure modes, determine their effect on the operation of the product, and identify actions to mitigate failure. A crucial step is anticipating what might go wrong with a product. While anticipating every failure mode is not possible, the development team should formulate as extensive a list as possible of potential failure modes.

Other pertinent documents include control plans, operator instructions, APQP checklists, and action plans. There are also user-definable steps to allow companies to customize the program based on their needs and requirements. User-definable drop-down menus for quick adding, sorting, and tracking of information are also available. Like many other quality modules, this one uses EnterpriseIQ Workflow to track the information required for process documentation and definition. It has direct links to inventory items, part dimensions, routings, etc.

Finally, the PPAP module provides tools for planning and controlling part production information, including the ability to outline the sampling process, provide checkpoints for adherence to plans, and ensure a process has the potential to consistently manufacture products that meet or exceed customer quality requirements. The module is directly linked to inventory items, and customer information. It also has a built-in control plan, FMEA management, and reporting facilities, while the Quick Inspections facility provides fast, easy, and accurate data entry.

This concludes Part Four of a six-part note.

Part One presented the company background.

Part Two began a discussion of the market impact.

Part Three continued the discussion presented more product differentiation.

Part Five will cover integrated EDI and miscellaneous utilities.

sPart Six will present challenges and make user recommendations.

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