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Leading Smart Manufacturing with Connected Quality


As the world works towards a steady recovery from the pandemic, Southeast Asia’s manufacturing landscape is experiencing rapid growth, with a projected increase of nearly 6% by 2028. Having weathered global economic challenges, Southeast Asia has become a competitive region for industrial innovation, strategically lowering trade barriers and cultivating fertile ground for international business ventures. Despite uncertainties in the global economy, it has been earmarked as a bright spot for growth, supported by the potential of its expanding economies and sizeable workforce. The industry is also being shaped by a surge of digital natives entering the workforce, who bring innovation and adaptability.

By some measure, ASEAN countries are producing tech-forward innovations and rapidly bridging the gap between traditional practices and modern science, resulting in a dynamic fusion where traditional methods meet cutting-edge research.

Against this promising landscape, Hexagon is forefront of smart manufacturing, with a laser focus on leveraging quality data. Hexagon is establishing new benchmarks for shop-floor production by ensuring every process and decision is driven by data. By integrating real-time data analytics into manufacturing processes, Hexagon is not just keeping pace with industry trends but actively redefining them. In our discussion with Kah Khoon Goh, the Vice President of Sales and Smart Manufacturing, Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence, we uncovered the layers of Hexagon’s approach to aligning with the region’s unique industrial dynamics and spearheading the region’s smart manufacturing revolution.

Q1. There’s a lot of excitement around the growth of global manufacturing, particularly in Southeast Asia. Could you discuss the role of quality management in Southeast Asia’s manufacturing growth and explain how Quality 4.0 as well as connected quality are involved?

Southeast Asia is experiencing a remarkable industrial growth. With this growth comes a rising significance in managing quality, not just for compliance but as an integrated business process. We are now transitioning into Quality 4.0, which is about connecting quality across the product lifecycle for greater competitiveness. It’s more than defect minimisation and the multi-faceted definition of quality in our approach incorporates customer satisfaction and employee morale, both of which are pivotal for maintaining a competitive edge.

To illustrate, ETQ, part of Hexagon, is a leading provider of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)-based Quality Management System (QMS) within our Manufacturing Intelligence division. In our view, trust and safety standards are not just regulatory checkpoints, they are the foundation upon which customer satisfaction is built. In this context, ETQ’s QMS software and the Reliance platform represent our commitment to a holistic approach that automates quality management and produces tangible business value across various industries globally.

Furthermore, our concept of connected quality translates into systems that integrate real-time data with automation, enhancing efficiency and performance. Hexagon has long championed data-driven automation and insights, setting the stage for a future where the manufacturing floor is self-sufficient, self-optimising, and capable of self-repair. Our innovative efforts are crafting the undisputed factory floor of tomorrow, characterised by unparalleled efficiency and intelligence. The recent launch of Nexus Connected Worker exemplifies this, boosting productivity by over 20% on average through the digitalisation of processes and real-time data access, affirming our leadership in the smart manufacturing domain.

Q2. Can you elaborate on the steps for connected quality strategy adoption for businesses?

We’re delving into the concept of connected quality, which encompasses real-time data, automation, and interconnected processes. The advantages of integrated quality systems for businesses include enhanced agility, accuracy, and efficiency. Firstly, connected quality on the shop floor boosts real-time monitoring and decision-making. Secondly, an end-to-end digital QMS establishes a systematic approach to quality management that standardises processes, enhances traceability, and drives continuous improvement. This system promotes efficiency, transparency, and accountability in quality-related activities, which leads to increased customer satisfaction and compliance with industry regulations, while also helping to reduce the costs associated with poor quality.

Next, integrating Quality Control (QC) and Quality Assurance (QA) with enterprise quality management software eliminates silos, leading to more streamlined quality management processes. This integration not only enhances product quality but also aligns with customer expectations. Moreover, it fosters improved decision-making, minimises defects and nonconformities, and facilitates continuous improvement throughout the product lifecycle. Real-world applications of our solutions, like Nexus Connected Worker, demonstrate the practical benefits of our approach. For instance, by digitalising inspection processes, Airstream was able to dramatically cut down quality reporting time, showcasing the efficiency gains possible with our systems.

Delivering Next-Generation Solutions

To make the mark, ETQ Reliance delivers the next generation of quality management solutions with the industry’s most flexible, scalable, and comprehensive EQMS software. This transformational approach expands quality management to all stakeholders, internal and external to the organisation, ensuring unparalleled alignment, visibility, and productivity. It’s not just about the internal mechanics, it’s about creating a culture of quality that permeates every aspect of the business and contributes to a clear return on investment.

But this isn’t simply a story about digitalisation and automation. One striking feature of ETQ is the use of best-in-class integrated modules and enterprise application integration to manage and measure quality and compliance processes, facilitating organisational change. This approach is exemplified by Kimberly-Clark’s successful transition to ETQ. Our cloud-based ETQ Reliance platform, offers flexibility and comprehensive solutions, effectively bridging the quality gap within organisations.

In a strategic move, the transformative impact of adopting a unified ETQ QMS enabled Kimberly-Clark to retire an astounding 630 separate QMS tools in favour of one ETQ system. This streamlined approach, along with a renewed focus on supplier quality management, has led to tangible results—an impressive 80% improvement in new product introduction cycle times. Such successes highlight the importance of robust, centralized QMS like ETQ in today’s competitive manufacturing ecosystem.

Q3. What are the industry gaps and opportunities facing the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) and life sciences sectors? How essential is building a quality culture in manufacturing, especially in India?

It’s critical. A strong quality culture involves technology, people, and processes. Managing the supply chain is also vital, as suppliers contribute significantly to a product’s value. By devoting significant effort to advancing quality management, ETQ plays a crucial role in India’s manufacturing landscape.

Specifically, in India, we’ve leveraged ETQ to bring about a marked improvement in the quality management processes. In line with our efforts in India, the “central data base” approach streamlines the integration of multi-stage data into a unified hub, simplifying quality control and supply chain oversight. The adaptability of ETQ to India’s unique manufacturing requirements showcases our commitment to enhancing quality culture, not just within Hexagon but across all the industries we operate in.

Meanwhile, in the FMCG sector, product consistency is crucial, and connected quality solutions have led to efficiency and competitive advantage. Leveraging regulatory and compliance requirements as strategic assets is essential for adhering to protocols and fulfilling obligations effectively. This approach transforms standards into tools for achieving excellence. Similarly, the life sciences sector requires a delicate balance of innovation and compliance, where Quality 4.0 solutions, as Avanos’ adoption of ETQ illustrates, are proving to be effective.

Avanos, previously known as Halyard Health, made a significant leap by switching from a paper-based audit system to ETQ’s electronic Audit Management module, embracing the Medical Device Single Audit Program (MDSAP). This move drastically increased efficiency, reducing product registration times by 92%, yielding an annual saving of USD $71,400, speeding up audits by 25–50%, and realising a 315% return on investment.

No Shortcuts to Quality Culture

Globally, quality culture is just beginning to emerge. There are definitely NO shortcuts, but there are breakthroughs and with thirty years under our belt serving over 700,000 users globally, ETQ Reliance stands out for its proven track record in quality management solutions.

Additionally, the integration of Industry 4.0 and Quality 4.0 principles, employing automation, AI, and machine learning, is instrumental in refining our manufacturing and quality management processes. These technologies are the driving forces behind ETQ Reliance, enabling us to improve operational efficiencies, reduce material and rework costs, and accelerate time to market, all while ensuring higher customer satisfaction.

Our suite, which covers everything from document control to audits, is all about seamless integration and making life easier for businesses. We’re here to provide the kind of resources, guidance, and partnerships that make compliance straightforward and efficient. And when you look at Southeast Asia’s life sciences sector, which is absolutely thriving, you’ll see that ETQ Reliance NXG is crafted to meet those challenges head-on.

To grasp the evolving dynamics within the industry, it is essential to recognise the role of ETQ Reliance. This platform is designed with intelligent features aimed at streamlining processes and accelerating operational efficiency. Our automated complaint-handling feature, for instance, significantly speeds up the time from identifying to resolving issues. And security? It’s airtight with our e-signature for document approvals. For regulatory reporting, we’ve streamlined the process with our eMDR Electronic Form Submission. And to top it off, our Validation Execution Package ensures that every solution not only meets but aligns with the industry’s best practices. Its efficiency and compliance, hand in hand.

Q4. In your view, how critical is it to build a quality culture within the manufacturing sector, and what steps is Hexagon taking to foster this kind of environment?

Building a strong quality culture in manufacturing is not just critical, it’s a fundamental pillar for success. At Hexagon, we understand the 80-20 rule, or the Pareto Principle, which in the context of manufacturing quality, suggests that a majority of quality issues are often due to a minority of causes. By identifying and addressing these key issues, we can significantly improve the overall quality and efficiency of production processes.

To cultivate this environment, we focus on three core elements: technology, people, and processes. Technology, such as our ETQ Reliance platform, provides the tools for consistency and precision. As a result, the processes we implement are designed to be robust and repeatable, ensuring that quality is maintained at every stage of production.

Importantly, managing the supply chain is indeed one of today’s most significant challenges. With up to 80% of a product’s value stemming from suppliers, it’s imperative to extend the quality culture beyond our immediate operation.

Q5. In conclusion, how would you summarise the importance of Quality 4.0 and connected quality for Southeast Asia’s manufacturers?

Quality 4.0 and connected quality are more than just buzzwords—they are essential strategies. Software such as ETQ’s QMS not only lowers costs but also bolsters growth and brand loyalty. There is a pressing need for integrated systems to enable more sustainable and autonomous operations, requiring businesses to reassess their quality management strategies.

Addressing the gaps within specific sectors such as FMCG and life sciences is also essential. In the FMCG sector, for instance, maintaining product consistency is a challenge where connected quality solutions can offer significant advantages. For life sciences, balancing innovation with safety and compliance is crucial. Here, Quality 4.0 can mitigate issues and offer a competitive edge, as demonstrated by Avanos’ shift to ETQ and the benefits they realised. By introducing ETQ as a pioneer in offering agile SaaS solutions, we are helping these sectors leverage the latest in quality management to stay ahead in a competitive landscape.

Committed to Improvement and Future-Proofing

As part of our commitment to continuous improvement and future readiness, Hexagon’s solutions, such as Nexus Connected Worker, facilitate a responsive and empowered workforce. This suite is a testament to our ability to transform traditional shop floor operations into connected, data-driven environments, enhancing decision-making and operational efficiency across the board.

Ultimately, integrated systems are vital to support more sustainable and self-directed business practices. For any organisation aiming to deliver superior quality products and services, a committed reassessment of its approach to quality management is necessary. This will allow them not only to compete but also set new benchmarks in their respective industries. By proactively re-evaluating their quality management approaches, companies within the manufacturing industry can ensure they stay ahead of the curve, delivering excellence that translates into lasting customer satisfaction and loyalty.