More analysis and actionable data, but fewer man-hours needed – that is the alchemy of AlisQI.
High-end customers such as ASML were demanding detailed statistical reporting, for every part coming from the highly complex manufacturing process of Lamers HTS.
Lamers High Tech Systems manufactures some 1,200 products, from components for the Ariane space rocket to complete industrial production installations. In 2011, Lamers was taken over by the Dutch manufacturing conglomerate Aalberts Industries, which is positioning itself as a key supplier to the semiconductor industry. Recent years Aalberts Advanced Mechatronics division has been investing heavily to cement its partnership with ASML, the world’s number one supplier of photolithography systems to the chip industry.
Lamers HTS needed an integrated Quality Management solution.
The initiative to automate Quality Management processes has to be seen in the light of this industrial and R&D strategy.
High-end customers such as ASML were demanding detailed statistical reporting for every part coming from the highly complex manufacturing processes, often carried out in the demanding environment of the 2,600m² clean-room at the Lamers plant.
The company slogan is ‘Setting the standards in purity’, and this really is another way of saying that your Quality Control is second none. However, the existing Quality Management systems, partly self-built in Excel, were struggling to make good on this promise.
Lamers HTS needed an integrated Quality Management solution. In this case, Lamers’s QHSE-manager Geert Segers discusses the benefits AlisQI brings for his business.
It was ASML that alerted Lamers to the integrated AlisQI Quality Management System. That was recommendation enough, and after a brief pilot, Lamers greenlighted to implementation of the AlisQI solution. In 2017, it hired Geert Segers as QHSE Manager.
Throughout his 15 years in Quality Management, Segers has worked with many different systems. How does AlisQI compare?
Segers is keen to highlight the integration between product and process quality. “You can link processes directly to product output,” he says, “that is where AlisQI scores, because in other systems, the two are not linked at all.”
The AlisQI Quality Control module is “really rather unique” in Segers’s experience. “In AlisQI, you can generate high-quality analyses on the basis of data, something I found lacking in other systems, which are more focused on document and workflow management. But if you enter data with AlisQI, you can go to your documents and instructions straight away, should you so wish.”
The link between production and process has transformed Quality Management operations on the shop floor, as Segers explains. “Factory floor operators can access a lot more information than is usual in other systems. You can link your download screens to the process and procedures in your Document Management System. It’s that simple. And in this way, you can create really useful instructions when you’re completing your control forms.”
You can link processes directly to product output because unlike in other systems, where these are not linked at all.
We now have a much better idea of what we actually want.
In keeping with its low-consultancy business model, AlisQI invited Lamers to see how another one of its customers had implemented the platform.
This gave Lamers a lot of practical ideas on how he could successfully embed AlisQI in its own Quality infrastructure, and greatly speeded up decision-making. “And so the idea was born to implement AlisQI internally,” says Segers.
Apart from the advantage of sidestepping costly consultancy hours, this large degree of implementational autonomy also gave Segers and his team a much clearer insight into why they needed AlisQI in the first place.
The AlisQI platform integrates every aspect of Quality Management: Quality Control & LIMS, Document Management, and certification and inspection for Quality, Health, Safety & Environment (QHSE).
At Lamers, Document Management consisted of a ‘paper’ manual and a folder structure on a server. An intranet page provided access to the manual, which was in fact no more an archive. “Versions and changes were managed and updated manually,” Segers explains. “Nothing was automated. At Lamers, we have ca. 2000 documents to manage, so altering or replacing documents was a time-consuming business.
“Now everything is built around models and Visio flowcharts,” says Segers. “We mapped out the manufacturing processes and if you click on parts of that, you see all the relevant documentation.”
The motto throughout was: keep it simple. Access had to be simple and intuitive. Navigation to the required information had to be direct, without having to click your way through endless boxes. This simplicity means that new colleagues can be brought up to speed quickly. Moreover, user-friendliness is in itself an important aspect of Quality Management, because you want everyone to get on board with boosting Quality.
We mapped out the manufacturing processes and if you click on parts of that, you see all the relevant documentation
Everyone in the factory can see the Quality performance of the previous week
Quality inspection and certification for a complex and technically groundbreaking industrial sector requires absolute transparency of management, which is what AlisQI now delivers.
Everything is registered in AlisQI: customer complaints, flaws and audit findings as well as the entire chain of follow-up actions. Product deviations and any incidents or accidents are alerted in AlisQI, and reports are generated on the basis of that information.
“Every week we create what we call a monitor which details our performance with regards to rejection levels, complaints and workplace inspections,” says Segers. This information is shared on screens throughout the Lamers facility. “So everyone in the factory can see the Quality performance of the previous week.”
Lamers product owners carry out a monthly inspection of the safety, cleanliness and order of their workplace. They have checklists in AlisQI, so the inspections are methodical and timely. “This used to be information on templates that had to be entered manually into our system by our department. But now we get the product owners to report directly into AlisQI, so it’s registered immediately.”
Lamers is currently implementing the Quality Control & LIMS module of the AlisQI solution. This is proceeding well, not least because Segers and his team (like so many AlisQI customers before them) are exploring the platform’s flexibility to create new ways of doing things.
Reporting is one example. Every customer particular formatting requirements so Segers had his team create Word templates that pull the information out of AlisQI in the right customer format with a single click of the mouse. “No need to copy and paste,” Segers comments.
He envisages that in the near future, once everything is registered in AlisQI, automated reporting could be further refined and that would speed things up even more.
“We could have standard reports printed out by our customer service,” Segers explains. “If we know the format, and every week there is that type of report, you could get someone who is not necessarily a Quality expert but who knows the ‘trick’ to do it.”
“If we make sure that the data is valid, then that should be possible. I see a big advantage in that. And it all flows from the huge advantage of having all the data together, and easily accessible.”
It all flows from the huge advantage of having all the data together, and easily accessible.
Having the data together on a centralized and easily accessible platform is a great advantage, and saves a lot of time.
Another example of how AlisQI paves the way for invention is the ERP system. Almost every ERP system can be connected to the AlisQI platform, but Lamers has thought of a way to make this even easier by using the QR codes. The operator uses a tablet to scan the QR code to the supporting document and AlisQI immediately finds the right form which is opened in the right place, ready for the Q-details to be added and the form to be digitally completed.
“We have to record more and more things and that’s a real incentive to invent smart and useful ways of working,” says Segers.
Before AlisQI, a lot of data was stored on a local drive or with the metering unit. “Every report we needed had to be set up manually using different databases.”
“Having the data together on a centralized and easily accessible platform is a great advantage, and saves Segers and his team a lot of time.”
“We have more information that we can share quickly because we use the AlisQI tool. Getting the data and making it available used to be a lot more time-consuming,” Segers says. “What we have now in terms of reporting is more extensive and insightful, and we know exactly where our weak spots are. Before, all our data were quantitative.”
We already saw how in the experience of Geert Segers, AlisQI differentiates itself from other Quality Management Systems. This is becoming more evident with time – and evident to everyone in Lamers, not only its QHSE Manager.
Segers comments: “AlisQI helps us to get buy-in from others in the organization, and to engage in our story.”
Lamers technicians and customer-facing staff working on location can deploy AlisQI as easily as their colleagues in Nijmegen. “This is making the provision of information and complaints handling a lot simpler,” says Segers.
“We do almost everything in AlisQI,” he continues. “We try to solve as much as possible using AlisQI and if we think, ‘You know what, we should do that too’, we create a new group type and so that we can have that data in our Platform too.”
So Segers recommends AlisQI for what you need it to do, and for how you can adapt it to do so much more once it is up and running. “AlisQI supports your PDCA cycle with ease,” he sums up. “You’ve got your processes, your deviations, your moments of evaluation and your improvement cycle that can all be steered from AlisQI. The whole management process is much better supported.”
This is the change Lamers, and its customers wanted to see. “We are scaling up,” says Segers, “and we have started organizing and standardizing processes in a much more structured way. We’re engaging with Quality Management much more intensively.”
This is essential because as the business grows, much more is being demanded of Segers and his team. For instance, Lamers is building an entire test installation to simulate the workings of a machine for a key customer, which has a legion of complex testing and service implications. “We’ll soon be in a position where we can enter all the test configurations and data into AlisQI, and this will tell us how well we are doing.”
You’ve got your processes, your deviations, your moments of evaluation and your improvement cycle that can all be steered from AlisQI. The whole management process is much better supported..