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10 Questions regarding the selection of a CAQ system

The selection and introduction of a CAQ system is quite a challenge and poses a number of questions. During the decision-making stage in particular, there is often much uncertainty about what the specific requirements might be. Here, it is of particular importance to be systematic and to make a technically qualified choice.
The 10 answers below will assist you in this endeavour.

1. Why CAQ?

Computed-aided quality assurance (CAQ) is becoming a competitive factor. After all, a system-aided optimisation of quality-relevant processes has a direct impact upon the product quality and thus your customers’ satisfaction. A fast response to errors, production stability through a continuous process control and a traceability along the entire production chain are only some of CAQ software’s benefits when you set out on a track of pursuing a zero-error strategy. In addition, CAQ systems provide you with an opportunity to save on island solutions in favour of only one system.

2. What CAQ system will fit your sector?

There is a huge range of CAQ software solutions. However, there is also a huge range of differences in their efficiency. This make it even more important that you define what the CAQ system is supposed to achieve within your company. This is, in the main, based upon sectoral parameters. Medical technology companies, for example, have other requirements than, say, polymer technology companies, with the former, perhaps, requiring unforgeable documents, the latter a mould cavity analysis. Therefore, you should pre-determine your sector-specific requirements in a systematic manner.

3. Who makes the decisions?

The sector-specific requirements aside, do also define your individual requirements. And it is also important to ask those people who are going to work with the CAQ system you want to procure on a daily basis or what specs your IT department would like to see. Turn your individual requirements into CAQ functionalities and thus define the CAQ specs you need. After weighing such functionalities, the specs will allow you an initial selection of CAQ software providers.

4. What should the CAQ system be capable of, now and in future?

The selected CAQ system’s structure should be able to support all process steps along the entire value-added chain:

What process steps your CAQ system is finally going to support is based upon your individual requirements. In order to allow a gradual introduction at your company, the CAQ system should, however, have a modular structure. This gives you a customised solution that can grow with its future tasks by adding new modules. See to modular integrity to get a really efficient solution. This includes a transfer of product characteristics from FMEA to the Control Plan and from there to the individual Quality Control Plans, say, for incoming lot control.

5. What system requirements are important?

CAQ software should be able to get fully integrated in your company. That is to say, your ERP/PPS system should have a CAQ software interface to make your IT systems interlock (e.g. the ERP system will automatically trigger a quality control job in the CAQ system when goods are coming in). Redundant data are avoided and data admin thus simplified. After all, interfaces allow networked systems a bi-directional use of customer, supplier or product data.

6. How does the inter-locational exchange work?

For companies also located abroad, see to a CAQ system’s multilingualism. This includes the user interface’s language and the facility to admin data multilingually. A Hungarian member of staff abroad will open measures added to the data base in Germany in his or her mother tongue. The multi-client capability regulates various groups’ access to one shared data base. Thus, you can individually manage what client will use what data. And with one central client you can get an overview of all individual clients, too. This is an indispensable feature for globally operating companies with more than one production plant.

7. How can I compare the various CAQ systems?

Do not rely on the CAQ providers' module designations. Instead, check what functions they denote and what exactly they are capable of. Different CAQ systems’ functions may, at first glance, appear identical but turn out to be very different later. There are many huge differences - in analyses and evaluations in particular - in terms of user friendliness and informational value. So please invest some time here, since process data and graphics will later be one of your CAQ system’s main applications.

8. How do I turn the introduction of CAQ into a success?

CAQ software always finds it hard to get accepted. Don’t forget that “time-honoured” structures are suddenly turned upside down, as it were. What at first takes time – time for trainings and getting familiarised with the new software and structures – later means time savings and an easy application. However, if the users don’t see these benefits they will sooner rather than later simply fall back upon their old structure and methods. In order to achieve acceptance throughout, the CAQ system therefore should have a user friendly UI that ideally can be configured by the users themselves. This includes, for example, a personal field sequence for, say, incoming complaints.

9. What service do CAQ providers render?

A software provider’s (after-sales) support is very important for such complex solutions like CAQ software. Such support includes giving advice on the selection of the software but also after sales when the software is actually used. It is trained instructors who should impart the required know-how. Do also see to a structured training schedule that nonetheless provides enough leeway for individual questions. The first point of call should be technically versed after-sales support staff. Ask for regular updates and qualified advice on the latest system optimisations.

10. How to avoid misinvestments?

The most important thing when selecting a CAQ system surely is not to lose sight of what specs are really important and to put under scrutiny the products on offer. A premature choice may well lead to excessive costs, a waste of time and even a failure of the entire CAQ project. Do therefore follow a strategy: Prepare detailed specs, spend time on attending presentations and do not hesitate to ask questions. That’s how you can turn your CAQ project into a success story and an efficient solution along the entire value-added chain!