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DIY process monitoring will cost you more in the long run

Joe Ventimiglio

Joe Ventimiglio - Powertrain, Automotive, Industrial

You’re under pressure to hit a higher benchmark for quality on the production line. The clear answer is to invest in a process-monitoring system. But you look at the price tag attached to an out-of-the-box solution and think, “I’ve got a good team, we can just whip up our own system that will cost less.”

No. It won’t.

If quality is important to you, don’t try to cobble together a do-it-yourself system. I’m not suggesting you don’t have the engineering know-how to pull it off. But you have to ask yourself some hard questions:

  • • How easy will it be to maintain and update this DIY system?
  • • How reliable will it be?
  • • Will it give you the rich data points and insight you really need to improve quality and boost yield?

Let’s start with that price myth...

You need to realistically assess the time and cost required to develop a decent software app to run your DIY system. Even a bare-bones application can consume weeks of effort and thousands of dollars of development time. More likely, you’ll spend months and tens of thousands of dollars to develop an app with anywhere near the reliability, robustness and scalability of what you could purchase from a respected vendor at a fraction of the cost.

Software isn’t the only expense that can end up being much higher than you think. A jury-rigged combination of a desktop PC and various small boards and modules is exposed to the surrounding environment. You need to think about cabling, mounting and protection.

How easy and effective is your DYI process monitoring solution to use?

Odds are, the interface is a mouse and a keyboard. Managing data on the screen and visualizing it for easy interpretation is likely rudimentary at best. Compare that to a top-notch off-the-shelf-solution that features touch screens and powerful data-visualization tools that can generate a variety of different reports that even non-engineers can understand.

Your DIY build won’t give you the insight to identify the quality issues that really matter. If data is collected, it’s often bare bones and lacks the signatures required for real visibility into what occurred in the process.

Your DIY system simply won’t give you enough backwards traceability – real traceability – to intelligently fix process problems. When there’s a widespread problem, you won’t have the data you need to get to the root cause. That still leaves you having to trash or recall thousands of units when only a few dozen may be faulty.

If you really care about quality, don’t waste your time and money trying to MacGyver your own process-monitoring system. Like most manufacturing operations, you’re likely trying to do more with less. Your team is smaller than it used to be. With the time you save by using an off-the-shelf solution, you can deal with some of the dozens of other issues on your to-do list.