October 27, 2022
To be a reputable RF solutions and electronics components supplier, quality control is a critical element. As technologies evolve and new manufacturing processes increase the precision of components, it is more important than ever to elevate quality control levels and refine processes. Many of these efforts are showing up as industry trends driving toward ever-increasing quality standards and results.
Wade Cole, Senior Quality Director at Qorvo says these trends do more than simply allow manufacturers to monitor fluctuations in quality data. They can also lead to better methods of interpreting that data and further supporting quality control.
"An essential aspect of quality control is error-proofing," Wade said. "You might hear it called Poka-Yoke (originated during the 1960s by industrial engineer Shigeo Shingo and formalized as Zero Quality Control). Perfection may be impossible, but the concept has the ultimate potential to make manufacturing processes error-proof. If you can find ways to automate repeatable processes, you're much more likely to get the results you want."
1. Mining Big Data
Taking advantage of big data is now a critical quality control practice. A terabyte of memory is relatively inexpensive so manufacturers can gather more and more actionable information about their processes. There are big data mining programs currently in use, as well as more powerful ones on the horizon that find crucial trends and predict when a quality issue might occur. "Qorvo has been using these kinds of AI (artificial intelligence) tools in our fabs for years to catch potential issues early," Wade said. "By putting an AI type bot in place to monitor that data in real-time, we can flag issues to minimize trouble. Scanning big data like this lets us capture key issues or anomalies before they become bigger issues. It enables more prevention and reduces reactive problem-solving."
Wade Cole, Senior Quality Director
2. High Volume Reliability Testing
While testing a handful of products could catch the occasional problem, testing many more would give a more reliable indication of a recurring and/or a lower defects per million (DPM) issue. Larger sample sizes offer better detection and more actionable results. To that end, we test millions of parts every year, in the harsh conditions found in our ovens and test chambers across Qorvo's reliability labs. Failures discovered are analyzed in our Failure Analysis Labs to find the physical defect that led to failure. The Quality team then problem solves to find the root cause of the defect and implements corrective and preventative actions to ensure we do not see that failure again.
3. Outlier Detection
Sometimes it's worthwhile to hunt down a perfect product in a group of imperfect ones. "We call that a good die in a bad neighborhood," Wade said. "If we find a good die that's all by itself surrounded by a bunch of bad die, that can indicate that something isn't right. We'll call that good die a bad one as well and set about searching for the cause."
4. Part Average Testing (PAT)
This quality control trend is related to outlier detection as a way of looking at variations in products and what those differences can tell you. "If you happen to come across a part that is exceptionally far out of your variation norms, it is an outlier part. This can happen in a variety of different places along the production path. It's worth putting that outlier material aside and making an assessment on where it came from."
5. Clean Launch
Naturally, the ideal situation is that customers consistently receive their products without issue. Much of the effort to make sure that happens means aggregating past issues and identifying and preventing key items that may repeat themselves. "Qorvo diligently works toward what we call a “clean launch," Wade said. "If something prevents a clean launch, we'll assign a problem-solving team to address it. We carefully go through checklists to ensure we've followed all the best practices prior to releasing the product to production."
6. Good Old-Fashioned Feedback
Another practice to pursue isn't necessarily an industry quality control trend so much as an element of common sense - simply listening to what your customers have to say. Our customers have problems they must also solve, and through their problem-solving, they may identify a best practice. By Qorvo listening to our customers, we can improve our quality by adopting a best practice we would otherwise not have been exposed to on our own. "If I look back over time at one key metric we track - the number of comments or returns we may see in parts per million shipped - we've seen that number continue to decrease dramatically - from returns per million to returns per billion." Clearly, adherence and early adoption of these quality control trends are paying off.
See how corporate social responsibility factors into the company culture and personality: Beyond Compliance: Qorvo's Corporate Social Responsibility Initiatives. Learn more about the Qorvo commitment to quality here.
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