What Is Process Control Monitoring?

Mary McMahon

Process control monitoring provides a mechanism for watching over production to identify components that don’t meet quality standards. Constant sampling and analysis also provides information about when manufacturing processes might be in the danger zone where defective components could start emerging. The most common application of this technology is in the production of integrated circuits, which require very precise quality controls to operate properly. Making large numbers of integrated circuits can involve a balance between the need to keep production speeds high and control processes to reduce the risk of errors.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

Equipment used in process control monitoring can check on the components used and measure physical traits like thickness and width. It also tests for electrical faults and other problems with the circuits attached to the board to identify flaws that might cause issues during operation. Random sampling is preferred for this testing, to ensure even coverage of all the chips in a given production run. By pulling them at random, the equipment can reduce the risks of missing a batch of bad circuits.

This machinery can be installed at numerous stages of the manufacturing process. It can provide constant feedback to allow supervisors to identify problems like contaminants in the solder or incorrectly placed circuits. These issues may indicate that something has gone wrong with the automation equipment, or that technicians on the floor are not exercising appropriate quality control measures. Some process control monitoring can be automated and may shut down a line and issue alarms if it spots significant issues or safety problems.

Constant statistics are maintained as part of process control monitoring. This allows people to pull up detailed data on production efficiency, the kinds of components made, and average wait times. Consistency checks can provide insight into whether a line is operating properly. Larger numbers of problems than usual might be indicative of an issue somewhere in the line, in which case the data can help supervisors determine where the problem lies and how to fix it.

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In upgrades of manufacturing facilities, the process control monitoring data can help people decide how and where the line needs to be updated. This can include identifying faulty equipment and processes, or machines that won’t be able to manufacture parts that adhere to a new standard. The same information can be compared with new data after the refurbished facility starts operating to determine whether the changes were cost effective and appropriate.

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