ATS Inspect software allows tablet-equipped quality inspection employees can point to reference images in ATS Inspect software to identify where flaws are present (top). Reporting functions can rank problems from most frequent to least (second) or produce concentration maps showing where defects are occurring most frequently (third). The software can overlay defect reports on CAD files, providing data to designers and suppliers on where technical problems are occurring (bottom).

Quality control experts love hard data. Measuring the distances between threads on a screw, widths of metal components, and geometric tolerances of 3D castings produces concrete, verifiable, repeatable results.

Subjective quality standards are harder to track. Imaging technologies can read a car’s paint job and give the percentage of various color pigments represented, but they might not notice an extra-thick line or a minor surface flaw. For that, human inspection is still needed, bringing a level of subjectivity that can make some quality engineers nervous.

“You can’t eliminate subjectivity, but you can manage it,” says Mark Roos, director of strategic business development for software provider ATS Applied Tech Systems LLC. “In the places where visual inspection has to take place by a human, you can tie those jobs to CAD data. You spot the flaw on the product, and you mark it on the virtual model. Then you have a data point that can follow the product through assembly instead of a written inspection report.”

A major Japanese automaker recently implemented ATS Inspect, the company’s software for visual report tracking, at one of its U.S. facilities. ATS also makes CM4D, a system for continuously collecting metrology data from different coordinate metrology machines (CMMs), scanners, and white-light systems used to track quality.

Roos recently spoke with Today’s Motor Vehicles to discuss how software can support quality reporting, convert the subjective into hard data, and advance Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)/Industry 4.0 initiatives.

Today’s Motor Vehicles: Manufacturing engineers love hard data to track operational effectiveness, so objective testing devices such as CMMs and laser scanners are necessary in most plants, but some measurement is subjective and requires a human eye to catch. How can data-driven plants use ATS Inspect to gather that more-subjective data?

Mark Roos: ATS Inspect is used to analyze subjective data in a paperless, visual, and real-time application. Manufacturing, quality, and management can see defect and rework trends across time to analyze and solve problems. Since Inspect is real-time, problems can be identified and corrected before product gets shipped.

TMV: Auto assembly quality flaws can range from accidental paint scratches to misaligned machines. How can ATS Inspect differentiate between those situations?

MR: Inspect marks the location of the defect on a digital photo or CAD image, so companies can see where defects are occurring then analyze for root cause, whether it’s a manufacturing build problem or how the product is handled within the manufacturing process.

TMV: In component manufacturing, how common is human visual inspection? And what role can ATS Inspect data play in the relationship between the tier supplier and the OEM?

MR: Human visual inspection is still very common and necessary. Many companies ask their suppliers to submit their data in advance before shipping to the OEM. ATS Inspect will detect, and allow the supplier to correct, potential problems with the product before shipment. The supplier’s reports can easily be looked at by the OEM.

ATS CM4D software collects metrology data from CMMs, scanners, and other inspection equipment, allowing manufacturers to create a single quality tracking file.
TMV: ATS’ CM4D software can pull data from different manufacturers’ CMMs and metrology equipment. Why use CM4D instead of software from the quality equipment manufacturers?

MR: Many companies have many different types and brands of testing and metrology equipment, forcing a company to know how to use many different software packages when it comes to reporting on dimensional analysis. CM4D takes the data from all of these different devices and stores all the data in one database, becoming the central reporting system. Data can then also be compared and reported from the different devices using CAD images. Data for assemblies with many parts can also all be analyzed by one software package.

TMV: How can manufacturers use CM4D to determine fit-and-finish issues with parts from multiple vendors?

MR: Many CM4D clients also have their suppliers submit the data. The data is analyzed by CM4D, and data between different suppliers is also analyzed on how parts and assemblies fit together. This analysis is done before the supplier is given clearance to ship the product.

TMV: How can manufacturers use metrology data, paired with design software, to overcome fit problems from out-of-spec parts?

MR: CM4D has virtual shimming and alignment analysis capabilities. Engineering groups can analyze tolerances, then make engineering changes and build decisions.

TMV: One of the trends driving manufacturing is connectivity [Internet of Things (IIoT), Industry 4.0]. How can manufacturers use CM4D to collect metrology data in a way that it can be matched to machine tool and process data?

MR: ATS Inspect and CM4D are progressing on a path going forward for more integration. This is called attribute, dimensional, and operational smart (ADOS). ATS’ ADOS integrates multiple systems and the sharing of manufacturing and quality data. ATS is also a manufacturing execution systems (MES) global organization focused on Industry 4.0, the Internet of Things. Manufacturing organizations are looking to integrate all shop floor data collection into one intelligent solution. The data collected from dimensional, attribute, visual, programmable logic controller (PLC), and automation systems will be analyzed and reported on in one comprehensive system.

ATS Applied Tech Systems LLC

About the author: Robert Schoenberger is the editor of TMV and can be reached at 216.393.0271 or