"Checked and found to be good"
Faulty consumables threaten the operational reliability of inkjet coders and can cause costly production downtimes. To prevent this from happening quality assurance (QA) is given the highest priority at SIMACO. Oliver Faß, Managing Director, explains what this means and how it is accomplished.
Oliver Faß, SIMACO's Managing Director, pursues a zero fault strategy as regards quality assurance.
Mr Faß, SIMACO has been committed to high standards regarding internal QA for more than 25 years. Why is this so important?
"Our products are very economical. For example it is possible to mark more than 45 million mineral water bottles with just one litre of our standard inks. The quality has to be right for this! The full availability of the printer and consequently the productivity of the complete system can only be ensured if this remains consistently high."
How can this be guaranteed?
"There is only one way – the zero fault strategy! A consumable which does not comply 100% with our product guidelines and specifications is not allowed to leave our premises."
What does SIMACO do in order to achieve this goal?
"We have established the following 'golden rules' for this purpose which are constantly being updated: the Quality Assurance Department is completely independent and reports directly to the Management. It is in constant contact with our suppliers and these are regularly subjected to critical assessments. We receive a factory inspection certificate with each individual batch of raw materials. All the deliveries are checked upon arrival that they are correct and intact – the goods are marked as blocked and taken to a special storage area for such products should there be any cause for complaint. In addition we validate all the raw materials in accordance with the specifications of the manufacturer and on the basis of our own criteria regarding their suitability for our high quality products. The check routines are regularly scrutinised and adapted to current requirements."
Therefore only perfect raw materials should be used. How precisely do you check their quality?
"We measure, among other things, their density, viscosity, conductance, pH value, water content, solid body content and surface tension. Furthermore we take a type of chemical fingerprint from each batch by means of infrared spectroscopy and gas chromatographic / mass spectroscopic procedures. In addition the measurement of colour shade and strength is obligatory."
So many raw materials and so many checks – isn't it easy to lose track sometimes?
"All the checks are fully documented in order to rule this out. Only materials which pass these receive a raw material and goods received number (with details regarding the period of usage) and are made available for production. We keep a reference sample from each batch."
Are only the results of the raw material tests documented?
"No, this continues through to the final product: all our product batches are manufactured in accordance with a documented working procedure and receive a unique batch number. This includes the complete process from the preparation stage, the stirring times and treatment steps to filtration and filling. All the check routines, information regarding shelf life and markings as well as filter instructions and regulations are recorded. These procedures are not just 'ticked off'. In fact we record the addition of each individual raw material with the specific time. Consequently the plausibility of the production can still be traced years later. A representative sample goes to the Quality Assurance Department in order to check the physical and chemical parameters again in accordance with the specifications when the preparation of the ink has been completed."
And the product is then ready to be sold?
"No, first of all additional approval is required from the Quality Assurance Department in this case too. For this it is checked that the ink has also been filtered in accordance with our specifications. It is only filled and packed when it has also passed this test successfully."
Has the quality assurance now been completed?
"Under no circumstances. It continues during the filling process. For this our Quality Assurance Department takes several samples from which the necessary retained samples are formed. This puts us in a position to examine the ink at any time in terms of application technology as well as its physical parameters. In addition we have been carrying out consistent batch tracing since 1991. Consequently we can trace back each of our product batches and find out who prepared it, when, with whom and with which raw materials, who tested and approved it and who filled it with which filter."
Rigid controls, continuous documentation and a constant tracing process – what else is required in order to sustainably ensure the quality of SIMACOLOR consumables?
"The key to this is a close cooperation between QA, research and development, application technology and production in addition to all the stipulated procedures. We address problems together, analyse them and find a solution jointly. The high availability of the industrial printers operating with our products is proof that we are good at this. Our QA system has already been tested and found to be good by the Royal Mail and numerous other global players."