National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) researchers, together with colleagues from the Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG), key manufacturing companies, and quality software vendors, have completed work on a new data specification that will allow compliant products to store and exchange measurement data from process-monitoring instruments in a completely open and non-proprietary format. Widespread use of the new quality measurement data (QMD) specification, which defines the information exchanged between factory floor measurement instruments and Statistical Process Control (SPC) software, should provide substantial savings to quality systems users and their suppliers throughout the manufacturing sector.
Manufacturers worldwide use a wide variety of measurement instruments and systems to monitor processes and measure critical values of parts and assemblies at their factories as part of quality control. These measurement devices need to communicate with software components—from a variety of vendors—that collect and process the measurements. However, a measuring device typically cannot communicate with statistical process-control software unless both the device and the software component speak the software vendor's proprietary language ... and the 1500 to 2000 existing quality data "languages" makes transfer of information difficult. This widely recognized interoperability problem causes large and unnecessary costs to users, suppliers and vendors.
The QMD development effort represents the first time that a group of competing providers of widely used quality software have joined forces to define an open and completely non-proprietary quality data solution, based on the general XML data format, for all types of quality data—not just dimensional metrology data—in a format that captures all the necessary characterization of the data. QMD is also an entirely generic streaming data format that is measurement-system and database-schema independent—and thus can convey quality data measurements from any source to any target.
NIST supports the now two-year-old QMD development effort in a variety of ways. NIST created a QMD test suite, which is being used to verify whether a vendor's implementation of the QMD specification actually conforms to the specification. Such testing is critical to ensure interoperability.
More information on the QMD specification is available at http://qmd.aiag.org and at www.isd.mel.nist.gov/projects/metrology_interoperability/qmd_test_suite.htm.