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Improving the Efficiency of Quality Assurance Teams through Microscope Inspections

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SOPREMA is a global company that offers a comprehensive line of roofing and building envelope products. Focusing on low-slope applications within structures such as schools, manufacturing facilities, and data centers, SOPREMA’s solutions include industry-leading modified bitumen membranes, polymeric liquid applied membranes, and synthetic single-ply PVC membranes.

In all its manufacturing facilities across the United States, SOPREMA focuses on employee safety and strives to expand its commitment to provide quality products with minimal impact on the environment. SOPREMA is certified ISO 9001, 14001, and 45001.

Quality assurance (QA) is a key element of meeting this goal.

Quality Assurance Testing Using a Stereo Microscope

In an effort to improve their teams’ QA inspection processes, Amandine Tragus, Quality Assurance Manager, and Julie Shoemaker, Research Development Manager, installed an Olympus SZX10 stereo microscope in one of their SOPREMA production facilities.

Before purchasing the SZX10 microscope, SOPREMA’s QA team would either visually inspect materials without a microscope—which was slow and often imprecise—or send the material to a third-party lab for verification, which was costly.

Over the last five to six years, they have been able to economize over 1,200 cost-saving work-hours, giving the team back some of its very valuable time.

Quality assurance technician using the Olympus SZX10 industrial microscope to control the quality of the batch of membrane building envelope and roofing products produced in a SOPREMA manufacturing facility

Bethany Perronne, Quality Assurance Laboratory Technician, with SOPREMA’s SZX10 microscope

Faster, More Precise Quality Assurance

Amandine and her team of three technicians inspect the quality of each raw material delivery and use the SZX10 stereo microscope to inspect up to 10 finished product batches per week before they are shipped out to the customer. Julie underlines how invaluable a tool it is, “At SOPREMA, we take product quality extremely seriously, and that starts with our evaluation of all incoming raw materials, comprehensive batch testing, and a thorough analysis of any potential field issues that arise. The stereo microscope is an essential tool for our success with each of those processes.”

SOPREMA Quality Assurance ensures that all finished product it manufactures meets specific SOPREMA requirements and exceeds customer expectations.

SOPREMA’S Gulfport, MS manufacturing facility

For example, in SOPREMA's Gulfport, Mississippi facility, one of the main products manufactured is its SG granule-surfaced membranes. The highly reflective surface of these products must meet strict U.S. reflectivity requirements (Title 24, FBC, IECC). Using the SZX10 microscope, the QA team can quickly confirm that the proper dispersion and coverage of granules meet the product standard.

What would previously take Amandine’s team up to an hour or more for a visual inspection, now takes them approximately 5 minutes using the SZX10 industrial microscope. SOPREMA can quickly ensure a high-quality product is sent to market, as well as continue to meet the standards for the industry.

Unexpected Advantages of the SZX10 Microscope

Being able to capture high-quality images using the stereo microscope and display them on a screen for the entire team to review has proven beneficial. Team communication and education have improved, and the SOPREMA R&D and Quality Assurance teams have found they are able to react to needs quicker and more accurately. They are able to use the stereo microscope images when communicating to customers or other internal departments to bridge the technical and terminology gap. As Amandine says, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

Julie agrees, “If problems arise, the ability to use the stereo microscope to gather images and evidence, helps us pinpoint the root cause and effectively communicate with our suppliers or customers. Being able to quickly and effectively diagnose, communicate, and solve problems is key.”

Why Olympus?

Stereo microscopes have been around for decades, and there are many models on the market. But when asked why SOPREMA decided to move forward with Olympus, Amandine cited our customer service.

Time is precious in a production facility, so having an experienced, customer-oriented direct sales rep who could provide presale, as well as post-sale, training and implementation was the final selling point for SOPREMA.

When asked if she is still happy with her purchase, Amandine replies, “Extremely happy! We’ve never had any issues with this powerful and easy-to-use tool.” Julie adds, “The cost of quality is extremely important to us. Our brands (Olympus and SOPREMA) are synonymous with high quality, so, having this reliable quality imaging tool has been great for our team.”

Related Content

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Manager, Marketing Communications

Kristopher joined Olympus in 2019 and is based in our Webster, Texas office. He works with our sales and product management teams to grow Olympus’ brand and customer base in North and South America. The product lines he supports include industrial microscopes, analytical instruments, nondestructive testing instruments, and industrial videoscopes.

April 13, 2021
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