Managing and Mastering The Quality Assurance Function

Greg Matranga
By Greg Matranga | August 13, 2021
Vice President of Global Marketing

Fact checked by Stephen O'Reilly

Manufacturing organizations are often unable to make the transition to “mastering” quality at the enterprise level. This is understandable as fire drills and competing priorities always seem to take precedent. But also, because many leaders of these organizations tend to view this transition as an “all-or-nothing” endeavor. The result of this all-or-nothing view is that people see roadblocks that don’t really exist.
 
We’re all familiar with this situation…overanalyzing or overthinking a situation. It can cause forward motion or decision-making to become "paralyzed," meaning that no solution or course of action is ultimately decided upon. “Analysis paralysis” is the phrase I often hear. We conjure so many problems in our minds that we can’t even take the first step toward freedom from those problems.
 
But when it comes to managing quality assurance in your manufacturing organization, you can’t afford analysis paralysis. Nobody can. You must put aside the all-or-nothing view and tackle quality management like you would persistent weeds in your yard. See the problem, purchase the solution, apply the solution.
 
Manage quality across your entire organization and you will succeed well beyond expectations.
Managing Quality

Quality Management — Is the Cloud the Issue?

When you discuss quality management for the enterprise, the only way to go is to the cloud—for many reasons. Doubts about the cloud remain for some manufacturers, but they are quickly dissipating. In a recent blog, Jason Chester, InfinityQS Director of Global Channel Programs, wrote about digital transformation. He discussed how “cloud computing has slowly been gathering momentum in the manufacturing sector, especially for the collection of plant-floor data, and although concerns over data sovereignty, privacy, and security still linger, these are often misplaced given the robust nature and sophistication of today’s cloud-based solutions.”
 
Secure cloud-based solutions solve many of the problems manufacturers face when deciding whether or not to “make the move.” To name just a few: the data isolation (or “data island”) that occurs “naturally” when utilizing on-premises systems, or the ability to access critical data, information, intelligence, and analytics remotely when the environment demands it (i.e., the recent COVID pandemic).
Cloud-Based Quality

Quality Assurance Function — Moving Forward

We know that manufacturers’ quality and time are valuable. If you’re constantly trying to fix day-to-day problems, how can you focus on the activities that would lead to consistent improvement? Cloud-based real-time statistical process control (SPC) solutions are still the pinnacle of modern day quality management. They offer the benefit of not just improved product quality, but also of better process efficiency—which makes them so attractive to busy manufacturers.
 
But here’s the challenge with most SPC solutions: you can’t typically access and manipulate the data you collect in useful ways. My colleague, Steve Wise, InfinityQS VP of Statistical Methods, puts it this way: “You might be able to review the data on any given day, but how much time do you spend manipulating those data points to make them usable? Can you easily find the most important data as they are collected? Can you view your data in multiple ways, or compare data across production lines or sites?
To reveal trends and enable proactive, strategic analysis, quality pros are forced to export data into spreadsheets and run manual comparisons. In some cases, they are steered toward purchasing expensive add-on modules or external analysis programs for their legacy systems.”
 
We can agree, it’s a clunky way to do business. It’s outdated and doesn’t address the needs of today’s fast-paced manufacturers. And the workarounds you concoct add up to extra time and work for quality managers, plant managers, IT staff, and executives.
SPC on the Plant Floor

What You Need — Quality Data Insights

To truly manage your quality data, you need to be able to do three very important things with the data you collect:
  • Quickly identify and solve issues that crop up on the production line—ideally before they cause wasted product
  • Quickly access, analyze, and communicate data in response to executive, customer, or auditor requests
  • Determine how to make production lines run as smoothly and efficiently as possible, and as close to full capacity as possible
To meet these requirements, your quality management solution should enable you to easily find exactly the data you want, from any time period you specify. And it should let you view your data in multiple ways—such as comparing products, production lines, or even sites across the entire enterprise. Most important, you should be able to make these comparisons within the solution; not while manually juggling multiple spreadsheets.
 
The key to this level of analysis is centralized and standardized data. The problem, Steve says, is that although many systems claim to use a “centralized database,” their “underlying database technology isn’t up to the task of truly unifying your data in a way that enables extensive and complex comparisons.”
 
A truly centralized, unified data repository—like what we utilize with InfinityQS quality management systems—automates and standardizes data storage. As a result, all your data are available and easy to work with. “No more exporting and importing data into offline products in your endless journey to compile reports.” With software such as Enact® from InfinityQS, “you can create dashboards that allow you to quickly create charts, graphs, and reports from your SPC data.”
 
With this in mind, let’s take a quick look at the features you need in your quality management solution.
Shop Floor SPC

SPC Charts

In SPC, as we all know, there are statistical rules in place that state if a data point falls a certain distance from your mean, then something beyond what you expected probably happened. Or if you start exhibiting a trend, then you need to pay attention. The reason control charts were created was to give a visual indication of trends and abnormal patterns, to let you know when something may have changed from an expected baseline.
Enact Control Chart
 
Control charts tell the story of your process. So, you should still use them. But, as my colleague, Eric Weisbrod, InfinityQS VP of Product Management, states in his blog about control charts, “you do not need to put your eyes on them nearly as frequently as you’re used to.” InfinityQS quality management solutions are here to monitor your data streams using your control chart rules—but do so in the background so you can focus on the many many other tasks you’ve been assigned and stop worrying about peeking at all your control charts every few minutes.
 
And control charts in Enact go hand-in-hand with dashboards.
 

Quality Data Dashboards

According to Eric (from another blog), “Dashboards, in general, provide a snapshot, an overview, of something (a process, in manufacturing), to help you make timely decisions at a glance.”
 
We do that already in our personal daily lives. “Is it time to move money from savings into checking? Is it time to start clearing some space in my Inbox? Is my shortstop hitting well enough to keep him in the lineup? It’s relevant information you can take in quickly and decide whether or not you need to take any action.” You can see why Eric finishes with, “The dashboard is our friend.”
Enact Dashboard
 
“Dashboards in Enact are time-savers for users. Everyone in manufacturing quality uses control charts, right? Of course. And think about why. To garner information so you can make a decision to adjust a process or just leave it be. Make sense?”
 
“Well, dashboards in Enact can do that for you. The dashboard, in fact, takes things a step further, offering up charts in a timely fashion that need your attention. Otherwise, don’t worry about it! The user never has to “sift” through control charts. The only things the user needs to see are the data streams that are not meeting your expectations (think statistical and specification limit violations).”
 
To sum up: the power of dashboards in Enact comes in many forms—time savings for both the user and the person configuring the system, consistency, quick and thorough analysis, and adaptability.
Enact on the Plant Floor

Making Quality Management Work for You

As InfinityQS COO, Doug Fair, states in his blog, What’s the Cost of Quality?, “maintaining quality in manufacturing, is two sides of the same coin—a ‘pay me now or pay me later’ effort. That is, if you don’t invest in quality now, you’re likely to pay for it in warranty claims and dissatisfied customers who move to a different supplier.”
 
Managing quality is an opportunity to make the most of your manufacturing processes. “Without quality systems in place, and without data to assess quality levels, costs of quality are unknown. As a result, organizations cannot work to reduce costs of quality if they have no information about it. In the absence of data, people resort to opinion and conjecture. What your organization really needs, though, is unbiased, actionable information that clearly communicates costs of quality.”
 
A good quality management system can supply you with that. Manufacturers often state that they “really don’t know what’s causing their problems.” Through conversation, InfinityQS invariably discovers that what they truly need is information from quality data.
Transform Your Operations

Don’t Overthink Quality Management

So, it’s time to stop overanalyzing or overthinking your quality management situation. Managing quality at your organization doesn’t have to be a daunting all-or-nothing situation. Escape from "analysis paralysis” and take the first step toward freedom from your production problems by enacting some change in your quality management solution—move to the cloud. Move to Enact.
 
 
Take advantage of the technology at your fingertips today: contact one of our account managers (1.800.772.7978 or via our website) for more information.
 
 

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