Mastering Quality: Real-Time SPC Drives True Continuous Improvement in Manufacturing

David Gurr
By David Gurr | August 28, 2017
Account Manager
Welcome to the Mastering Quality learning series.
In today’s highly competitive marketplace, manufacturers are only as good as their processes. Every organization is judged on the quality and volume of product that their processes produce. The problem is that manufacturing organizations face a constant struggle to: 
  • Reduce scrap, waste, defects, and rework
  • Improve product quality
  • Eliminate variation in processes
  • Maintain compliance with regulatory and customer requirements
In many cases, manufacturers assume that these are problems they just have to deal with. They aren’t even looking for a solution because they don’t realize that those problems are solvable. And if they do seek solutions, the response is often in the form of slow, project-based activities such as Lean Six Sigma projects.
But as a quality professional, you’ve signed up for this learning series because you know better. You may be looking for better methods to not just fix problems but prevent them; not to just reduce waste, rework, and scrap but improve the bottom line; and not just improve quality—but never ship a bad product again.
And you need to achieve those ongoing improvements at an operational speed.
Over the next six weeks we’ll look at how using a modern approach to real-time Statistical Process Control (SPC) methods using your existing quality data can help you achieve the manufacturing excellence you need. Our in-house SPC expert, Doug Fair, offers his 20 years of experience in quality management as he guides you to take a fresh look at using your quality data to manage every aspect of your manufacturing operations. Even more important, he’ll show you that the transformation you’re looking for is actually within your grasp.

Acceptable Level of Quality Management? Not Acceptable Any More.

I recently worked with a cookie manufacturer that was having issues with consistency in its packaging process. Each package was supposed to have nine cookies; however, every so often a package would come out with only eight cookies. Operators weren’t able to check every package, so the company decided that the problem was just something they had expect. They had an “acceptable level of failure” based on an assumption that they couldn’t change the problem.
However, in this day and age, customers have a much higher expectation of quality and consistency. You only have to think of the amplifying effects of social media to realize that a relatively trivial quality problem could “go viral” within hours. These days, errors can have expensive consequences.
To respond quickly to quality demands and customer requirements, manufacturing organizations need access to real-time data. Learn how one company turned around response times. Read the success story.

Traditional Continuous Improvement Takes Too Long

Of course, most manufacturers do have methods for correcting failures and affecting process improvements. When a problem is discovered—or when it becomes a big enough problem—teams pull together and apply a project-based approach, anchored in Six Sigma methodology, to investigate and mitigate the issue.
However, this type of project-based continuous improvement effort leaves an extremely long time between a corrective action and a visible improvement.

Real-Time Data Opens Doors to Manufacturing Excellence

To keep up with today’s manufacturing pace, it’s important to have the information you need available all the time—at your fingertips, on demand.
But as a quality professional, you know that process improvement requires more than just collecting data. You have to be able to get meaningful information out of that data and use it to take meaningful action.
Having data that gives you visibility into a process in real time is truly powerful. On the shop floor, it enables operators to immediately see when a process is starting to show variation or pinpoint when a defect actually occurs, and it gives them the power to respond quickly.
Modern manufacturers look at quality management as a powerful tool for growth and transformation rather than just an item on a checklist. Watch our video to learn how. 
Once you have that immediate responsiveness, you can start to look beyond the control charts and get a higher-level view of the story your data is telling you. At the plant and corporate levels, users can see trends in data that instantly connect to their business needs. They quickly see opportunities they never knew they had—to improve products, processes, and operations across the organization.

Is Real-Time Operational Excellence Really Possible? Yes.

For quality pros, it’s essential that any talk of process control and operational improvement goes beyond theory. You have to be able to apply the information we’re talking about in a practical way that delivers real value. That’s why real-time data collection in an SPC software solution is the first step.
To get started, you need to realize this: You likely have most of the solution you need already in place.
Your processes are already generating data; you’re just not using it to its full potential. There is a cost for collecting the data that you aren’t using, and you should get value for that. And most important, there should be meaning behind what you’re doing when you’re collecting data.
So watch your inbox over the next six weeks. Our learning series will answer some critical questions:
  • How do I ensure timely and consistent data collection?
  • How do I get different information to different information consumers?
  • How do I reduce the time it takes to generate reports and communicate with decision makers?
  • How do I cut through the clutter of my data to find opportunities to make transformative changes in my operations?
And of course, you’ll likely come away with fresh questions. Remember that our experts are always here to answer those questions and help you process new ideas. We’re glad to help you take your quality management to the next level!

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