Get Customers, Auditors, and Management the Info They Need, When They Need/Want It: Quality Pro Series #4

Welcome back to the blog series written specifically for you, the quality professional. In the first blog of this series, we talked about how you can apply your statistical process control (SPC) analysis holistically across your plant and your enterprise. In blog two we discussed data collection and how shop floor data can be rolled up across production lines and products to provide a “macro view” of quality. And in blog three we discussed the critical role that operators play in your quality system and why it’s crucial to support your operators in shop floor data collection efforts.

In this blog, we’ll discuss how you can get your customers, auditors, and management the information they need, when they need it, and in a format they can use. 

Time to Change
Let’s get straight to the point. Organizations shouldn’t use paper or spreadsheets as the basis of their quality systems. Neither paper nor spreadsheets should be used to collect data on the shop floor. Neither of these solutions will give you the information you need. What you need is an SPC solution that can get you the reports you want in seconds. It’s time to throw away the paper and move into the digital age.

But even on-premises SPC software solutions are limited. They only provide reports for the plant in which the software resides. So how can you get quality reports across your enterprise? The answer is software-as-a-service (SaaS) systems.

Why Software-as-a-Service? Because any data collection performed from multiple sites goes to one centralized data repository where the data is standardized into a single, simple format. That data might be from different product codes, machines, shifts, or plants, but it’s all the same format in the centralized repository.

The result is data collection is standardized, reporting is a breeze, and the information you need to improve quality across the enterprise is right at your fingertips. And those reports can be generated in seconds. Try that with paper.

SaaS systems also require very little IT attention, are fast to deploy, and inexpensive to purchase; this all adds up to a trifecta of business benefits that enhance quality results. Let’s face it folks, times have changed. SaaS makes paper-based data collection and reporting obsolete. If you really want to improve your company’s quality results, it’s time to modernize.

Bring it All Together
As I mentioned in the previous blog, many quality systems today are a conglomeration of disparate systems. I think I actually used the phrase, “cobbled together.” That is, those systems don’t talk to one another, they employ unique data formats, and sometimes data formats are proprietary. In short, without a means of cohesively coordinating quality data, most cobbled-together quality systems are a mess.  

SaaS brings it all together. It’s the glue. SaaS doesn’t care if the systems are all different. Without requiring you to invest in additional hardware, SaaS systems can gather the data from your existing systems, keep it all in one place, and support your quality reporting needs.  

Audit Hell
I recall the times when we’ve been asked to oversee the audit process for our customers. And I’ve witnessed the pain that people go through when they have paper-based systems. That pain typically lasts for days, even weeks.

You never know what questions the auditor is going to ask or what they might want to see. More times than I care to recall, people relying on paper-based systems look gut-punched in an audit. Their answers to auditor questions typically take this form: “That information is scattered across several systems. I think I’ve got some of it over here in this filing cabinet and some in the quality manager’s office. And the rest of it is probably in the warehouse.”

No wonder audits hurt so much. To effectively answer auditor questions, many people invariably request hours, even days to get their staff together to figure out how to lasso all that data the auditor is seeking. And that’s sometimes for just one question.

Auditors ask lots of questions. They require lots of data. You can see how stressful this is for companies with paper-based systems. It’s an ulcer, a migraine, or an anxiety attack waiting to happen. And you can see why audits take days or weeks to complete. With paper-based systems, my experience has been that data is inaccessible, hand-written numbers are difficult to interpret, and reports are nearly impossible to generate. That’s no way to function, and it’s no way to manage an audit.

Speed Kills…the Audit
I worked with one company for whom an average audit took more than a week to complete. With our software, the audit was over in less than one day. Six hours, to be exact. The auditor asked questions, requested certain data…and the client just opened the software and created a report for all the data related to the request.

For organizations who use SaaS quality systems, the answer to the auditor’s data request becomes something like this: “Give me 30 seconds while I query the database and get you everything you need.”

What Do You Save?
Since you’ve condensed a one-week audit down to six hours, you save time. But another huge benefit of SaaS solutions is that it typically requires just one person to answer auditor questions. Not a team. Not days of searching for the right paper or shuffling spreadsheets. It’s one person, at a computer, with knowledge of the software. It’s just click, click, view. Here You Go. Have a nice day.

A Shining Example
Caption: The InfinityQS SaaS solution—Enact—makes reporting easyI once worked with a large food manufacturer who called me into an executive meeting. They told me about a quality problem they had with one of their products—a problem that they had missed, which was eventually caught at the retail level by one of their big customers. 

This customer was unhappy and had requested from the food manufacturer every bit of data for a specific product code for the last 12 months. They went into panic mode. A team of seven people was formed to find the data and present it in an understandable format. It took that team two weeks and a lot of energy to get it done.

No company can afford to do that. Nor should they have to take seven of their best people to hunt down data for a customer audit. It should take minutes or hours, and it shouldn’t be expensive.  

The Future of Quality
If you have two or more plants, and you are relying on paper, spreadsheets, or even on-premises software, then audits and report generation will be challenging, expensive, and time-consuming. Now imagine you’ve got 10 plants, or 40. In these situations, cross-plant quality reporting is an impossibility. That is, unless you have a SaaS solution to leverage.

A SaaS solution like ours enables you to keep all your data in one place in a standardized format (it can come from anywhere, any device), and churn out useful reports from a PC, a tablet, or even a mobile phone…in minutes. The future is here and it’s SaaS.

In the final blog of this series, we’ll discuss scaling your quality solution. When you need to expand your quality system across additional production lines, or deploy to new plants or regions, it should be easy to do. We’ll discuss how to do that in a simple and effective manner.  

Read the other blogs in this series:

SPC Should Drive Holistic Quality Improvement: Quality Pro Series #1
Rolled-Up Data Translates into Business Transformation: Quality Pro Series #2
Operators Play a Critical Role in Your Quality Initiatives: Quality Pro Series #3
Get Customers, Auditors, and Management the Info They Need, When They Need/Want It: Quality Pro Series #4
When scaling is required or necessary, SaaS is a Super Hero: Quality Pro Series #5

Douglas C. Fair
By Douglas C. Fair
Chief Operating Officer
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