How Would You Do That Today?

This blog is essentially an exercise in uncovering what makes your manufacturing operations tick…and how you can do things better. Over the last few months, we’ve had many conversations with manufacturers about how they address different aspects of their production. The results have been very interesting.
 
We would talk about the prospective client’s company-wide concerns, how those concerns could be addressed, and then pose the question, “How would you do that today?” Sometimes the answer was a complicated string of tasks that could provide a partial answer and, quite frankly, sounded exhausting. The most common answer was, “Well, we don’t really have any way to answer that for the entire organization.”
 
The good news is the answer we usually give to “How would you do that today?” is “We can help you with that.” And, since my mind is always focused on InfinityQS’ quality intelligence platform, Enact®, my response is, “Enact can help you with that.
Enact on the Plant Floor 
So, this is a thought exercise that offers some insights into how you might do some things, how you can solve issues, and how much easier your jobs would be if you used InfinityQS quality solutions.
 
Regardless of whether you are a multi-site organization, or a single-site factory, what we offer could apply to your operations. Let’s dive in.
 

The Big Questions

Seems a bit nebulous: “How would you do that today?” Let’s get a bit more specific. The four big-picture problems we commonly discuss are:
  • How do you identify your biggest opportunities for product/process quality improvement?
  • Once you’ve identified those opportunities, how do you prioritize your resources to address those improvement opportunities?
  • How do you know people are collecting the data they are supposed to collect?
  • How do you know what your biggest challenges are?
These are all tough questions for people to answer because they require an enterprise-wide view of their quality data AND the assurance of consistency of data collection and analysis. Luckily, Enact can help answer these questions because it is a platform that provides the necessary visibility and consistency.
 
Let’s dig in.
 

Identifying Opportunities

The first question we ask, “How do you identify your biggest opportunities for product/process quality improvement?” is the most fundamental question and is the starting point for all the questions that follow. I’ve talked a lot about Enact in previous blogs, so we’ll skip a detailed discussion of the product; just remember that Enact is a centralized repository for ALL of your quality data and is designed to aggregate, roll up, and slice and dice your data in many useful ways.
Enact Analysis 
You can look at large swaths of time and thereby uncover trends and potential problems down the road. In my blog, What Makes Enact Different, I discuss the centralized data repository in some detail:
 
“In your average manufacturing environment, there are lots of machines and data collection devices, each speaking its own unique language. The Enact Quality Intelligence platform can hear what each device is saying, translate it into a common language (or format), and store everything in one place. Then, when it comes time to put it all together, all that data from across your enterprise is easily rolled up and summarized—ready to become information that you can use to improve business performance.”
 

So, on to the answer to the question above…

Let’s go to one of the newest additions to Enact, something that really helps answer this question: bubble charts.
 
What makes Enact bubble charts such an important tool for you? They are the intersection of the two fundamental questions most manufacturers ask of any quality intelligence platform:
  • Are we collecting all the data we’re supposed to be collecting?
  • Are our measurements “good,” that is, do the measurements meet specifications?
Bubble charts provide this information in a quick snapshot. They do a lot more, and for those details, please see this blog by Steve Wise, InfinityQS VP of Statistical Methods. Below is a bubble chart that shows the percentage of on-time data collections and expected yield for all critical features across 11 manufacturing sites:
Enact Bubble Chart
Sample Enact Bubble Chart
 
In this example, which sites needs help with their data collection? Which sites are struggling with yield? We’ll talk more about the data behind these sites as we go through other questions, but hopefully you can see how beneficial it is to have this snapshot available to instantly identify where to start your quality improvement efforts.
 
How would you do that today?
 

Prioritizing Resources

Our next question was, “Once you’ve identified those opportunities, how do you prioritize your resources to address those improvement opportunities?” We address this need with Enact’s stream grading feature. As we mention on our website, stream grading “provides a unique way to roll up and interpret performance across products, processes, and sites.” We dive deeply into stream grading in our white paper, Does Your Quality Data Make the Grade?, where we explain “Grading is a great tool for quality professionals who are ready to ‘interrogate’ their quality data—dig deeper into it than they ever have before—but need an elegant way to prioritize their efforts.”
 
As you can see in the graphic below, stream grading is “color-coded and extremely easy to read and use,” enabling you to know not only where to prioritize your resources, but what level of effort is likely required.
Enact Site Summary Tile 
Sample Enact Site Summary Tile

This site summary tile shows each critical feature in its own column and a row for each site. You can sort the columns by performance and then click on an individual cell to drill down and learn more about the individual processes and parts that resulted in that grade. You can quickly learn which facility or production line needs prioritized attention.
 
How would you do that today?
 

Data Collection in the Crosshairs

Let’s shift gears from process and product improvement to another fundamental question: “How do you know people are collecting the data they are supposed to collect?” The answer to this question is all about timed data collections. Many manufacturers blanch at the thought of timed data collections. It’s ironic because if you look at most data collection forms (whether on paper or electronic), there is typically a column for “time” that specifies a check at 8:00, 9:00, etc. If that’s the case, you already have implied timed data collections and you’re relying on operators to correctly fill in the forms that you provide, on time, and according to your specifications. Do we all expect that the data was collected at exactly 8:00, 9:00, etc.?
 
Companies almost invariably ask us “Can’t you just give me a list of all the data collections that people did today? Then I can see how many they missed.” The response to that is “Yes, but how do you know how many should have happened?”
Data Collection 
What they really need are timed data collections. Timed data collections not only ensure that data is collected when it should be (Was that 8:00 check really performed at 8:00, or was it 8:17?), but they also provide a visual countdown, so operators don’t worry about when the next collection is due. Timed data collections ensure that operators can focus on doing what they do best—running your production line—and are alerted when it’s time to perform a data collection.
 
And timed data collections give quality personnel and management peace of mind because they know that data are being collected consistently, correctly, and on time. When a collection is missed, the appropriate people are notified, reasons are entered to explain the miscue (there are perfectly legitimate reasons for missing data collections—and you want to know about them), and you’ve got a clear list of how many data collections were on-time, missed, and late.
 
How would you do that today?
 

Meeting Challenges

Our final question is: “How do you know what your biggest challenges are?” So, this is kind of a continuation, of sorts, of the previous discussion of timed data collections. Why? Because what we’re really talking about here is exception-based reporting.
 
To continue with our example of timed data collections, a manufacturer might say, “I want to know why we are missing timed data collections." Well, that sounds like an excellent opportunity for a Pareto chart and InfinityQS quality intelligence solutions can quickly give you that (and a lot more). You’ll know how many times each line missed checks AND the reasons they missed them. That's exception-based reporting.

"Tell me where I'm having the most spec-limit violations." "Why am I having those spec-limit violations?" "Where and why am I having the most statistical violations?" Now, think of all of those questions and add “…across all of our production lines at all of our sites.”
 
How would you do that today?
Enact Reporting

The Power of Exception-Based Reporting

Those are the kinds of things that most people just simply can't do today and, quite frankly, often don’t think to ask because answers seem nearly impossible to come up with.
 
But we can help. We have the answers. As I mention in a previous blog, 6 Ways for Plant Leadership to Make Operations More Effective, “Focusing on exceptions is somewhat of a paradigm shift for manufacturers. Old habits die hard. But rather than forcing operators to sift through pages of data, look at a ‘wall of charts,’ or shuffle through dozens of Paretos and Box & Whiskers, we bring to their attention, or ‘surface,’ only the issues that they need to care about. That way they can focus on performing the most important aspect of their job—manufacturing consistent, high-quality products for your company.”
 
Exception-based reporting in Enact takes place on the dashboards. In the blog, The Power of Dashboards in Enact, I go into detail, including: “With control charts, you’re supposed to be in the details, in the weeds. With dashboards, you float above. Dashboards enable the kind of analysis that manufacturers can really appreciate. Rather than take an exorbitant amount of time with paper and pencil, you can make the kind of comparisons you need to make with a dashboard in a few clicks of the mouse. And that can only be better for your operations; rather than slogging through compilations and calculations once a quarter to see how everyone is doing, isn’t it better to just keep an eye on things all the time and know how everyone is doing at all times?”
Enact Exception-Based Reporting Dashboard
Sample Enact Exception-Based Reporting Dashboard 
 
To sum up: “Your dashboard in Enact can show you statistical violations, or missed data checks—two very different things, with different actions to take, but they can reside side-by-side on your dashboard.  A one-stop-shop, one place to look, big time savings, greater efficiency.”
 

In Closing

So, these are a few of the many examples of ways in which Enact can answer the tough questions that manufacturers face today. When we say, “How would you do that today?” the correct response should be “with 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.
 
 
Sign up now to begin three free months of Enact software.
 
Eric Weisbrod
By Eric Weisbrod
Vice President, Product Management
See Full Bio


 

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