The Other Side of the Coin

Natalia Ochoa
By Natalia Ochoa | January 10, 2012
Product Operations Manager

Have you ever heard of "the flavor of the month?" The phrase refers to "a change that does not last." Sometimes we feel like we invest so much effort in making changes to our processes and at the end, these changes do not last forever. When it comes to a successful implementation of ProFicient SPC, there are two sides of the coin.

The first side is the configuration of the software itself and having a well-defined data structure. The second side of the coin is equally important, and mainly involves people. It is the process of winning hearts and minds so that employess are doing something they believe in and can rely on. It is important to remember that having reliable data is vital to the decision-making process and, as you may already know, employees that collect the data are often shop floor operators.

I am going to share a story about a company that followed certain steps for success in the implementation of ProFicient SPC. Prior to ProFicient, the company was not even using SPC on paper and on top of that, the sample size used in their testing was not a statistical sample size representation.

The Challenge: Implementing and training all three shifts on InfinityQS SPC in a three-month time frame.

A team was assigned to set up the ProFicient SPC and at the same time to find a positive way of explaining the benefits of the usage of SPC to the operators and mechanics to gain their "buy-in."

The team needed to start by capturing the attention and interest of the operators and explaining to them what SPC could offer them, providing enough detail and examples. On top of that, to properly implement SPC, the sample size was increased, which meant the operator was now required to perform more testing. Thus, the team had to find an answer to the question that was crossing the operator's mind: What's in it for me?

The Action Plan: In order to win support of the operators, the guiding team decided to focus on a problem that was causing a lot of frustration for them.

The problem itself consisted of the number of adjustments the operators were asked to do to a piece of equipment while running production. Every time the operator had to make an adjustment, the production line had to be stopped, thus affecting its Key Performance Indicators (KPI). At the time, the decision on when to make the adjustments to the machine were driven by pure subjectivity. The operators were receiving different instructions from the Quality Inspectors, the Process Engineers, the Plant Managers, and even the Director of Production. No wonder they were feeling so overwhelmed!

The guiding team decided to create a simple project in ProFicient focused on that piece of equipment. The team considered it important to train all the operators and managers on SPC and in ProFicient. Because SPC is a tool that indicates when a real change in your process has happened, the guiding team found it critical for operators to understand charts like SPC, Box and Whisker, and Pareto Charts. Remember, it is important to translate the information based on your audience so that the examples are useful for helping the operators understand these concepts. The guiding team even used a fable about penguins that everyone in the plant could relate to.

As soon as the operators were trained and validated, they received a button (similar to a campaign button) that said: "Statistical Process Control, I'm qualified, Ask me about it!"

Once the operators started collecting data using a ProFicient project, the guiding team was always available for them to answer any questions or give guidance. The team checked on the line every hour to make sure the operators felt comfortable and supported. As part of this, the guiding team also focused on producing some short term wins. For example, whenever the control chart was out of control, the process engineer stopped the line and worked with the mechanics and the operators to better understand any sources of variation. This process uncovered several possible sources of variation. From there, the process engineers could drill deeper with Brainstorming sessions, Fish Bone Activities, and DOEs, among other problem-solving tools.

Everybody in the plant was involved with this "big problem," including the Process Engineers, Managers, and Operators from the Production Line. Finally, the voice started to spread out around the entire plant. People were asking questions like: Why is that Line doing so well? What problem are they trying to solve? How can we participate? What are those buttons the operators are wearing? You could definitely feel the difference in the atmosphere!

This was the right moment for the guiding team to try to inform everyone about SPC and the usage of the software. More people started to get involved in the SPC implementation, and not just the one production line. Before long, the entire plant was using the software and understanding the SPC concept. The ProFicient SPC Project that was originally created was also modified to better suit the operator's needs. Some of the more popular enhancements were having data entered into gages automatically, full gage reading displays, and links from toolbar buttons to other applications.

It was pretty amazing to see how the entire plant culture had positively changed. Operators were feeling less overwhelmed, the production lines were running better, and the company was making more money. Still, the best part was how people reacted to this change in a positive way. Even during Halloween, the line operators on the production line where SPC was first implemented were wearing costumes showing SPC on their shirts. The idea for wearing these costumes came from the operators themselves, and even won a plant-wide costume contest. The guiding team was feeling very satisfied with the results and being able to help the operators.

This is not a recipe itself but some steps that worked at this Company and you could potentially use as a reference:

Getting success in the implementation of ProFicient SPC could be a challenge but making people feel good about what they are doing is priceless and it could be even be fun to do!

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