What Are the Most Important Quality Questions You’re Not Asking?

If your manufacturing operation is like most, you have data coming in from everywhere—individual product lines, operators on the shop floor, suppliers, and so on. If your organization hasn’t yet installed a good Quality Management system with a centralized data repository, it may be storing all this data in siloed databases, spreadsheets, or even on paper quality check forms. That type of system may be a way to keep up with required quality checks—but just barely.

But when the call comes in at 2:00 a.m. and your operator reports something has gone wrong at the plant, where and how hard are you going to have to look to find the cause?
 
That’s the problem, isn’t it? When you’re just keeping up, you’re in reactive mode, a cycle of firefighting. You’re constantly reacting to problems because you never have the heads-up you need
to anticipate them and head them off before they cause real damage. But that data you’ve been collecting holds the key to shifting from reactive to proactive Quality Management.
 
Imagine how different your job would be if instead of just using data on a single line to perform checks and troubleshoot, you could analyze that information and see where you are likely to experience problems on your lines. If you could see the cause of an issue and head it off, it would be like seeing into the future.
 
Where Does Insight Come From?
It’s already in the quality data you’re collecting every day. You just need to have all that data in one place, where you can actually see and work with it.
 
When data is centralized and standardized, it’s surprisingly easy to sift, slice, and dice it so you can see just the information you want about regions, products, processes, shifts, employees, jobs, lots, production orders, suppliers — you get the idea.
 
For example, say your floor supervisor is seeing a problem crop up repeatedly with a particular part on a particular line. When your data is all in one central database, you can pull up information to see how that line is performing in comparison to other lines in your plant.

 

Cool, right? You can see where issues have occurred, and then drill down to see information about what corrective action has taken place—and how to prevent the problem from reoccurring.
 
But Even Better
You can change your thinking from “How can I fix this problem?” to “How can I reduce defects across the whole company?” You can change your viewpoint from looking at that one line or plant to looking across all your plants. You can determine which sites are having the most issues and even identify which root causes are to blame.


 
From this information, you can determine how to quickly tackle that “low hanging fruit” and get an immediate benefit — and you can see bigger issues that demand more time or money to fix.
 
This Is the Amazing Power of Aggregated Data
With the right SPC tools and a powerful Manufacturing Intelligence solution, you go beyond questions like “What’s causing this problem?” to the bigger-picture questions:
 
  • What single global quality issue, if eliminated, could generate the greatest bottom-line benefit?
  • What global quality success, if replicated, could dramatically improve enterprise performance?
  • Which processes or sites are most or least efficient?
  • Which plant is making the best widget? And how do I replicate this successful process across the enterprise?
 
These are the questions that go beyond just reacting to problems. These are the questions that let you proactively add real value to your whole enterprise.
 
 
 
Doug Fair
By Doug Fair
Chief Operating Officer
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