Rolled-Up Data Translates into Business Transformation: Quality Pro Series #2

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 SPC analysis holistically across your plant and your enterprise to truly enjoy the great benefits that SPC can provide.

In this blog, we’ll discuss data collection. We all know that collecting data is vitally important because of the information that it generates. Operators need to collect data to uncover process control information—at the micro, shop-floor level. But shop floor data can also be rolled up across production lines and products to provide a “macro view” of quality for quality professionals and managers.

Roll With It
Your SPC solution should be able to easily aggregate all your collected data, roll it up together, and provide you with broad-based quality insights. Let’s talk more about that and why it’s important.

The reasons are varied, but what I’ve found is that many quality systems are, in actuality, a collection of quality systems and data collection devices that have been cobbled together over the years. The big drawback to this hodge-podge is that individual pieces of the quality system can’t talk to one another because their data formatting is so different, even proprietary. And because they don’t talk to one another, it is very difficult (if not impossible) to roll up all that data into one single, cohesive, “big picture” of quality.

For years, though, quality experts have been trying to knit all those disparate quality system data sets together with spreadsheets. I’ve watched frustrated quality professionals copy data out of separate, individual systems, then painstakingly paste it into spreadsheets. They then carefully modify data formats before copying and pasting the data into one huge master spreadsheet.

It’s ugly. Plus, it takes massive amounts of time to manage. So much so that some companies hire dedicated employees whose sole job is to create and manage these spreadsheets. The bottom line is that managing quality data with spreadsheets just doesn’t work.

On the other hand, for a software-as-a-service (SaaS) quality solution, data is easy to manage. All data values (whether from different product codes, production lines, or plants) are posted into one place. It’s a beautiful thing. The formatting is the same, whether it’s from a scale, a hand-held gauge, or a programmable logic controller (PLC).

Whatever the data collection device, the right SaaS solution can and should accommodate different data values, scales, and formats. Ultimately, this means that the task of managing data is simple. No copying, no pasting, and no juggling of spreadsheets.

Information is What We Seek
When all your data is in one place, and easily aggregated, you have more than just data. You have information. And in manufacturing, information is power.

It’s fantastic that operators collect data and get information about process control so they can improve their processes. But it’s important to remember that collecting data on the shop floor is not an end unto itself.  This is not where data should stop. It’s not where the information should stop. You should expect your SPC solution to give that data a second life.

Unifying Data Gives it a Second Life
Having the ability to look at data in its summary form (in aggregate) is, in essence, that second life. It enables you, the quality pro, to dig into the data and uncover the greatest opportunities for improvements in your operations. The unified data repository is at the center of almost all of the transformative benefits you can glean from a SaaS quality system.

Picture the United Nations. The flags, the people from every corner of the world. An important piece of every UN speech is the translation that goes on behind the scenes. Translation from, say, a German speaker into every other language.

Now picture your average manufacturing environment: lots of machines and data collection devices, each speaking its own unique language. The SaaS quality solution that’s worth its weight in gold is the one that 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 is easily rolled up and summarized—ready to become information that you can use to improve business performance.

The Ultimate Translator
Okay, so admittedly the United Nations analogy is not perfect because that German speaker is translated by a third party. The translator inevitably puts her own spin on what the speaker is saying. So, an audience member hears exactly what is being said by the translator, not the speaker. 

Imagine, though, that the translator could translate exactly what the speaker is saying—every single word. Imagine that every data collection device spoke one common language across all your plants, all your production lines, with no possibility of misinterpretation. Your SaaS SPC system should do this for you. It’s the key to making cross-plant, enterprise-wide improvements that generate big bottom-line business results.

In our next blog, we’ll take a look at the critical role that operators play in any quality system. It’s crucial that your operators support your quality system and shop floor data collection efforts. We’ll cover getting the right data at the right times, staying in compliance, and helping operators get it all done without overburdening them. 

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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