Statistical Process Control: What Era Are You In?

Are you using 20th century Statistical Process Control (SPC) software to manage your 21st century manufacturing processes? 
 
The question is one that many manufacturers are asking as they are increasingly challenged to meet heavy  demands for better productivity, higher product quality, and lower cost. The key to adapting successfully is not whether you use SPC-based quality management solutions, but how you get the most out of them as we move further into the 21st century.

Top Challenges for Modern Quality Management in Manufacturing

In March, Industry Week listed its top manufacturing challenges for 2017, including:
 
  • Constant and rising pressure to reduce costs while maintaining quality, on-time delivery, and revenue—even with reduced resources
  • Application of technology to reduce labor cost and time to manufacture at every level of the organization—from the shop floor to the back office
  • Closing the gap between “old-school” management and operation processes and the automation and technology that is now essential in manufacturing operations
  • Intensified focus on compliance with regulations
  • Balancing machine and human interaction in intelligent manufacturing environments
 
Manufacturers must adapt at a furious pace to keep up with such challenges. So it’s important to address the question of whether we can keep up using the tried-and-true SPC techniques we know and love.
 

Time to Modernize SPC Methods

Most manufacturers are only scratching the surface of what SPC and quality management software solutions can do for them. Many are still relying on paper checklists. They’re stuck with the painstaking, time-consuming process of moving every piece of collected data into a spreadsheet, then manually performing calculations and creating control charts, then maybe analyzing the data. The best that these quality professionals can hope for is to identify the most pressing issues and correct them quickly before moving on to the next fire drill.
 
That doesn’t mean you have to abandon the value that SPC can bring. Just as your manufacturing organization strives to make products more quickly and precisely, your SPC solution needs to deliver critical information faster, pinpointing the information that’s most important.
 

Where to Start: Real-Time SPC Tools

Begin with the SPC software solution itself. Real-time SPC should truly mean real time:
 
  • Data collected by operators and equipment is in the system instantly
  • Data is also viewable and useable instantly
  • Alerts happen as soon as issues arise—or better still, before a problem even occurs
  • Notifications are configured so that the people who need to respond can do so right away
  • Quality professionals can see the health of any process or line in real time
  • Quality professionals can compare data and process information—across multiple line, products, and sites—instantly, in a single control chart, without complicated manipulations
  • Everyone on the team can immediately gain the intelligence—on whatever device they prefer—at any given moment
 

The Speed Required for Modern Manufacturing

From the early part of the 20th century onward, manufacturers have known that SPC provides the data required to operate better, improve quality, and increase profits. In the 21st century, those proven tools still work. They just have to be part of a 21st century solution.
 
 
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