May 23, 2011
CONTROL International Trade Fair
I recently returned from a week in Germany where I attended the 25th annual Stuttgart CONTROL show and international trade fair for quality assurance. There, our new channel manager, Michael Hines, and I jointly manned a booth with one of InfinityQS’ European distributors in Germany, STATCON.
Not only was it a great trip to Germany, but the show itself was tremendous, with elaborate, impressive booths dominating the show floor. It was InfinityQS’ first venture to the CONTROL show as the European demand for our products is rapidly increasing. Over a 4-day period, more than 20,000 visitors were expected to attend. With the exception of the first day, walkways and halls were packed and difficult to navigate for all the human traffic jams. The number of visitors was likely the result of a thriving German economy with low unemployment coupled with the typical European focus on manufacturing high quality products.
As I walked the show and spoke with potential and existing InfinityQS customers, three things struck me as surprising, yet significant:
- The overwhelming proportion of vendors were hardware and metrology companies focused on traditional inspection activities
- Very few quality software vendors were present
- Real-time quality analysis seemed to be underutilized
The last of the three items above was especially interesting. When speaking to prospects about InfinityQS products, almost every visitor to our booth was surprised to find that our software products could live on the shop floor, automatically gathering data and sending alarm notifications in real-time. Yes, they understood how to use Excel and other spreadsheet-specific software products for analyzing data “off-line,” but they seemed genuinely surprised (and happy) with our real-time functionality. Because so many discussions with booth visitors focused on this realization, it led me to believe that real-time, shop floor quality analysis, complete with automated alerting, was a relatively new concept to them.
Of course, we have a number of clients in Europe who are using our software today to monitor and control quality, allowing them to drive down scrap and rework costs. Over the past several years, our European client base has grown at a rapid rate, and my assumption leading up to this event was that this market was becoming increasingly aware of not only the benefits, but the necessity for an automated quality control system. In order to maintain a sustainable competitive advantage, our customers found that they needed such a system to reduce costs and increase productivity.
Naturally, I was surprised to see that the majority of our booth visitors were unfamiliar with real-time SPC software. As a statistician, and taking this group as a representative sample, I have to wonder if real-time SPC is an underutilized quality tool in Germany or in Europe as a whole? But I don’t have enough data, so I can’t be sure. Instead, if I were to simply venture a guess, I would bet that real-time, shop floor SPC is not as prevalent as what we have experienced in North America. It was a very interesting trip, indeed.