Transform Manufacturing Process Control—from the Plant Floor Up: Mastering Quality #6

Douglas C. Fair
By Douglas C. Fair | October 3, 2017
Chief Operating Officer
This is the sixth – and last – post in this blog series. Thus far, we’ve looked at:
  • Data collection—effectively using SPC to get a fresh look at your data
  • Notification—using flexible software to configure scheduled, regularly occurring quality checks across your enterprise
  • Prioritization—using the centralized data you’ve collected and aggregated to make the biggest impact on quality and costs as quickly as possible
  • Analysis—engaging your data experts to mine the gold from your collected data
  • Reporting and communicating your experts’ findings—convincing local plant personnel that the valuable information that’s been uncovered will dramatically improve operations
It’s been quite a journey so far. But there’s still work to do.

Creating the “Aha!” Moment by Applying SPC Techniques

After diligently analyzing the quality data you and your operators have collected, your corporate Six Sigma and Transform manufacturing quality management with SPC techniquesquality experts have arrived at the plant to communicate the information they have found. They’ve made their pitch—a variety of recommendations for improvement—and the recipients, the local operations people on the shop floor, are skeptical. But, they’re convinced enough, and maybe even curious enough, that they want to try something (maybe just one little thing) on a limited basis.
Let’s say they try one of the recommendations, gather the data from a line or across multiple lines, and compare the “before and after” data. It’s been my experience that, almost without exception, the operations folks exclaim something like:
  • “We had no idea that the improvement results could be so dramatic.”
  • “We had no idea this was happening.”
  • “We had no idea we could learn so much from data that’s in-spec.”
And, behind closed doors, the local folks usually say something like, “Well whatta ya know, those corporate guys are pretty useful after all!”
That, my friends, is the “Aha!” moment. The light bulb flares to life in the meeting room, illuminating the fact that data can be converted into incredibly useful, operationally beneficial information – even when it’s analyzed by people who reside outside of the manufacturing plant.
Think about the benefits that moments like these can have for an organization. Suddenly people realize that the corporate quality experts are truly interested in supporting plant operations. It becomes a case of, “we’re all in this together,” and “look what our team can do to support company success.”
I’ve been lucky to have taken part in many of these situations. It is very satisfying to see that data, information, and success brings people together, helps everyone involved, and makes each and every one of them an engaged stakeholder.  

Continuous Improvement: From “Aha!” to “Now Let’s Try This”

I really love the Aha! moment. The data that has been collected and the information that has been uncovered gets everyone thinking of all the areas where data is not being collected, and where it would be beneficial to do so. People begin to think of additional ways in which quality can be improved and where additional costs could be reduced. It’s that first push, the little nudge that gets you out of inertia. And the snowball effect is great to watch.
Physics Definition of Inertia: A property of matter by which it continues in its existing state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line, unless that state is changed by an external force. [emphasis mine]

That initial push out of inertia is a catalyst to further quality improvements for your organization and, eventually, a lasting transformation of performance.
The beauty here is that everyone benefits. The plant manager, quality manager, operators, quality personnel, data experts, engineers, and (yes) the executives…and the entire bottom line of the company overall. This is the change in inertia that can truly transform business performance.

But It Doesn’t End There: Data Interrogation

You’ve got to be diligent. “One and done” is not a successful long-term strategy for transforming business performance. There are no shortcuts. Imagine how much you could save if you applied these techniques continuously and in all your critical manufacturing areas.
The most successful organizations I have worked with step back, aggregate data and interrogate it once a month, or once a quarter. They aggregate data across production lines, products, even plants. They make a habit of interrogating data and uncovering information they didn’t previously have. And they act on that information.
Regular data interrogation is a strategy for companies who want to maximize operational efficiency while minimizing costs. That’s transformation through quality.
Remember, the techniques are easy. And here they are in a convenient sequence of events:
  1. Collect the data; keep it in a centralized data repository.
  2. Use an SPC solution that configures scheduled, regularly-occurring quality checks.
  3. Aggregate the collected data so you can get a fresh look at it
  4. Prioritize possible improvements in your operation.
  5. Engage your data experts to analyze and really dig into the priorities
  6. Find exactly where the issues lie.
  7. Report and communicate findings to the operations folks.
  8. Rinse and repeat (monthly or quarterly).
From here, keep your foot on the gas. Nothing keeps momentum going like continued success. Therefore, become comfortable talking about the data that might be interesting to aggregate, the potential you see in continuing monthly data interrogation activities, where changes might be made, how exciting it is for your organization and how the team is making lasting changes to make your organization more profitable, more competitive and more successful.
Continually working through these techniques, and having the right SPC solution in place to make it all easy, pulls everyone together. The ongoing results can help you to truly transform your company through quality.
Would you like to see how these techniques can be applied to your organization? Schedule a live demo, customized to your organization and requirements.

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