5 Reasons Your Legacy SPC System Needs Overhauling – Part 2: Fighting Inefficiency

Jason Chester
By Jason Chester | July 20, 2021
Director of Global Channel Programs

Fact checked by Stephen O'Reilly

So far in our blog series about why it’s probably time your statistical process control (SPC) legacy system needs an overhaul, we’ve discussed in Part 1 the impact of disparate “islands” of data that can occur within legacy systems. If your legacy system is one of the many that has been kept in “maintenance” mode because you do not wish to update it and bring your manufacturing operations into the 21st century, then this blog series is for you.
 
The manufacturing world is a very different place now than it was when these outdated systems were selected, purchased, and implemented. Isn’t it time for your quality software to keep pace? We think so. Your product quality is at stake. And with that quality, or lack thereof, so are your brand and your customers’ loyalty.
Real-time SPC in the Lab

The Battle Against Inefficiency

In today’s modern manufacturing environments, efficiency and productivity rule the day. And for good reasons—most of which are beyond the scope of this article. Suffice it to say that manufacturers need to constantly strive to achieve ever-leaner manufacturing operations, while at the same time satisfying consumer demand for better, faster, cheaper (and often simpler) products.
 
And that's why we have continuous improvement teams using Lean Six-Sigma, manufacturing excellence, Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP), and many other established techniques, frameworks, and methodologies to constantly drive increases in efficiency and productivity. Things are moving at a breathtaking pace, ever-changing, and you don’t want to be left behind.
Real-time SPC for Quality Teams

Incorporating Real Time into SPC

Legacy SPC systems, once designed to support efficiency and productivity, now actually impede it as manufacturers have excelled beyond their systems’ capabilities. There are two critical factors affecting this:
  • The inefficiency of using the legacy SPC system itself; and
  • The inefficiency of extracting value from it
Let's tackle the first bullet, well, first. Most legacy SPC solutions do not have real-time data collection capabilities, which means that data needs to be captured manually and then prepared for use—such as transcribing manual forms into a digital format, merging together multiple information sources (such as Excel spreadsheets), or importing (and reformatting) data from other systems. This data preparation can be a time-consuming and labor-intensive activity in and of itself.
 
Once prepared, reformatted, and otherwise massaged, the data then needs to be manually imported…and, finally, applied to statistical analysis. When that analysis is complete, the results can be interpreted, the analysis exported, and then distributed (typically using a printer, or email)—all before any necessary remedial actions are taken.

This always seemed to me to be a little like putting the cart before the horse.
 
That process takes time and effort, and during the time it takes new data is not being captured, and therefore the results of that analysis represent a static snapshot in time…somewhere in the past. Because of all this effort, this process just simply cannot happen with any frequency, and hence these processes are performed in a “batch,” such as at the end of a production run, a shift, a day, a week, or even a month. That’s too long to wait in the modern manufacturing world. Seems like an eternity.
Real-time SPC on the Shop Floor

In the Meantime

In that time, a lot can happen in a process (that is, a lot of issues can impact a process’ efficiency, productivity, and quality). And, of course, we can’t forget the time and resources required to “manage” those systems, both in terms of managing the relevant metadata (such as part definitions, specification limits, etc.) and managing the system itself, such as maintenance and upgrades.
 
Put simply, such legacy systems have become the antithesis of efficiency and productivity.
 

How Quickly are Insights Coming?

Now let's tackle that second point impacting efficiency and productivity—how quickly can we gain usable insights from them? Manufacturing is a real-time process during which variability continuously occurs and events happen, such as equipment malfunctions and operator errors.
 
Increasing efficiency and productivity is predicated on being able to root out those issues and eradicate them wherever, and whenever, possible. That means two things: being able to proactively identify potential issues before they occur and the ability to take remedial action quickly before an issue has a negative impact.
 
How can we respond to issues as quickly as possible after they have occurred to minimize, as much as possible, the further impact to efficiency and productivity? Well, we can’t—if we rely on that inefficient “batch” processing of data and analysis as described above.
 
So, instead, we are consigned to a mode of “highly reactive” operations, in which we are always responding to and correcting issues that occurred quite some time ago. Don’t forget that, in most cases, these issues have been busy in the background, continuously dragging down efficiency and productivity until we become aware of them and resolve them. In modern manufacturing, that is akin to glacial timeframes and is no longer acceptable in today’s manufacturing environments.
Real-time SPC in Manufacturing

Enact = Real-time Power

Contrast this to next-generation SPC solutions like InfinityQS’ Enact®. Data is captured in Enact in real time—fully automated collection from inline production equipment or entered directly into the system by operators—either using local devices and gauges, or through Enact’s intuitive data collection workflows.
 

About Workflows

Workflows, as mentioned in a blog by Eric Weisbrod, InfinityQS VP of Product Management, enable “operators, quality engineers, supervisors, and others to respond consistently and effectively to process- and quality-related events.” Workflows “capture valuable contextual information that can be used by anyone in your organization to better manage or prevent similar events in the future.” 
Enact Workflow - Spec Limit Violation 
“Workflows document causes, actions, comments, and other relevant information, as captured by your front-line employees; they’re accountable, and share their knowledge so that when (not if) an event occurs again, that knowledge is put to use, and issues are mitigated. It’s a great use of technology to strengthen any team or organization.”
 
“It’s a great way to ensure that your people are doing the things that you need them to do in response to issues. Accountability through workflows keeps everyone on the same page.”
 

Working in Real Time

Enact’s real-time capability makes operators much more efficient and productive. They enter data directly and are guided through the required data collection process, adhering to quality standards such as sampling strategies. Operators receive immediate feedback on the data entered vs. specification limits and unreasonable data values are prevented.
 
As soon as quality data is captured by Enact, it is automatically processed, in real time, with advanced statistical analysis and calculations. And all data visualizations are updated in real time.
Enact Analysis Dashboard
And analysis can be performed across any dimension, from enterprise-wide all the way down to individual processes, with a few clicks of the mouse or taps of the finger.  And that analysis is continuously updated.
 
This culminates in highly efficient data insights that can be leveraged to optimize manufacturing processes in real time and, proactively, this maximizes opportunities for increasing efficiency and productivity.
 

Notifications

Working hand-in-hand with data collection are the real-time notifications that operators need to fulfill their responsibilities to the best of their abilities. Notifications in Enact can be generated for manufacturing limit and statistical violations, checklist violations, and missed data collections.
 
Operators, supervisors, and quality professionals all receive notifications when processes go awry. Enact notifications make it easy to spot and share any type of violation with your co-workers. Everyone is always on the same page.
 
Enact notifications make this tool much more than just SPC. It’s SPC quality intelligence in the cloud.
Enact Event Notification

In Closing

The negative impact on efficiency and productivity of legacy SPC systems is often not realized, principally because the scale of the impact has compounded steadily over time. It’s only when we stop and take a close, hard look at how much effort it takes to use and manage these systems, and the impact of the lack of real-time insights they provide, do the stark realities become all too clear.
 
These are the realizations that are causing manufacturers across the world to turn to the next-generation SPC quality intelligence solution—Enact.
 
Take advantage of the technology at your fingertips today: contact one of our account managers (1.800.772.7978 or via our website) for more information.
 
Please come back for the next article in our series about overhauling your SPC system: Limited Capabilities Deliver Limited Results.
 
Read the other articles in the series:

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