InfinityQS in the Food & Beverage Industry: #3 Fill Line

Members of the Food & Beverage industry: Welcome to this, the third entry in a blog series created just for you. InfinityQS quality experts, like myself, will continue to write about quality in your manufacturing space, about solutions to your problems, about the challenges you face in mastering your particular quality issues…and how we are here to help.
 
Fill LineI’d like to discuss a topic that is near and dear to my heart: the fill line. It’s an aspect of production that can be challenging for beverage manufacturers. However, it can also be the part of your production through which you can see the quickest and most significant gains in quality (and monetary returns) for your organization. I have one story in particular that I tell quite a bit, and for good reason. Allow me to share.
 

Pinpoint the Fill Line

Here’s the story:
Years ago, I worked with a beverage manufacturer who wanted to improve quality but discovered that everything they checked was in-spec. Focusing on one line, we revealed that although everything was within their specification limits, they were still overfilling every bottle…and the liquid they were putting in those bottles was not cheap.
 
The data they gathered was turned into insights that identified discrepancies in fill-head performance, product-to-product differences, the effect of speed on filling, and other information they never had. As a result, they were able to make a variety of improvements (some bigger, some smaller), which ended up saving them over a million dollars per year—on just that one line. Extrapolate that over the 20+ lines at their plant, and you can see that the savings are astronomical.
SPC on the Fill Line
I should note that no new technology was purchased. No new equipment was installed. There was no investment in a new production line or new technology. Instead, the million-dollar cost improvements were simply the result of acting upon the insights and information that were generated from their filling data. Their investment in our quality solution resulted in a bottom-line bonanza.
 
That’s how we do things here at InfinityQS. Tangible results. Return on your investment. Quality goals and improvements achieved.
 

Look at More Than Out-of-Spec Data

As we’ve said many times here at InfinityQS, there is gold hidden in your data. You just need to mine it. You’ve got to extract information from it. Organizations collect a lot of data. But we all tend to focus only on out-of-spec data and the activities needed to deal with those problems. Companies tend to ignore data that indicate the product is in-spec.
 
The attitude seems to be, “Why even look at it if it’s good?” The reason is simple: because companies rarely review data that is in-spec, they miss fundamental information that can help transform organizational performance and the bottom line.
Quality Control in Manufacturing

Investing in a Solution

When Food & Beverage manufacturing companies invest in a solution to improve quality on their fill line (and in the rest of the operation), their expectation—naturally—is some sort of growth. And it should be. These companies want to prevent quality problems from happening, and refine and improve processes, thus improving their bottom line and further solidifying their brand reputation. Investing in quality control measures is much more than just a necessary evil, or another expense. Moving to a statistical process control (SPC) solution is an investment in the future.
 
When you hire quality control experts and put a quality system in place at your company, you are doing so much more than incurring additional costs. The truth of the matter is that you can easily generate great benefits and significant returns on your quality dollars.
 
With an InfinityQS Quality Intelligence solution, you can reduce overall costs, prevent recalls, and improve overall operations through the insights our systems provide.
 

Your Investment Should Help You Obtain the Big Picture

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, SPC: Hunting the Big Picture and the Big Payoff: “more companies need to focus on the big picture of extracting manufacturing Intelligence from the quality data they have already collected.” It’s not difficult. You just need systems that will support shop floor, enterprise-wide data collection and a means of rolling up, or aggregating, that data and making it easily consumable and understandable by managers, engineers, and quality professionals.
Fill Line Quality Control

The Bird’s Eye View of Data

Your company can soar above the competition with a bird’s eye view of your data. And the way to get the bird’s eye view is with data aggregation. Data aggregation is rolling up data across your manufacturing enterprise and uncovering where the greatest opportunities exist for reducing waste, reducing costs, and improving quality. This is how you get a huge return on your SPC investment.
 
And this is how you solve any fill line problems you may have and improve any of your fill line processes.
 

In-Spec Data

Operator on Fill LineAs I stated in the aforementioned blog, “about 15% of the benefit of SPC is out on the shop floor.” What I’m referring to here is process control, tweaking, troubleshooting, prevention of problems, and efficiency improvements—the excellent work your operators do every day.

That means the remaining 85% or so of the benefit of SPC is the data that nobody is looking atthe data that hasn’t indicated the presence of problems: in-spec data. My experience has been that unless data indicates a quality problem, it is ignored. Data that is within specification limits is just saved to the database and rarely (if ever) viewed again for improvement purposes.
 
Too much time is spent dealing with quality problems, rather than determining how they can be prevented. “When you spend your energy, focus, and resources on constantly fighting fires that occur every day on the shop floor, it’s understandable that quality professionals don’t have time to look at anything else.” Constantly putting out the quality fires is exhausting, necessary, and valuable—but it tends to take time away from big-picture cost containment and quality improvement activities that can have a positive impact on your business operations…and your bottom line.
 

Another Example

We work with Coty, a leader in the global beauty and fragrance industry. As part of continuous improvement efforts, they determined that their filling process was generating a higher level of waste than expected. This was due in part to some lines overfilling containers to ensure aesthetic fills were met, which led to higher expenses on supplies. Considering the price of some of the fill liquids, this was a significant opportunity to reduce overfill and save money.
Coty Uses InfinityQS Quality Control
In 2010, their North Carolina manufacturing facility turned to SPC analysis to reduce liquid scrap and better understand its process capabilities. InfinityQS deployed our Quality Intelligence solution on 12 fragrance lines.
 

The Solution

With the information gathered, they eliminated the need for overproduction of liquid to compensate for overfilling; identified special-cause variation vs. natural variation with real-time information about the process; and eliminated time-consuming, after-the-fact quality checks that did not add value.
 
The project saved Coty more than $270,000 by eliminating overfilling by more accurately controlling fill heights.
 
InfinityQS Quality Intelligence solutions fuel continuous improvement. Like Coty, any company that utilizes one of our solutions can realize cost savings, as well as process improvements, and easily expand their best practices to include other lines and other facilities—even expand across the enterprise. [See the case study.]
 

Closing

Well, those are my thoughts on the fill line. Fill lines can be tricky…and they can cost your company a lot when they’re not handled right. Don’t let that happen to you; employ an InfinityQS Quality Intelligence solution to make the most of your fill lines.
 
So, Food & Beverage industry members: please return to this blog section of the InfinityQS website to see the next entry in this series designed just for you.
 
Next up: I'll discuss Auditing.
 
Or, read a previous entry in this series:
Douglas C. Fair
By Douglas C. Fair
Chief Operating Officer
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