Move Beyond Mere Survival by Fully Utilizing Your SPC Solution

If you’re in manufacturing, you collect lots of data. How do you use all that data? Is it for historic purposes? Traceability? For recalls? For process control? For feeding data to your Six Sigma teams? I ask these questions because I have encountered companies that gather data and store it “just in case” they might need it in the future. I refer to this as “self-preservation” data collection. There are a variety of valid reasons to collect data, but self-preservation is not a compelling reason to do so—not in today’s manufacturing world.
SPC Manufacturing Evolution
The caveman was in self-preservation mode. All the time. No choice. There was always one creature or another out to kill him/her, and vice-versa. But you have to believe that when we started to thrive, when we began to live outside the cave, to inch toward who we are today, that was when we looked beyond self-preservation…to dream of what we could become.
 
Collecting data for statistical process control (SPC) is so much more than self-preservation. It’s your gateway to understanding what’s really happening on your shop floor and in all of your critical manufacturing operations.
 
The data you collect can tell operators what they need to look at, adjust, or improve so that finished products are consistent and of the highest quality possible.
 
Let’s take a moment here, in this blog, to talk about how you use the data you collect and how you can move out of the cave and into the light.
SPC - Escape the Cave

Data Becomes Action

The main point I’d like to make is this: all that data you collect has the potential to become a vast reservoir from which you can extract meaningful, valuable information—information that you can act upon to make your products better, your machinery more efficient…and your company more profitable.
 
On the shop floor, operators are inundated with lots of information, a vast array of sounds, messages, and inputs—at the same time or in quick succession. It’s a busy, hectic place. Decisions need to be made quickly, if not instantaneously. And your product quality hangs in the balance.
 
Sounds, smells and data are all evaluated by operators. These inputs can tell operators when something has changed with their machinery. Operators evaluate the inputs—the data and information—and then make adjustments or fixes based upon what they learn from those inputs. As I mentioned in a previous blog, Don’t Drive Blindfolded–The Importance of Real-Time Data in Modern Manufacturing, operators are artists. “The art of manufacturing is best understood by operators who have had extensive amounts of time operating a production line.” And when those artists are armed with the science of data and statistical tools, they have greater insight into what needs to be adjusted and when.
 
The best artist-operators turn to their SPC software and let the statistical tools provide information they can use to take appropriate action. That’s how data is converted first into information, and then into action. 
Shop Floor SPC

Casting a Wider Net

Another way we can convert data into information and then into action is on a large scale. With InfinityQS quality management solutions, once data has been gathered across your plant, or across multiple plants in a region, or across your entire enterprise, you can go in and do “post-data entry analysis.” In other words, as a quality professional, or an engineer, or manager, you summarize all the data that's been collected, and allow the software and statistical tools to identify golden nuggets of information that you can act upon to make high-level quality improvements across multiple plants.
 
This type of data aggregation and high-level analysis can help you direct Six Sigma teams to areas where their actions can generate the greatest quality benefits for your company. Aggregated data can help direct strategic activities that can point to specific production lines, plants, or product families most in need of improvement.  
 

Centralized Data

As my colleagues and I have stated many times before, a centralized data repository is the key to aggregating data and for obtaining the “big picture” view of quality that can yield the greatest results. In SPC: Hunting the Big Picture and the Big Payoff, a blog I wrote a little while back, I stated that “To generate big returns on your SPC investment, you need to focus on the big picture of what’s going on across your organization. Instead of solely focusing on quality problems and expending all your energies to fix issues, companies need to look at data that represents quality information across multiple production lines, shifts, plants—across the entire enterprise. And the way to get the big picture view of your organization is with data aggregation.”
Big Picture SPC

Data Aggregation=Centralized Data

When all your data is collected and stored in a single place—a centralized data repository—you can aggregate it (roll it up) and summarize it – even if specification limits are different between products and production lines. This enables you to identify which parts are more problematic, which machines need the most attention, and where overall defects are greatest across all plants.
 
Data aggregation gives you a bird’s eye view of all your quality data. This type of information is critical for optimizing processes across your enterprise, creating company-wide best practices, and making improvements that can transform business results.
 

Make it a Habit

One best practice I have discovered over the years is this: it’s great to roll up your data, analyze it, and pinpoint where you can make corrections—but you need to do it regularly. Once a week, once a month, or every quarter, it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that you need to step back from the grind on a regular basis, look at big datasets and say, “Okay, what information can we learn from this data?”
 
Without exception, the most successful companies I have worked with have regularly-scheduled “data analysis” meetings. In those meetings, quality professionals and managers challenge themselves to look at the data in different ways. They try “sorting, slicing, and dicing” data in unique ways. Their intention? To learn something new, to find information that was previously hidden so that they can continually improve their operations.
 
Once they have new learnings, these successful companies identify actions that must be taken to improve production line efficiency and plant defect levels, and make big impacts on company costs and performance. As a result, machines are fixed, best practices are created, and performance is optimized. 
 

Move Beyond Mere Survival

Data gathered on the shop floor for process control purposes should be expected to be re-purposed, aggregated, and evaluated to improve quality across your enterprise. Those golden nuggets of information can be turned into action that can benefit your organization on a much larger scale.
 
Believe it or not, it’s not difficult. It’s actually pretty easy. You just need a software product like ours that is designed to easily aggregate data and automatically identify high-level opportunities for improvement.
 
InfinityQS software products enable you to take that first step from merely surviving to thriving. When your primal instinct is just to survive—and you do it day after day, week after week—you get to a point where just surviving is enough. But it’s not. In today’s manufacturing marketplace, it’s not enough to just survive. Living hand-to-mouth is not enough. It’s time to move from caveman to modern man.
SPC Evolve
 
It’s time to take all that data you collect for SPC and use it for more than survival. It’s time to use shop floor data for not only process control, but for improving overall quality throughout your plant, region and corporation. It’s time to use aggregated data for strategic improvement and cost reduction purposes—like so many of our clients have already done—so that the finished products your company makes are consistently the highest quality with the lowest possible cost.
 
InfinityQS quality management software can help your company step out of the cave in which you’re just surviving, move past dreaming of what your organization can become, and thrive.


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.

 
Douglas C. Fair
By Douglas C. Fair
Chief Operating Officer
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