The 2 Phases of Implementing SPC in Manufacturing

Brad Forrest
By Brad Forrest | June 18, 2018
Account Manager
The comedy and tragedy masksThe two masks that symbolize modern theater are the smiling and frowning faces. We’re all familiar with them. They are the Comedy and Tragedy masks that were worn in ancient Greece during the golden age, around 500-300 B.C. They appear together to show the extremes of the human condition, the perfect metaphor for theater.
The two phases (or faces) of implementing statistical process control (SPC) in manufacturing, as I see it, are:
  1. the psychological element
  2. the functional element
These two elements encompass the many facets of an SPC implementation—difficulty and ease, buy-in and practical installation, and most importantly, failure…or success.

Implementing SPC in Manufacturing – the Psychological Phase

The psychological phase is the toughest part of your implementation, in my opinion, but arguably the most important. You want to get “buy-in” from the people who will be implementing your SPC system—usually the IT team, but more importantly, the people who will be using your system—the shop floor operators. These two groups of people are crucial to the success of the psychological phase of your SPC implementation, so you need them to be fully onboard with the program.
The most obvious reason for wanting their buy-in is that if they want to do this, if they see the benefits of the SPC system you would like to implement, they can make things go more smoothly, even help ensure success, not only for the initial implementation phase, but for continued utilization of the program to provide the much-needed data.
Because this phase can be difficult, because you are asking people to commit to your implementation, this is the tragedy face in the drama masks duo. But, it doesn’t mean it’s sad…
Getting Buy-In
The first thing you must do with the IT team, and especially with operators, is get them involved right at the beginning. When you’re included in something, anything, you feel valuable and important. Your feedback has relevance. You are part of something bigger than yourself. 
Sometimes it’s as simple as letting them know you are interested in an SPC solution, showing them the options (you may have two or three you’re trying to decide between), and getting their input.
SPC implementation is a team effort
Part of this discussion has to be “Here’s what an SPC solution can do for you. This is what we’re planning. What do you think? Are there specific functions that you need? Are we missing anything? Will this help make your job easier, and allow you to do it better?” Getting the people involved who will be implementing and using the system is critical, as you can well imagine. If they are not part of the solution, you can pretty much count on them fighting you at every opportunity, with the goal of making your life just plain miserable, and putting the success of the project at risk, not to mention your job.
The results, as I see it, can be dramatic. The implementation can go much more quickly when everyone is involved. Part of human nature says that if I’m involved, if I really want something to happen, I will help make it happen. Make sense?
Conversely, if you dictate terms by saying something like “We’re putting in a new SPC system; it’s coming in the next few weeks. Get ready,” you will get pushback. The parties involved will not help your implementation go smoothly. You’re probably going to hear some comments like “I have too much going on already. I can’t tackle another big project. You’re asking me to do extra work; am I going to get a raise for this?”
So, get buy-in. Get people involved. Make them part of the improvement process, including the implementation. Build that teamwork atmosphere and you will reap the rewards: a smoother, faster implementation, and then a smooth-running SPC solution.
SPC chart 

Implementing SPC in Manufacturing – the Functional Phase

The functional phase is the comedy face in the drama masks duo, because (again, in my opinion) the toughest work is done: people are committed and have bought into your SPC implementation plans. You’re all in this together. Presumably, they will now try to make this a success. They are looking forward to what this new SPC system can do for them. The rest—the functional implementation—is icing on the cake, right? Well, not so fast! Now come the meat and potatoes, where the rubber meets the road, and other metaphors.
So, what is the “functional” phase of the implementation? It’s the engineers coming in and setting up and configuring the SPC solution. Again, this is going to go more smoothly if they are consulted at the beginning of the process.
Then, when the time comes to actually perform the functional SPC implementation, there are fewer surprises. They were consulted at the beginning, they’re in contact with the users (operators) of the system and know what these people need, and configuring the system should go quickly and smoothly.
Frank Lloyd Wright once said, “Form follows function—that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union.” That’s particularly true in the case of an SPC implementation. The form of your psychological implementation—the buy-in you earn from your IT staff and operators—joined with the functional setup and configuration of your system can, and should be, a seamless endeavor. Your SPC implementation will be a much better experience for your entire organization if it is, and you’ll reap the quality manufacturing benefits.
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