Making Quality Control Measures an Investment

Do you consider your quality control program to be an investment? Do you look at quality as a way in which to provide your company a return on its investment and improve the business?
 
Well, I’m here to say that you need to do just that. If you look at your organization’s quality control program as an investment, it will change the way you do business…for the better.
 Quality on the Shop Floor

Investments

Let’s think about investments. Things like homes, stocks, real estate—things for which we expect a return. When we buy a car, we’re probably not thinking of it as an investment. We’re probably thinking of it as a necessity to get to work, to buy groceries, to bring the kids to soccer practice, to function in today’s modern world. And we understand that its value will decrease as we tack on the miles.
Investment 
But when we buy that home, we expect to do more than just live in it. As time goes by, we expect the value of the home will go up. It’s not just a home; it’s an investment.

Investment in Quality Control Measures

When we invest, our expectation is growth. “I’m going to spend today’s money so that tomorrow’s money will be greater.” Something like that. You’re investing in the future. And quality control can be an investment in the future of your company, your facility, your business.
 
I’ve heard from some managers who consider quality control measures to be a necessary evil. Just another expense. “I need to have a quality program because my customers expect it.” But that’s treating an investment—in quality—like a car rather than a home. Instead, investments in quality systems should allow you to get fast returns, even transformative ones.
 

Return on Investment

When you hire quality control experts and put quality systems in place at your organization, you’re doing more than just incurring additional cost. You can easily generate great benefits and significant returns on your quality dollars.
 
Companies that treat Quality Control Measures as an investment have a few things in common: they prevent quality problems from happening. They reduce overall costs. They prevent recalls. Most of all, successful companies I have engaged with are those that expect a return on their quality investment. Like a savvy investor, they make their purchase, then watch carefully over the investment, and manage it to create beneficial returns. They expect to improve existing operations through the insights that their quality system provides, and by intelligently sidestepping unnecessary expenditures.
Quality Investment
With the march of ever-newer technologies, some companies believe that existing quality problems are the result of old shop-floor technologies. Because their machinery is older, they feel that newer machinery and technology is necessary to improve quality.
 
However, data and analysis can prove otherwise. After gathering data and scrutinizing the machinery generating the information, some companies I’ve worked with were able to eliminate or delay the purchase of new production lines and machines, positively affecting cash flow and the bottom line.
 
They were able to do so because the insights generated through data allowed them to pinpoint fixes to the machines, and incrementally improve older machinery. Sidestepping enormous capital expenditures (like purchasing new production line technologies) can be supported by the intelligence provided by a good quality control system.
 

Use What You Have

High Tech ManufacturingMany companies get caught in the “technology trap.” They say, “Oh, we need to invest in all these new high-tech, new-fangled technologies.” That is certainly one strategy: throw money at the problem. But it doesn’t always work. Whereas, smart quality-minded companies can work with existing machinery and continually make their products better by improving how their processes work.
 
The math is easy: if you use existing machinery and still make products continually better, then your cost structures continue to go down and you don’t have to expend capital monies to purchase another production line or new technologies. When you delay expenditures, you save money.
 

Investing in Things that Matter

Regardless of the technologies that underlie a manufacturing process, organizations that are successful with quality invest in software and hardware systems. And they invest in and the human capital required to generate hard cost savings from existing machinery.
 

A Good Example

I’ve told this story a few times. But it merits repeating here. 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 discovered 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.
Beverage Manufacturing
To be clear: no new technology was purchased. No new equipment was installed. There was no investment in a new production line or fancy 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 roll. Return on your investment. Tangible results. Quality improvements achieved.
 

Dig Out Information from Quality Control Data

So, a slight recap:

First, manufacturers need to do what’s necessary to prevent quality issues from happening. Prevention is far less costly than reaction.

Second, by using quality data, we can scientifically understand the way our machinery is running. We can refine them and tune them to a level where we don't necessarily need to invest in far more expensive technologies. That's a return on your investment.
 
And third, leverage the data you already collect. Extract information from your data so that you can better determine how machines are running and how performance can be improved. This information will put a spotlight on the things that need to be fixed and adjusted so that you get greater efficiencies, minimize scrap and rework, lower costs, increase productivity, and keep the production lines running.
 

There’s Gold in Your Data

Data Gold MineIf you are going to gather data, you must prioritize time to evaluate it. There’s gold 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 tend to focus only on out-of-spec data and problem-solving activities needed to deal with those problems. Companies tend to ignore data indicating 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.
 
Like our mining analogy, if a miner never looks in a particular area, gold will never be found there. Take some time and closely evaluate data that is in-spec, and you will find what I have: That’s where the gold is. In the beverage manufacturer example above, the company never looked at the filling data because it was in-spec. Once they took a close look, they uncovered extraordinary savings.
 
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 hard. You just need systems that will support shop floor, enterprise-wide data collection and a means of aggregating that data and making it easily consumable and understandable by managers, engineers, and quality professionals.”
 
That’s a mouthful, I know. And the obvious solution is Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). That’s where we’re at with InfinityQS quality solutions. It’s an investment that pays for itself in no time.
 

In Summary

By investing in quality control, you're able to
  1. Prevent problems
  2. Potentially sidestep capital expenditures
  3. Interrogate the data you’ve already collected to uncover information you didn't know was there
Then we can further refine our processes, eliminate waste, scrap, rework, and additional oversight—the costs companies pay for when they don't have a good quality system, and if they are blind to the quality intelligence it can generate.
 
Join the revolution. Think of your quality control program as an investment. Then, like the wise business person we know you are, expect a return on your investment.
 
For more information about our quality intelligence solutions, have a look at our product pages:
Douglas C. Fair
By Douglas C. Fair
Chief Operating Officer
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