Don't Get Caught With Your Pants Down

"Don’t get caught with your pants down." How many times have you heard that one, either as a kid, or as an adult? It doesn’t matter when, or where, but now I’m sure you don’t want to put yourself in an embarrassing situation. You don’t want to be the manufacturer who doesn’t pay attention to quality data and makes an embarrassing, or worse, door-shutting gaffe.
 
This is particularly scary if you’re in an industry where one mistake can spell disaster. I am constantly reading about this food manufacturer or that beverage maker doing something that gets them in hot water.
 
So, let’s talk about not getting caught with your pants down. Let’s focus on always having quality data readily available. Let’s turn to aiming high with quality management. Let’s look into why you can’t afford to get caught with your pants down.
 

A Scary Thought

I recently read an interesting article in Healthcare Packaging in which one paragraph in particular got my attention:
 
“If there’s ever a pathogen in the food and an [FDA] auditor comes in for the data, if [the company] can’t produce the data in 48 hours, they’ll get shut down,” says [a company executive]. That could mean losing millions of dollars a day. “All because they didn’t have a digital strategy to capture that information automatically.”
 
Shut down! That sounds pretty apocalyptic to me. End of story. End of days. The END!  That’s all folks!
That's All Folks! 
That article brought to mind a visit I had at a potential client's headquarters about six years ago. During our meeting, they told us how they frequently had to send two or three people out to a warehouse to look for some specific data (all hand-written—on paper forms). They would hunt through boxes and boxes of data—looking for the specific data needed to meet the request, sometimes spending days (think labor hours = $$) to find the data. 
 
If it were for the FDA, they would always panic about being forced to do a recall if they could not find the data in time. If the request were from one of their customers, they were fairly certain the customer wouldn’t even look at it!  I could see the smoke coming from the VP of Quality’s ears at this point. Not long after our visit, they became one of our largest clients. 
 
Well, the Healthcare Packaging story includes quite a few additional tidbits worth noting. Such as the following:
  • The FDA is keeping an eye on manufacturers as they move to “continuous manufacturing” to ensure consistency, efficiency, compliance, and so on.
  • This move entails new equipment and new technology.
  • This move entails new analytics.
InfinityQS on the Shop Floor 
That’s where we come in. InfinityQS is an industry leader in quality management software. Our products ProFicient and Enact® provide everything Food & Beverage, Pharmaceutical, and Medical Device companies need to modernize, to move confidently into continuous manufacturing. And by so doing, we enable these companies to never get caught with their pants down. Allow me to explain.
 

“Industry 4.0”

The article mentioned above refers to “Industry 4.0,” which tends to often be used as internet “click bait,” a means by which to get you, the reader, to click on a link to view a story or something. I’ve spoken with lots of people who either aren’t sure exactly what that popular buzz phrase means, or they all have completely different ideas of its meaning.
 
I don’t get the impression that Healthcare Packaging is using the term as click bait, though. They pretty candidly try to spell it out, listing its principles as “modularization, data exchange, cloud and cognitive computing.” It’s really a move industry is making toward “accessing intelligent devices and coming up with intelligent analytics.” Bingo! That’s InfinityQS quality management software in a nutshell.
Assembly Line Data Collection

Heading North

Specifically, what we’re doing at InfinityQS, is looking at collecting data, measuring, and analyzing the entire supply chain—from raw materials to assembly/production lines to finished product—with the goal of helping manufacturers minimize cost, maximize value, improve product quality, and mitigate risk. That’s what we’ve been doing for over 30 years.
 
We recognize quality professionals as the driving force behind modern technology and the modernized view of quality management. They are the drivers behind the promise of the aforementioned “Industry 4.0.”
Fill Line Data Collection

I Heard That

A few years ago, I visited one of my Food & Beverage industry clients for our annual meeting, and they mentioned this issue—this fear of getting shut down over the inability to produce the necessary data within the allotted timeframe. Like any business, they can’t afford to get shut down—or do a recall—simply because they don’t have the data.
 
I mean, let’s face it, it’s one thing to be forced to do a recall because of some product issue or flaw, but having to do one because you don’t have the data available is a pretty hard pill to swallow. There’s bad, and then there’s really BAD. They calculated a recall would cost the company at least $2M, not to mention the bad press or the social media disaster it would generate.
 

Analytics

So, getting back to analytics. According to the article, “digitizing data and applying analytics are perhaps the most important elements for moving batch processes into the era of Industry 4.0.” You don’t say. We specialize in analytics; analytics with a purpose—to gain insight into your operations and make transformative decisions for your company. And we offer products that make it all easier than ever before.
InfinityQS Advanced Analytics

Data is Data

Having data readily available to you is part of the game with InfinityQS quality management software. With our software systems, data is…well, just data (technically speaking).
 
What I mean by that is this: Your average manufacturing environment contains lots of machines and data collection devices, each speaking its own unique language. InfinityQS quality management software can “hear” what each device is saying and translate it into a common language (or format). But the key is that we then centralize all that data in one place. This makes it super easy to organize, analyze, and report (and to provide the data to those pesky audit agencies/customers when requested).
 

Unify that Data

Having the ability to look at data in its summary form (in aggregate) is so important. By storing all your data in a single, unified data repository, InfinityQS enables you, the quality pro, to dig into the data and uncover the greatest opportunities for improvements in your operations. The unified data repository is at the center of almost all of the transformative benefits you can glean from an InfinityQS quality management system.
 
It’s the key to making cross-plant, enterprise-wide improvements that generate big bottom-line business results.
 
When I noted above that “data is just data,” I added ‘technically speaking” because your data really isn’t just data—it’s also a gold mine. All you have to do is ask it questions, listen to the answers, and be amazed at what you can learn. You can discover some incredible things, enough to change the “technically speaking” aspect into a gold mine of cost savings!
Assembly Line Food & Beverage

Moving Forward

Whether you adhere to terms like “Industry 4.0” or not really isn’t important, but understanding such terms probably is. I like to think in terms of what’s possible in modern manufacturing instead. Manufacturing has come a long way since the assembly lines of Ford and his ilk. Quality, likewise, should keep pace. It’s safe to say that it’s a different world now. Your quality technology should be considered hand-in-hand with your manufacturing technology.
 

SaaS is Part if Industry 4.0

Here’s the way we manufacturers used to think: With local plant-level based systems, I can make an improvement to a production line, for a specific process, or for a specific product code, but those improvements are only at a single plant (localized)…and for those things taking place at the plant level. Then I will have to go plant-by-plant, and repeat the process, over and over again, wasting time, trying to figure out what requires correction(s) at each plant—because they are all “different,” with separate data sets (if they even have data).
 
Doug Fair, InfinityQS COO, in his blog, Shifting Manufacturing Quality Paradigms, stated the following:
 
“Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) has shattered the manufacturing quality paradigm. SaaS provides manufacturers with the capability to have data collection and visibility across the entirety of an enterprise. SaaS provides our quality improvement experts at the corporate level (from anywhere around the globe) to be able to sort, slice, and dice data anyway they want from across plants, across departments, across the enterprise, across regions. It just doesn't matter anymore; there are no limitations.”

I couldn’t agree more.
Data from the Shop Floor

The Big Picture

So, getting back to the way in which this discussion began, terms like “Industry 4.0” can be enticing. As long as they don’t detract from the point or steer you away from keeping up with quality technology, I’m all for buzz words and phrases. They keep things fun and light.
 
Modern quality technology like InfinityQS quality management software systems can keep you from ever getting caught with your pants down. No “escapes,” no recalls, no regrets.
 
If you can collect data from across your enterprise, and aggregate that data, you now have the ability to ask questions of your data, and see where the biggest problems live. Not at the plant level, but across the entire company.
 

Prioritize

And if you know where the biggest problems are hiding, or where the most waste occurs, or where the most defects are found, then you can prioritize. That’s the next step, prioritizing your quality improvement efforts.
 
Prioritizing means you can look at your entire enterprise and say, “The most waste is occurring in region three, right there.” Then you can put your quality improvement team on the case, and they will be able to make improvements that most positively affect the bottom line in the shortest period of time. That, in a nutshell, is the great benefit of prioritization.
InfinityQS Improving Quality

And Share the Knowledge

Okay, let’s take things a step further. Now that you’ve deployed the quality team to attack a certain problem, they come back with lessons learned. That information can be shared with the entire company to create a best practice. If you have best practices across your entire company, then the chances are pretty good that product inconsistency diminishes, perhaps even becomes a thing of the past.
 
All this sounds like a pretty modern, open view of how to deal with quality in your manufacturing environment, yes? Because it is.
 
It’s “cutting edge” (remember when that was a buzz phrase?) to be able to collect data from any and all devices, unify that data, and analyze it across your enterprise. That, to me, is “Industry 4.0” and all that it entails: a useful tool you use to never get caught with your pants down, never get shut down.

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.
 
Brad Forrest
By Brad Forrest
Account Manager
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