Welcome to the fifth entry in a blog series created just for the packaging industry. We InfinityQS quality experts have spent the last few weeks writing about total quality in your manufacturing space, about solutions to your problems, about the unique challenges you face in mastering your particular quality issues…and how we (and InfinityQS quality management software products) are here to help.\r\n \r\nFor this blog, I’ll be discussing reducing risk in your manufacturing operations. It’s always interesting trying to figure out where to start. Well, it’s clear that conducting compliance checks is essential in the packaging manufacturing environment. InfinityQS quality software products make compliance checks easy by eliminating paper-based checks. That’s where you should start reducing risk in your operations; my hope is that this blog helps people understand that there’s a whole lot more InfinityQS quality management software can do for you.Many Ways to Reduce Risk with InfinityQS Quality Systems\r\nIn addition to automated compliance checks, there are other important aspects to reducing risk that we can help with. Allow me to enumerate: security, data integrity, real-time notifications (for things like spec violations), timed data collections, compliance with regulations, accountability, reducing (and eliminating) defects, etc. InfinityQS quality management systems can help with all of them.\r\n \r\nQuality Checks\r\nWhen I think of reducing risks in packaging manufacturing processes, I think of the system that is being used—paper, or spreadsheets, or even some other quality system… and I always come back to this: How sure are you of the data that you're looking at? That’s where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. Because at the end of the day, when you look at results, can you look at your data with confidence and know you are seeing the real story?\r\n \r\nLet's say you're a manager and, right after an event you are required to report on it. You look at your quality system and you focus on results. The question you should be asking is this: Were those numbers actually entered by the person whose name is next to them?\r\n \r\nPerforming checks on paper is and exercise in futility: prone to errors, it’s crying out for someone to fudge the numbers. What’s to stop someone from filling in those checks and putting your name down next to them? We’re not talking about deceit, or anything underhanded. It could be as harmless as a worker going on break and asking a co-worker to “fill in my checks for me?” Maybe your system requires you to simply pick your name from a list. Anyone can pick any name. Not good.\r\n \r\nIt’s too easy to step around something like that. Checks are important. They should be considered essential to reducing risk in your operations—because they do. But you can see that this type of situation is not very secure. It’s just not reliable.Security\r\nOne obvious way around issues like this is with username and password logins. With these security essentials in place, when you see an operator’s name next to a check, you know that “Operator A” performed that check. End of conversation.\r\n \r\nSecurity should go beyond just what’s required for checks, though. Usernames and passwords should be adhered to and enforced in your quality system. For example, to save time, an organization might want to allow employees to have short, easy to remember (and enter) passwords. Yes, but that’s how problems start. So naturally, secure passwords should have minimum numbers, letters, and special characters. That’s the robustness that your quality management system should offer for logging in. That’s how InfinityQS quality management software systems operate.\r\n \r\nThe security of your systems and data is not worth meager time savings for convenience.\r\n \r\nData Integrity\r\nWith a paper-based system, you can’t possibly trust the results, because you constantly run into odd occurrences like this one: the number entered is 15.7; or is it supposed to be 1.57? One of those numbers is cause for concern, but you can’t be sure because it’s so easy to misplace something small like a decimal point.\r\n \r\nOr let’s say 1.57 was the correct input and it’s just not a good value. Your quality management system (and InfinityQS systems are great at this) should tell you something is off. Your quality management system should generate an event for a value that is clearly out-of-spec, or off in some way, every single time. On top of that, if you configured notifications (automated alerts—which I discuss below), then you know that the right people will be notified of this “off” value. Ideally you’re using some of the statistical rules, so you end up catching issues before they really affect your production.Minimizing Risk with Notifications\r\nGoing back to our “15.7 vs. 1.57” problem… that’s a great example of when a user needs a real-time notification. It was triggered by a value that fell outside of the specifications. This is a great risk reducer. It becomes the baseline, or standard operating procedure (SOP), for your operations. When a value that falls outside your range of acceptability is generated, you’re notified, your manager is notified, and people who fix such issues are notified.\r\n \r\nEvery hour you’re checking the fill weight, taste, odor, appearance, or some other detail. And the more time that passes, the more subpar product is created. Catching issues before an entire shift’s work is destined for the scrap heap is worth the effort.\r\n \r\nFurther, this product won’t go out the door to your customers and may trigger additional inspections, etc. Risk minimized.\r\n \r\nWhen you consistently respond to deviations in this way, your processes become honed—think well-oiled machine—and issues become less and less frequent. That’s continuous improvement. And that’s a goal to strive for.\r\n \r\nData Collections\r\nAnother risk reducer is timed data collections. As the example above emphasizes, taking those measurements—making that timed data collection—on a regular schedule is critical. It’s a great way to avoid a big problem.\r\n \r\nRobust quality intelligence software, like Enact® and ProFicient™ here at InfinityQS, ensures that you keep timed data collections well in hand. Were any data collections late? Missed completely? What shift? What operator? This is information you need to know.\r\n \r\nLet's say you're supposed to do a check every hour for your entire shift. Let's just say you're supposed to do them around the top of the hour. 7:00 AM, the check was good. 8:00 AM, the check was good. 9:00 AM, the check was good. Did they really do those checks at exactly “seven zero zero” and “eight zero zero” and “nine zero zero?” Probably not. And that may or may not be a big deal to them. In some places, for many Food & Beverage manufacturers, it is. Precision is essential.Remaining Compliant\r\nGood quality management software—like what we offer at InfinityQS—helps ensure that you're doing everything you say you're doing, when you say you’re doing it.\r\n \r\nYou have to trust your processes and your people. But there can be legitimate reasons that things don't happen. Perhaps the operator was supposed to perform a check, but there was an issue on another line that they had to see to. What if they were tending to that issue for 2 or 3 hours? Is performing 2 or 3 “catch up checks” after the fact as important as having those 2 or 3 hourly checks on time? It isn’t.\r\n \r\nInfinityQS quality management that enforces accountability—that means that the check occurs and, if it doesn’t, it is recorded as a missed check. Risks are thereby reduced, because management knows what’s going on.\r\n \r\nIn this example, you may have learned that at certain times there is a need for more staff. Or perhaps there’s a need for increased machine maintenance, operator training, or something else.\r\n \r\nGood quality management software can help you understand how things are working on your lines, where you need improvements, where you need help, and where things are working well—which you can turn into best practices elsewhere in your operations. Not only is good quality software a risk mitigation tool, it’s just good business.\r\n \r\nEvent Workflows\r\nA great way to reduce, or eliminate, defects in your production is by utilizing event workflows. Our software has event workflows built in. This functionality enables operators, quality engineers, supervisors, and others to respond consistently and effectively to process- and product-related events.\r\n \r\nEvent workflows capture valuable contextual information that can be used by anyone in your organization to better manage or prevent similar events in the future. What action was taken after the problem occurred? What was the root cause of the problem? In short, event workflows are intended to give guidance and reduce confusion.\r\n \r\nWhen there are data or timing violations (which often lead to defects) in your production, rules are in place that help your organization react in a timely, consistent manner, thus reducing mitigation time (and, ultimately, risk).\r\n \r\n[For more on event workflows, and how they’re used in our quality software system Enact, please see my blog from earlier this year: Enact Workflow: for Compliance, Clarity, and Consistency.]Final Thoughts\r\nRobust, proven quality management software systems, like Enact and ProFicient from InfinityQS, can help you reduce risk in many ways at your production facilities. We’ve covered a lot of ground in this blog, so let’s review some of the ways we’re reducing risk:\r\n\r\nAre we confident we know who is collecting data? We are.Do we know if users have robust passwords? We do.Do we know the values received are accurate? We do.Are we getting real-time notifications when there are issues? We are.Are required checks being performed in a timely manner? They are.Do we have the ability to understand causes and actions to help reduce defects? We do.\r\n \r\nThese questions should be asked of any quality system (including paper) to know where you stand. There are risks in everything we do, and we have to accept that there are tradeoffs with risk and the system(s) we use to mitigate it. What’s your current risk level and are you comfortable with it?\r\n \r\nRead the other blogs in this series:\r\nA Good Fit (Intro)AuditingPaper & PencilEnsuring Product QualityThe Challenges of Sustainable PackagingFolder-Gluers—Where We Can Help\r\n \r\nTake 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.