To avoid underfilling packages, food product manufacturers often overfill instead. SPC methods provide visibility into quality data that enables reduction of overfill, variance, waste, and costs.
One of our clients—a very large food manufacturer—gave us a phone call and said, “You know we'd really like for you guys to come out and take a look at our data and help us learn from the data.” So, as a statistician, I went out there and I worked with their Six Sigma teams and their quality professionals.
And what we did basically was we took a year's worth of data from their plant—and they made several hundred different food products in this plant—but we just took the top 20 most manufactured products in that plant. And I said, “You know, what's really important to you guys, and from a food standpoint, net contents—the amount of product they actually put in a container, the weight okay—is really important to them because that's where most of their costs are. And so, they want to be careful that because they don't want to put too much in there because that would be cost to them. They certainly don't want that to be too little because they don't want to cheat anybody, right?
So, we took a look at this data and we focused on the weights—what we call net contents. And what we found was, I was able to help them aggregate the SPC data, put it all together, so that we could do these comparisons to see, well, how does each production line vary, or how's it different from another production line? Which ones are better? Which ones are different? Which ones have the worst performance in terms of variability? Which ones have the best performance?
And then we also looked at how each product was different, how it was being manufactured differently on each of those production lines. Bottom line is this: after about a few hours of analysis and looking at their raw material costs—because they would work with vendors and use those raw materials…we actually got the raw material costs down to a gram weight and then applied that gram weight cost and looked at the amount of overfill that they were providing. And we were able to, in just a few hours, to identify a $3.1 million opportunity for savings just with those top 20 product codes.
And the reason why is so cool is because they didn't realize that that opportunity was that available to them. And for an organization like theirs, that is trying to be more competitive and to be more cost efficient, it was a huge win for them. And these were not… wasn't some kind of “ethereal, sort of, you-might-be-able-to-save something”—no, they were hard cost-savings specific to raw materials. And it was extraordinary.
And people were really really surprised with what they found out. It was a way for us to help them take SPC data, extract the information from that SPC data, that they can then act upon, to make their business more competitive and less costly.