Wise About Six Sigma Part 5: Using Enact as a Six Sigma Tool

InfinityQS stands as the global authority on data-driven enterprise quality solutions, thanks in no small part to our commitment to Six Sigma. For over three decades, manufacturers across industries have used Six Sigma—a statistical method for making better products, while lowering costs and eliminating waste—to stomp out defects and waste wherever possible.
 
Waste—which we will define as anything that fails to support production of the end product—is the polar opposite of quality. For Six Sigma-committed manufacturers, quality means producing products as close to target as possible and with little-to-no variation or waste. On a Six Sigma shop floor, quality should always be top of mind.
Six Sigma
In the latest installment of this blog series, I’ll take a deep dive into how the InfinityQS cloud-based Quality Intelligence platform Enact®—powered by real-time Statistical Process Control (SPC)—plays a key role in implementing Six Sigma principles to manufacturing.
 

Variation Reduction

Enact enables users to detect and identify problem areas, as well as recurring issues that impact quality within individual plants and across the entire enterprise. The fix is typically quite easy. The challenge lies more in knowing where to shine the light to pinpoint the source of the problem. That requires data.
 
Whatever the industry, Enact is designed to help you affordably improve product quality and transform the way you view quality data.
 
There were a lot of competing needs when we were developing Enact but all of them centered around variation reduction. After all, it’s the goal of Six Sigma to identify and eliminate process variation at every opportunity. 
 
Missing, incomplete, or otherwise unreliable data are the bane of existence for any Six Sigma quality improvement professional. To reduce the chances of missed data checks and ensure that data are collected on time every shift, we included notifications in Enact to remind employees to record and confirm the appropriate data collection at the appointed time. Enact Workflows will also notify relevant users if there is a due, missed, or late data collection, then walk you through addressing the issue for consistent best practices. This avoids “check the box” back-dating that can occur at the end of a shift and ensures data accuracy and continuity.
Enact Workflow Notification
Enact Event Workflow Notification
 

The Five Phases of Process Improvement

One of the main strategies for implementing Six Sigma is the DMAIC approach, which we outlined in part one of our Six Sigma series. It is an acronym that describes five phases for driving process improvement. DMAIC was at the top of mind during development of Enact. Today, Enact helps you Define your objectives, Measure your products, Analyze your data, Improve your processes, and Control your quality.

Define

The Define phase outlines the problem, objectives, project plan, and customer requirements. As data are being collected, we look for “signals” or trigger points for action. Each signal that comes out of the software is a potential area of improvement and opportunity to align production to business goals (whether they be cost reduction or eliminating variation, among many other objectives).
 
In Enact, the data is put into aggregation tables and other configurable charts that enable you to go in and poke around that data to find signals.
Enact Aggregate Dashboard
Enact Data Aggregation

Measure

This phase sets in place a data collection plan, process map metrics, and a benchmark for improvement. Enact supports automatic, semi-automatic, and manual data collection. Collected data are stored in a centralized repository, making aggregation and analysis easy. Users can then interrogate the data to:
  1. Confirm if transformation has occurred.
  2. Ensure compliance with either internal policies and procedures or more common regulatory mandates.
  3. Learn something, such as the root causes of variations.
Further, with any Six Sigma project, a process map or a flowchart is important for documenting specific business processes. “Process models,” as we call them in Enact, are visual, making it easier to understand a process’ various inputs, operations, and outputs. Click here to learn more about the joys of a process model.
Enact Process Model
Enact Process Model

Analyze

Once the problem is defined and data are collected, it’s time to identify gaps between current performance and the ultimate goal, sources of variation, and opportunities for improvement. Enact has engines in the background that tell users when they need to do something for timely fixes. And there’s a lot of analysis going on under the hood of Enact, which is then reported out in aggregated dashboards based on each user’s role and responsibilities.
 
One way Enact simplifies analysis is grading, where the system automatically runs SPC calculations to assign data streams (these can be different products, lines, processes, or even plants) a different grade based on their expected and actual yield. The analysis helps you see, at a glance, what is performing well and where there is room for improvement. Grades also help separate the “low hanging fruit”—fixes that require minimal effort and cost, but lead to big results—so you can prioritize efforts and resources accordingly.
Enact Grading - at a glance
Enact Grading at a glance

Improve

Enact is a powerful tool that can show you where to make improvements and see the biggest gains by way of quality. It is then up to on-site operators and quality professionals to implement the fixes, bringing in their process knowledge.
 
With real-time quality data, one global elevator manufacturer was able to spot inconsistencies in its elevator wall panel machining process. Previously, out-of-spec wall panels would cause construction delays, costing significant time and money. But with insight into factory operations, its quality teams could take immediate corrective action on problems in production, ensuring non-conforming materials never reach job sites. By continuing to track quality and process information for improvement, the company was able to realize a 40 to 60 percent savings in manufacturing time, streamline auditing, and cut analysis time down from weeks to minutes.

Control

All of InfinityQS’ products and services are based on the principles of a controlled manufacturing environment for maximum quality. In Six Sigma, the final phase of the DMAIC approach requires controlling the improved process and making sure it doesn’t deviate back to the old ways of doing things. “Maintain the gain” is something of a clichéd phrase in Six Sigma but you need to watch the data like a hawk to avoid a relapse into excessive variation. When your processes are in control, so are your products and your costs.
 

Read more in the Six Sigma blog series:

Steve Wise
By Steve Wise
Vice President of Statistical Methods
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