Maybe the adage “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” has given management an excuse not to change from old systems that do basic data entry and after-the-fact reporting.
In the modern world, we are immersed in technology. The internet is over 20 years old, smart phones are pervasive, 3D printers are commercialized, and artificial intelligence is taking form in our homes in devices like the Amazon Echo and Google Home.
Conversely, Quality Departments at many manufacturing companies are still relying on antiquated technology to manage their SPC methods. Maybe the adage “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” has given management an excuse not to change from old systems that do basic data entry and after-the-fact reporting.
But is that enough? Have your costs of quality — from internal or external failures — been reduced to minimal levels? How much variation still exists in your critical processes? Is that even being measured?
According to a study by the Center for Economic and Business Research, for every $1 manufacturers spend on quality management, they typically see a return of $6 in revenue, $16 in cost reduction, and $3 in profit.1 That’s quite a healthy return.
So how do you know when it’s time to upgrade your SPC system and realize the benefits of an improved toolset? To answer that question, below are five signs that it’s time to replace your outdated SPC software.
1. Your team is unable to handle customer requests for quality data
Has a customer ever asked for a quality report and then had to wait several days until the report was ready? Maybe it’s because your quality system is based on an archaic file management storage system or uses a proprietary database design that limits access to data. In these cases it is often difficult or impossible to group, sort, or filter data to generate meaningful reports that customers or internal stakeholders may require.
Current systems use relational databases that provide single click options to extract and view the appropriate data set on demand. Such systems work like search engines for your SPC data, not only presenting the results of your search and building reports from the data, but, more importantly, identifying what you should be noticing in your process that might otherwise go undetected. Modern SPC systems can also provide multiple report templates, offering the ability to generate a variety of reports quickly on demand or on a regular schedule.
2. Engineers are spending hours every week on clerical tasks
Many of the older SPC systems still being used by manufacturing companies were developed for Windows 95 or XP operating systems. These systems were based on a modular design that requires users to muddle through layers of forms and windows to do basic tasks such as building a new part setup or adding a new test type. Equally concerning is that over the years the knowledge of how to administer these systems inevitably diminishes as personnel familiar with its setup move on to other roles or other companies, leaving current personnel with limited administrative capability.
By contrast, most current SPC systems are designed for quick access and allow users to do common tasks with minimal training. In addition, modern SPC systems can save time by allowing mass updates, providing single touch access to a wide range of data views, and leverage user interfaces that are simple and self-contained within a single screen layout. Today’s SPC systems are just plain easier to learn and use.
3. Your plant is only capturing a fraction of the quality and process data that impacts your final product quality
The big data movement is well underway, but many manufacturers are still struggling to gain visibility into basic quality updates and metrics that surface post production. Quality teams are left repeating the warning “without the data it’s just an opinion,” because they have experienced the cost of trying to manage without all the right measures in place.
Nowadays, almost all metrology tools and production machines can output data in an electronic format that allows for a wide range of dimensional, environmental, supplier, and process measurements to be captured by real-time SPC systems. Key process inputs and outputs can be incorporated into your overall quality management program and become decision-making metrics in your company that enable processes to be better analyzed, improved, and controlled. What percentage of your key process variables are you tracking to help identify and prevent assignable cause variation?
4. The older system you’re using will not run on the latest operating systems, databases or mobile devices
Software and hardware technology companies are streamlining their development plans in order to reduce their product release cycles. Most software operating systems and back-end databases are being updated and replaced at a steadily increasing rate. If you haven’t been upgrading your software, you are likely several releases behind the technology curve and older systems will eventually not be able to run on current platforms.
As an example, Microsoft is no longer supporting Windows XP and older SPC systems won’t install or operate on Windows 7 or Windows 10 due to changes in the security and architecture. Your IT department may also require systems to run in various environments, such as VMWare, Terminal Services, Citrix, web, cloud, or mobile platforms – an impossibility for much of the older SPC technology.
New computing devices are being introduced at just as rapid a clip. It is now common for users on the shop floor to have wireless mobile devices such as tablets and touchscreen monitors.Corporate engineers and managers are looking for portability with remote access to their networks so they can tap into live updates while they are away. Older SPC systems simply don’t play well with the new mobile.
5. There are too many moments when you realize “Wow, our SPC system can’t do that.”
What discoveries are you missing simply because your current system doesn’t have the latest innovative analysis tools? Beyond Cpk values and averages, what if you could see how much variation is costing your plant per variable, per machine, or per shift, and how much you could save by making an improvement? How about integrating your ERP systems’ traceability fields like “job” or “order number” into your quality data automatically, or linking setup information with other manufacturing systems?
What if you had real-time preventative alerts that updated operators when a trend was occurring prior to parts being made out of spec – and even automatically adjusting or shutting down machines based on severe process changes? What if, in just a few minutes you could roll out an entirely new set of process tests, connect directly to your automated inspection equipment and process control system, apply unique alarms and selectable corrective actions, and have a live dashboard to monitor performance from anywhere? Yes, what if?
Steven Wachs, a leading statistician in the industrial statistics field, has said that quality may be thought of as being inversely proportional to variation–that is, as variation increases, product quality decreases. Improvements in SPC technology directly translate into improved tools to reduce variation in your processes and, thereby, result in improved quality.
So, if you have been struggling to control process variation with an out-of-date system, or if you just recognize that you could get a significant return from upgrading your current SPC system, then it’s time to run a pilot of a new system and see firsthand how advances in technology can work for you.
The link to the Video Tour below provides an overview of WinSPC, a real-time SPC system. The tour can guide you through launching a pilot of the system in less than an hour. Click here to get started: https://www.winspc.com/interactive-tour
1 June 2012 study by the Center for Economic and Business Research, from Lasting Impression, Quality Progress, November 2012
About DataNet Quality Systems
DataNet Quality Systems empowers manufacturers to improve products, processes, and profitability through real-time statistical software solutions. The company’s vision is to deliver trusted and capable technology solutions that allow manufacturers to create the highest quality product for the lowest possible cost. DataNet’s flagship product, WinSPC, provides statistical decision-making at the point of production and delivers real-time, actionable information to where it is needed most. With thousands of installed facilities worldwide and distributors across the globe, DataNet is dedicated to delivering a high level of customer service and support, shop-floor expertise, and professional Continuous Improvement, Six Sigma, and Lean Manufacturing services.