From the First to the Final Stitch
If you have bought carpet for your home or your business, there is a good chance it came from Dalton, Georgia. Dalton has become the carpet capital of the world, after being the early 1900’s home of Catherine Evans Whitener—the mother of the modern carpet industry. Building on Mrs. Whitener’s hand-tufting technique, today’s carpet manufacturing has become automated, high-speed, high-volume, and high-mix. As evident in retail stores, carpet manufacturing is extremely competitive. Quality is key to customer satisfaction, from a shopper’s initial “touch test” to the expectation that, years after installation, the pile will stand as high and look as good as it did in the showroom.
Several processes are common to carpet manufacturers: readying the fiber staples into yarn, pre-dyeing the yarn, tufting the yarn into a primary backing, cutting loops, post-tufting dyeing of the carpet, latexing a secondary backing, shearing the pile for consistency, hand-filling threadbare spots, and more. Each process is a sequence of precision steps, every one of which is subject to variation—that enemy of consistency and efficiency, and ultimately profit. As a result, carpet manufacturers are seeking answers, answers to questions such as:
- Which line or process is most efficient at meeting requirements?
- Are there any operations that produced excessive defects in the last 24 hours?
- Are any processes at risk of going out of control if no action is taken?
- Can I increase line speed without compromising quality?
- How much cost is variation adding per square foot of carpet and what would I save if I reduced variation by even just 10%?
Over the years, carpet manufacturers have attempted to answer these questions through tests and inspections. They visually examined pile heights and grid patterns for consistency. They invested in equipment to run pull-tests. They complied with regulations to conduct flammability tests and instituted color checks.
Traditionally, they logged the results of tests and inspections on paper or in Excel. This introduced some quality control benefits but, at the same time, showed up limitations. It was easy to make mistakes when recording the results. Organizing and storing the records proved burdensome, as did communicating them. Studying and interpreting the records often didn’t occur soon enough to reduce waste or defective product. There were no real-time alarms or alerts. Longer term trends and correlation between processes were difficult for engineers to identify. In brief, while the intention to advance quality was commendable, the tools were less than adequate.
The WinSPC Proposition
WinSPC offers a comprehensive solution to the challenges facing carpet manufacturers. With stations set up right on the shop floor, the collection of vital metrics is a matter of keying them into an easy-to-understand screen or directly capturing them from PLCs, sensors, gages, or other equipment. Those metrics are then tested in real-time against process-specific standards and SPC rules and, the instant a test violation is detected, everyone who needs to know can be made aware of it—through visual and audble alerts, on-screen messages, e-mails, and other alarms. Under emergency conditions, a test violation can even trigger a setting change on the tufting machine or a shutdown of some other piece of equipment.
Many carpet companies suspect there are process parameters that influence carpet quality in unknown ways. Yarn density, stitch rate, pile height, face weight, primary and secondary backing strength, overall carpet dimensions, static shock potential, flammability, resistance to wear, color fastness are just a beginning set of measurements a carpet manufacturer could easily capture and monitor with WinSPC. And, because WinSPC stores all its data in a database, that data is available to be analyzed, correlated, and reported on for as long as the company wants to keep it around.
Going even further, WinSPC’s patented Cost Inspector identifies not only where an opportunity for cost savings exists but how much that savings might be—all before it is pursued, giving Quality departments an objective way to prioritize and a powerful justification to get project approval.
Together, WinSPC and carpet manufacturers can advance the industry Catherine Evans Whitener pioneered and help keep carpets the vital element of contemporary home life they are.