Standardization. Is that a dirty word to you? Is it something you consider “unattainable,” and therefore not worth discussing? Or is standardization the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? What is it and why is it important for manufacturers? Most important, what can it do for your organization?
In general, standardization in manufacturing—on the shop floor, across the plant, and across the organization—is almost always a good thing. Although maintaining standardization can be difficult, it’s worth the effort. Managing quality and operations in a standardized way leads to increased profitability and cuts down on all sorts of problems.
The Benefits of Standardization in Manufacturing
Standardization through a modern, SPC-based quality management solution delivers numerous benefits, including:
- Streamlined deployment—A standardized system is faster to deploy. When everything is standardized (data collection, naming conventions, software, and so on), your deployment becomes (sort of) lather, rinse, repeat.
- Simplified maintenance—A standardized system is much easier to maintain, allowing you to make a single modification that applies across processes, data collections, and plants.
- Hubble-like visibility—The Hubble space telescope can see unimaginably far into space. A standardized system gives you visibility across sites, even across your whole enterprise, to make the kind of comparisons you otherwise would not be able to make. And that’s priceless.
- Cloud power—A standardized quality management system is a natural fit for deployment in the cloud, which can be less costly. No servers to stand up, maintain, or protect; a single, unified data repository (which alone is worth the work of standardization); and easy access for users from all types of devices.
What Exactly Does “Standardization” Mean?
Standardization is especially important to an enterprise-wide quality management software solution. The term has various meanings, depending upon your focus:
- At the most basic layer, standardization refers to the way you name and handle data. Naming conventions, for example, help you make sure parts, features, processes, and more are named the same in every department or shift. Standardizing your naming conventions gives everyone a common language to use when referring to the myriad components involved in your manufacturing operations. This saves time and eliminates confusion.
- Standardization also means making sure that all facilities are using the same quality management software solution. Standardizing your SPC software enables better collaboration since it gives everyone the same tools and capabilities. In addition, it allows teams to freely share information. When shop floor operators learn something new about the software, they can share it with others. And your IT staff will thank you; purchasing and maintaining a single system reduces their burden. It’s a headache they don’t want…or need.
- Within the software, standardization means making sure everyone is using the same features and functions in the same way. Training users to use all aspects of the software in the same way guarantees that you’re all speaking the same “language.” This cuts down on confusion and inefficiency.
- Looking at the results of measurements in the same way is also critical. Measurements are expected to give reliable results. If different members of your organization view measurements differently, then the decisions you make and your plans moving forward—solving issues, planning changes, allocating resources—are compromised and made more complicated and difficult.
There’s a lot that goes into standardization, and a lot of ways to look at it and implement it within your organization. How do you talk about process performance? Do you use Pp/Ppk? Yield? Percent out of specification?
Often, we hear quality leaders say, “Well, we do it this way here in the main facility, but our other site does it another way.” Such disparities are often a by-product of circumstances and events like facility acquisition, previous quality issues, or employee turnover. Perhaps the previous management of the company purchased a system or did things one way and the new management has purchased something completely different and does things in a new, different way.
The opportunities for mismatching—as you can imagine—are endless. However, taking the time and effort to standardize how you talk about performance means everyone is on a level playing field, which is important for buy-in at all levels. Everyone understands the benefits of data-driven decisions; everyone also wants those decisions to be made fairly.
Your Internal Differences Matter, But Don’t Let Them Thwart Standardization
Often, when we are deploying our software, we learn that two entities within an organization collect data in different ways. Perhaps a quality lab has a specific piece of laboratory equipment that spits out a particular piece of information; in another setting without the same laboratory equipment, they get slightly different information.
Or, perhaps the two labs use different methodologies; say, for example, that one lab states that they have higher alkalinity in their water, so they require a different methodology for treating and measuring their products.
Some differences come down to manpower. One lab states that their quality technicians are spread too thin. So, while another facility’s techs might do 12 checks, theirs only do eight of those checks, and the remaining four are performed by shop floor operators.
You can see where this is going. We talk to the various groups at an organization, and they tell disparate stories about how they conduct their daily affairs. Then they talk to each other as they try to decide on standards and discover just how differently they do things. And it’s a tough ball of yarn to untangle.
So, it’s helpful to know and understand the benefits of reaching consensus, of standardizing wherever and whenever you can. Then, when you run into these difficulties, you can see how important it is that you come to an understanding and standardize things within your organization.
The Benefits of Standardization in Manufacturing Far Outweigh the Temporary Headaches
As you strive to bring your teams together, remember you’re all interested in gaining the benefits you’ll get from standardization. A standardized system costs less, takes less time to deploy, gives you greater insight, and takes less to maintain and expand.
Stand firm and make it happen.
Is your management team concerned about the cost of implementing a standardized, real-time SPC solution? We invite you to visit our website to learn about the cost savings that you can realize from a modern quality management software solution.