When we think about investments, things like homes, stocks, and real estate come to mind—things for which we expect a return.
When we buy a car, we’re probably not thinking of it as an investment. We’re probably thinking of it as a necessity to get to work, to buy groceries, to bring the kids to soccer practice—to function in today’s modern world. And we understand that its value will decrease as we tack on the miles.
But when we buy that home, we expect to do more than just live in it. As time goes by, we expect the value of the home will go up. It’s not just a home; it’s an investment.
Investment in Quality Control Measures
When we invest, our expectation is growth. “I’m going to spend today’s money so that tomorrow’s money will be greater.” Something like that. You’re looking toward the future. And quality control can be an investment in the future of your company, your facility, and your business.
Sometimes, manufacturing leaders consider quality control measures to be a necessary evil—just another expense. But that’s treating an investment in quality like a car rather than a home.
For manufacturers, investments in quality systems should allow you to get fast returns—even transformative ones.
When you hire quality control experts and put quality management software systems in place at your organization, you’re doing more than just incurring additional cost. You can easily generate great benefits and significant returns on your quality dollars.
Companies that treat quality control measures as an investment have a few things in common:
- They prevent quality problems from happening.
- They reduce overall costs.
- They prevent recalls.
The most successful companies expect a return on their quality investment. Like a savvy investor, they make their purchase, then watch carefully over the investment and manage it to create beneficial returns. They expect to improve existing operations through the insights that their quality system provides, and by intelligently sidestepping unnecessary expenditures.
A Quality Investment May Be Different from What You Think
Some companies believe that existing quality problems are the result of old shop-floor technologies. Because their machinery is older, they feel that newer machinery and technology is necessary to improve quality.
However, data and analysis can prove otherwise. After gathering data and scrutinizing the machinery generating the information, some companies discover they are able to eliminate or delay the purchase of new production lines and machines, positively affecting cash flow and the bottom line.
They are able to do so because the insights generated through using statistical process control (SPC) to examine data allowed them to pinpoint fixes to the machines, and incrementally improve older machinery. Sidestepping enormous capital expenditures (like purchasing new production line technologies) can be supported by the intelligence provided by a good SPC-based quality control system.
Many companies get caught in the “technology trap.” They say, “Oh, we need to invest in all these new high-tech, new-fangled technologies.” That is certainly one strategy: throw money at the problem. But it doesn’t always work.
Smart, quality-minded companies can often work with existing machinery and continually make their products better by improving how their processes work.
The math is easy: If you use existing machinery and still make products continually better, then your cost structures continue to go down and you don’t have to expend capital monies to purchase another production line or new technologies—until you’re ready. When you delay expenditures, you save money.
Invest in What Really Matters
Regardless of the technologies that underlie a manufacturing process, organizations that are successful with quality invest in modern SPC-based quality management software and hardware systems. And they invest in the human capital required to generate hard cost savings from existing machinery.
At InfinityQS, we often refer to the story of a beverage manufacturer who wanted to improve quality even though all their process checks were in-spec. Focusing on one line, we discovered that although everything was within their specification limits, they were still overfilling every bottle…and the liquid they were putting in those bottles was not cheap.
The data they gathered was turned into insights. They identified discrepancies in fill-head performance, product-to-product differences, the effect of speed on filling, and other information they never had. As a result, they were able to make a variety of improvements (some bigger, some smaller), which ended up saving them over a million dollars per year—on just that one line. Extrapolate that over the 20+ lines at their plant, and you can see that the savings are astronomical.
No new technology was purchased. No new equipment was installed. There was no investment in a new production line. Instead, the million-dollar cost reduction was simply the result of acting on the information that was generated from their filling data. Their investment in a quality control software solution resulted in a bottom-line bonanza.
Dig Out Information from Quality Control Data
When you decide to view quality control as an investment, several insights become clear.
- First, manufacturers need to do what’s necessary to prevent quality issues from happening. Prevention is far less costly than reaction.
- Second, by using quality data, we can scientifically understand the way our machinery is running. We can refine them and tune them to a level where we don't necessarily need to invest in far more expensive technologies. That's a return on your investment.
- And third, you can leverage the data you already collect. Extract information from your data so that you can better determine how machines are running and how performance can be improved. This information will put a spotlight on the things that need to be fixed and adjusted so that you get greater efficiencies, minimize scrap and rework, lower costs, increase productivity, and keep the production lines running.
Organizations collect a lot of data. But we tend to focus only on out-of-spec data and the activities needed to deal with those problems. Companies tend to ignore data indicating the product is in-spec. The attitude seems to be, “Why even look at it if it’s good?” The reason is simple: because companies rarely review data that is in-spec, they miss fundamental information that can help transform organizational performance and the bottom line.
If you are going to gather data, you must prioritize time to evaluate it. There’s gold in your data. You just need to mine it. You’ve got to extract information from it.
It’s not hard. Modern SPC-based quality control systems will support shop floor, enterprise-wide data collection and provide a means of aggregating that data to make it easily consumable and understandable by managers, engineers, and quality professionals.
Quality Control ROI Is at Your Fingertips
By investing in quality control, you'll be able to prevent problems before they escalate costs, potentially sidestep capital expenditures, and improve business operations by refining processes and eliminating waste, scrap, rework, and additional oversight. Those are costs companies pay for when they don't have a good quality system—and if they are blind to the quality intelligence it can generate.
Join the revolution. Think of your quality control program as an investment. Then, like the wise business person we know you are, expect a return on your investment.