News Flash: Operators are busy.

They wear multiple hats, perform myriad duties, and have many responsibilities. And they are time starved. However, the primary responsibility of operators in a manufacturing environment is making your product. Anything that stands in their way is considered a headache and a challenge.

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In the real world, interacting with quality intelligence software is honestly something operators see as just more time and work for them. We get that. However, operator engagement with your quality software is crucial to ensuring the product they are producing is the best it can be. So, the challenge of keeping operators engaged with your quality solution—even when it may add some tasks or time to their already busy day—is worth talking about.

Challenges

There are times when quality professionals find that using a quality intelligence software system is a positive experience and they want to share that with their shop floor operators and have them use it, too. This inclination is obviously well-intentioned; but an operator may view the request differently: “Oh, great. I’m going from not doing quality checks to having to do quality checks…on top of everything else I do.”

So, you need to ensure that the quality system they are being handed is easy to use—or there will be resistance. You also want the system to be error-proof and fast so that it actually helps them do their jobs better. Let’s look at how modern SPC-based quality intelligence software can address each of those requirements and ensure operator engagement.

Easy to Use

The prevailing thought in manufacturing seems to be, “Paper is easy to use. We’ve been using it a long time.”

People are used to paper because it was all we knew for a long time. And once data was collected, that’s where its usefulness stopped. It was just a case of “take the measurement, write it down.” Then the process became “collect the data, type in a few numbers.”

Those systems have persisted because—let’s face it—people don’t like change. However, today’s manufacturing environment requires that we actually use the data we collect. In many cases, people would rather suffer with what they already know than start something new, even if it will ultimately benefit their products and make their jobs easier and better. Human nature. So that’s the uphill, built-in battle we face.

But if the quality software is so easy to use that operators can focus on their many other responsibilities, then the change is less painful, less of a challenge.

Specifics: What makes a good quality solution easy to use?

To begin with, look for quality software that lets operators know when they need to perform a data collection. That way they don’t have to watch the clock or carry around a clipboard. A simple alert notifies them what, when, and how they need to take that data collection.

If there is an issue with something out-of-spec that needs attention, the quality software should let operators know that, too. They shouldn’t have to cull through charts and graphs, looking for the data point that is out of place. Again, a simple alert can notify operators that an “event” has taken place and they should pay attention.

What happens when your software helps you reduce complexity? It enables operators to remain focused on the many other tasks they have on their plate. When and if they need to know something, reliable quality software brings it to their attention.

Error-Proof

A lot of paper-based systems rely on operators to perform calculations, too. For example, at a certain time every day the operator performs some calculation—takes a few numbers from a data collection, adds them together, then multiplies them by some other value…and puts the results down on paper. That type of manual calculation is rife with possibilities for error.

A good quality solution will just do the calculation for the operator—again, taking another task off their plate, saving time, and error-proofing what could potentially be a complicated calculation. Easy.

calculation weight

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Fast

Keeping things easy and error-proof is important. But speed matters, too. Operators get frustrated if they spend too much time doing one thing. They just have too many things to do.

Speed improves with automated data collection where it’s possible. For instance, if you can get the data collection results you need from a device that is hooked into the system, that will be fast. The ability to connect directly to a scale or a caliper or any other semi-automated data-collection device is a real time-saver. Set it up, hit print, and the data just comes in. The screen turns red when things are out-of-spec, or there’s a statistical violation.

That kind of speed helps operators do their job and keeps them engaged in their primary activities.

Visual Engagement

Modern, advanced quality intelligence solutions have additional features that make work easier and more interesting for operators and are crucial to enabling your organization to make transformative business decisions. In top software solutions, you’ll find that information is presented in visuals or graphics that enable users to understand information at a glance and respond quickly.

InfinityQS quality intelligence solutions offer visual work instructions and images. This puts a handy “reference guide” at operators’ fingertips so they can quickly understand what they’re expected to do, at what time, and where. Visual work instructions take the guesswork out of their jobs, and that keeps them engaged.

work instructions

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Images are everywhere in InfinityQS’ Enact® Quality Intelligence platform. It’s the essence (and strength) of the interface. Images tell operators everything they need to know—from data collections and notifications to process models to graphs and charts to dashboards. These are the core design aspects of the interface, and each is designed to make the user’s experience easy and fast. Let’s take a quick look at these visual design elements and see how they can help create a positive software experience for operators.

The Process Model

When you describe your manufacturing operation in a process model, you connect components, operations, processes, features, and data collections to create a holistic illustration that mirrors your real-life operations. You essentially create a visual representation of the operations required to produce a variety of products, perhaps even your entire line of products, just like you might explain it to someone at a white board.

process model

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Charts and Graphs

Control charts and graphs don’t need to be your operators’ first reference, but they often are. What’s most important from a control chart is the result of the chart’s analysis, not the chart itself. When spec limits are exceeded or something is out of whack in a process, operators need to know about it. InfinityQS quality intelligence software keeps them on top of processes with notifications, so they don’t have to keep an eye on the control charts—but they’re there if they want that view.

control chart

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The fact that the charts and graphs in InfinityQS software are easy to view and understand helps operators feel in control and empowered…and keeps them engaged.

Dashboards

Dashboards are relatively common in quality software, so everyone is familiar with them and expects to get their information from them these days. Enact dashboards deliver easy access to targeted data, filtered by role so that users get just what they need when they need it. Each dashboard consists of customizable tiles that provide data at a glance and enable users to drill down into details.

simple dashboard

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Standardized dashboards promote consistent practices and standard operating procedures across the company. With everyone using the same tools to look at data from a central repository, users with different roles can make consistent decisions to benefit product and process quality.

Data Collections

First of all, it’s important to know that data is data. Equipment that is supplying your software with data can be connected into the system in many ways: via a serial port, a USB cable, or an Ethernet cable; by keyboard wedge or over Wi-Fi; and even via Bluetooth.

Enact makes data collection visually engaging with several elements:

  • Data collection image: Located in the upper left, this is a visual reference that the user can expand during data collection for more clarity.
  • Film strip: Located below the collection data field, this shows users the sequence of measurements to guide them through their work.
  • Spec limit scale: Located immediately to the left of the collection data field, this optional element shows where the current measurement falls in the spec range.
  • Collection grid: Located in the lower left, this shows users which measurements have been entered, which remain, and whether any had spec limit violations.

work instructions

*Click the image to open a window to view a larger version.

It All Comes Back to Simplicity

There are so many aspects to quality software that can make an operator’s job time-consuming, complicated, and difficult. Keeping your operators engaged means keeping things simple.

If you can go the extra mile to make their time with your quality software less complicated, fast, and always engaging, then your operators will reward you with quality products and quick, consistent, and accurate responses when things go wrong.

The right quality software will have a big impact on your operators. It will be engaging, enable them to do more in less time, keep them informed when they need to react to things, and will be seen as a tool they can rely on—rather than just “one more thing to do.” Providing those improvements to your operators will benefit them, your organization, and, most importantly, the quality of the products you make.

To learn more about engaging teams at every level of your organization, visit the InfinityQS website.