Want to get your arms around potential data violations and quality troubleshooting to reduce costs and increase profitability—and brand reputation? Quality sat down with Eric Weisbrod, Vice President of Product Management for InfinityQS, to discuss Workflows, in the latest feature in its cloud-native Quality Intelligence platform Enact®.
Quality: What was the inspiration for developing the Workflows function?
Eric Weisbrod: There were several reasons for us to introduce Workflows to Enact.
With Workflows, operators and other plant-floor personnel receive notifications when there is a potentially harmful event, such as if there is a data violation showing that a process is out of specification or a timing violation indicating missed or late data collection. In Enact, an Event Review banner displays all open events assigned to each user, so they can quickly determine what needs attention. Users can click on an event to see full details and select from a pre-defined list of actions, or “event codes,” for prescriptive guidance for resolution. Event codes support consistency in the handling of events and input of actions. Users can make comments too to help prevent future events.
We have experience with a similar functionality in our on-premise product, ProFicient™. We wanted to provide something similar that works with Enact’s enhanced event codes for process and quality-related events. Further, we had requests to require a comment in response to events. So, that was something we targeted from the very beginning.
We also wanted to be consistent throughout the Workflow functionality, so making things behave consistently was a major goal. As a logical extension beyond the functionality we have in ProFicient—which can display events that are awaiting responses—we wanted to be able to have Enact say, “I am awaiting a response from you or someone with your specific role.” This goes a long way to providing the accountability that manufacturing operations require.
Were there any challenges to the development of Workflows?
The biggest challenge we had to overcome was how to organize things not only for configuration, but also how a user could determine which Workflows were in place for troubleshooting. This was critical because Workflows were designed to be enhanced. Trying to think ahead to, “What will users want to know once they’ve configured many Workflows?” was a challenge.
Are there any team members or colleagues deserving to be singled out for their work on developing Workflows?
Matt Tweedy, our Vice President of Product Design, was the driving force behind this. All credit for the methodologies used and forethought go directly to Matt. My team in Product Management did a great job being a sounding board, but the core of it all was Matt.
If you will, what were/are customers resigned to doing, i.e. how are/were they managing the process, before Workflows?
Previously, the only way to make sure “required” actions were taken in response to events was to manually look at the events. While this isn’t particularly difficult, it is time consuming to investigate each event to make sure the right people completed the appropriate actions.
How important was building in flexibility for your customers into Workflows?
This was critically important. If there’s one thing we know about quality manufacturing, it’s that it must be flexible. Ideally, there would be one set of rules that everyone plays by, but that’s simply not the case. Allowing different items to be required/optional/not allowed based on specific processes was key as a first step. Workflows were designed to be even more flexible if the need arises.
Are there other similar processes (i.e. Lean, Six Sigma) that Workflows helps address for your other customers?
Workflows will address anyone seeking process improvement. Six Sigma, SPC, Lean, you name it; root cause analysis is always the goal tied to defect reduction and yield improvement.
What do you see Workflows bringing to the table in areas like medical and aerospace?
One major benefit of Workflows is being able to show that actions are being taken for a specific event (e.g. write a comment, document actions taken, document causes, etc.). This can be extremely helpful during audits. This is demonstrated in a few key ways:
- The events show the related event codes, comments, etc. along with a date/time stamp and the user that entered/selected the response(s).
- Finding exceptions is simple, as events with open items are listed as such. This allows targeting events where individuals haven’t taken their required actions.
Expanding on accountability, describe how Workflows benefits not only the individual manufacturer’s process, but also standards of manufacturing (i.e. AS 9100, ISO standards)?
All standards effectively come down to documenting your processes and then being able to prove you follow those processes. Workflows provide that documented proof (via the user and date/time stamp).
In your opinion, or based on customer or potential customer reaction, how important is visual clarity?
Visual clarity is always important. If it’s not immediately intuitive that there is an expectation of a user (or with minimal training), then they won’t even want to try it.
Can you describe what potential clients might expect from the implementation process for Workflows?
The biggest overall consideration isn’t unique to Workflows… it’s standardization. Ideally, a client will have a list of standard event codes (causes, actions, etc.) that they can use. This makes life easier for the user and is very powerful because it allows the analysis of which event codes occur most often. For example, being able to answer, “Which corrective action did we take the most on Filler 01 last month?” is critical in understanding problems, where efforts go, etc. Of course, for those that don’t have those standardized lists, being able to require a comment is a great first step. There’s that flexibility.
How would you describe a potential customer’s return on investment from implementing Workflows?
Wow! That’s a big one. It depends on their particular environment, industry, etc. Some major benefits:
- Audits: As mentioned above, if you’re regulated (whether it’s an external body like ISO, or internally) then being able to show proof of following processes is key. Workflows (and events in general) are that documented proof that can be pulled up at a moment’s notice without sifting through paper, spreadsheets, etc.
- Accountability: Because Workflows are configured to say who can take specified actions (based on their role) and Enact requires a user to be signed in with a username and password, you know who entered event codes. This can’t be “pencil-whipped” by someone who isn’t allowed to take the required action(s).
- Time Savings: There are a few ways Workflows help save time:
- Managers: If you have a process that employees are supposed to be following, how do you know that they are? In absence of a system that you know is being enforced, you need oversight. Otherwise, you can waste time.
- Users: Workflows reduce the burden of having to “know” the process. The user doesn’t have to remember if they have to enter a cause, leave a comment, etc. The Workflow defines this for them and prompts them when needed. This means users can just follow the process and don’t have to rely on “tribal knowledge.”
- Problem Solving: I’ve saved the best for last. The ability to know which problems you encounter most, which solutions need to be used, etc. is of tremendous value. This can help improve efficiencies (e.g., “Based on the amount of equipment setups we’ve had to perform on Line 01 this past quarter, it makes more sense to increase frequency of preventative maintenance.”), save costs (e.g. “We’ve found that when this kind of issue occurs, we need to change tooling. Doing this immediately will reduce product variability and scrap”) and ultimately improve product quality and reduce defects.
What would you say to anyone contemplating implementing/using Workflow?
Try it! Start small and try it out. I think this is something that once manufacturers start using it, they’ll wonder how they ever did without it.
For more information, visit https://www.infinityqs.com/products/enact.