Quality seems to be a never-ending problem for manufacturers, regardless of industry. Implementing and operating a system for tracking product quality is often seen as a burden that must be endured to avoid greater cost and expenditures down the road. You can be inundated with quality-related data, yet still find yourself impeded by recalls, rework, and regulatory audits.
Fortunately, quality professionals have better options today for solving that quality “problem” and turning it into an opportunity.
All Your Data in One Place
From food recalls to faulty auto parts, quality issues can have devastating effects on any manufacturing organization’s reputation and future earning potential. Trying to track individual quality issues across processes within a plant—or across sites scattered around the country or the globe—consumes time, resources, and cash. Whatever your industry, whether you’re a small manufacturer or a global brand name, you’re likely scrambling to find solutions to your quality issues.
Quality professionals are looking to eliminate that scramble by re-imagining quality in their organization to create a cycle of continuous improvement—something that the enterprise-quality experts at InfinityQS call the Excellence Loop.
The Excellence Loop begins with unification of your quality data—collecting and storing all quality data in one central database. Making all plants’ quality data accessible in a single, unified data repository provides enterprise-wide visibility, enabling you to assess quality performance for every region, every operation, and every product in your company.
With this visibility, you gain true operational insight that can fuel high-level, prioritized improvement of product quality and spark some exciting, proactive, strategic decision-making. With access to this level of information, companies gain the ability to globally transform their business through process improvements, cost reductions, and better resource utilization.
Let’s start with a closer look at visibility.
When you unify all your quality data, from all sources, into a standardized and centralized database, you can visualize more than the quality of a single product. You get real-time visibility into your entire enterprise, from end to end—including suppliers, incoming inspection, raw materials, in-process checks from shop floor operators and the quality lab, process data, packaging, and finished products.
Historically, organizations would manually collect data and store it at the local facility. Quality systems were put in place to enable quality folks to put out daily “fires” and fix problems that pop up. After the problem was fixed, the data received very little attention and was typically not used for strategic improvement purposes.
But today, we have the ability to collect data from any device and store it centrally. This capability gives us access to incredibly precise, rich data from across all our lines and plants. In addition to pointing to problems that need to be fixed at both local and enterprise levels, that data can also open our eyes to the greatest opportunities to streamline processes, reduce costs and safety risks, increase yield, improve precision, and more.
For example, in the food and beverage or pharmaceuticals industries, filling containers with a highly accurate amount of product is critical. Regulatory and economic concerns mandate how much product must be in each package. Underfilling results in regulatory issues (and dissatisfied customers), whereas overfilling equates with lost profit (“giveaway”). A quality system that provides manufacturing intelligence gives you both real-time and historic visibility into all your filling lines so that you can easily determine which lines present regulatory concerns, as well as which lines are giving away the most product.
This same principle of understanding and reducing variation applies to every industry. Gaining visibility into all your quality data—and being able to access all that data from one location—enables aggregation and analysis that you can use to improve your product quality and your profitability.
Unification of Data
Note that data unification is the primary requirement for enterprise visibility. Technology has advanced to the point that there’s no viable reason to store quality data at the plant level or in silos. When your data is stored in such a fragmented way, you only get a micro view: What’s in front of you here, today. Modern quality management solutions aggregate data to deliver the long-term, large-scale view that pushes your decision-making and improvements to the next level.
Once you have visibility into all your quality data, you can perform analytics that give you insights you can act on.
You need to know which production lines or sites run your products consistently and at the highest quality levels. You also want to know which have the most issues or cause the most headaches. You need to know where to focus your improvement efforts to get the biggest gains. It would be great to know what defects are affecting your products, which products are at the highest risk, and where these products are produced. Or whether the third shift is performing as well as the first and second shifts.
And, perhaps most important: You’d like to have the data to back up any and all of your conclusions.
With visibility into your supply chain and production line increased—that is, all your data unified and easy to access—you can generate useful and actionable insight into your processes, suppliers, and manufacturing operations. Robust analytics and reporting enable you to then begin to apply best practices consistently across all your plants, lines, processes, and products.
A comprehensive quality management solution will include a top-notch analytics engine and intuitive reporting options to sort through to the most important points and to make your data more easily consumed and understood. The answers to your biggest questions and concerns are suddenly at your fingertips, rather than buried in a sea of data.
Insights in Action
This level of insight opens up a new realm of possibilities for your company. You’re no longer stuck in reactive mode, putting out fires as problems crop up. You’re using your quality data to plan ahead, perform better—and outpace the competition. Quality data can be used for strategic improvement, not just reactive firefighting.
And now comes true, global transformation for your business. You have the capability to apply your insights to streamline, optimize, and transform processes and operations, across the enterprise. Unified, aggregated, historical insights initiate continuous improvement.
You can now tell that a particular line runs better than others at the same facility—and why. Better yet, you can see how to make other lines in other locations consistent with that level of performance. You see which factors matter, and which don’t. You begin to streamline all your processes. Consistency and efficiency increase throughout and across production sites. You get hard data that verifies results and enforces accountability.
You no longer only think about what you did yesterday, but about what you can do tomorrow or next year. And you begin to see real, measurable benefits to your bottom line.
The Key to a Repeatable Process of Continuous Improvement
Disparate data is a huge part of the quality “problem” that many manufacturers experience. When you adopt a modern model of continuous improvement, supported by a unified, centralized data repository, quality problems can become opportunities—to gain the insights you need into your processes, logistics, and operations, and then use those insights to make those transformative decisions for your organization.
Want to learn more about the Excellence Loop model? Visit the InfinityQS website to take a deeper dive into the Excellence Loop and explore our rich resources.