When you’re in manufacturing, you collect lots of data. How do you use all that data? Is it for historic purposes? Traceability? For recalls? For process control? For feeding data to your Six Sigma teams?

Often, companies gather data and store it “just in case” they might need it in the future. There are a variety of valid reasons to collect data, but self-preservation is not a compelling reason to do so—not in today’s manufacturing world.

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Thousands of years ago, the caveman was in self-preservation mode. All the time. No choice. But you have to believe that when we started to thrive, when we began to live outside the cave, to inch toward who we are today, that was when we looked beyond self-preservation and started to dream of what we could become.

Collecting data for statistical process control (SPC) is so much more than self-preservation. The data you collect can tell operators what they need to look at, adjust, or improve so that finished products are consistent and of the highest quality possible. And it’s your gateway to understanding what’s really happening on your shop floor and in all of your critical manufacturing operations.

Let’s take a moment to talk about how you use the data you collect and how you can move out of the cave and into the light.

On the Shop Floor, Data Becomes Action

All that data you collect has the potential to become a vast reservoir from which you can extract meaningful, valuable information—information that you can act on to make your products better, your machinery more efficient, and your company more profitable.

On the shop floor, operators are inundated with lots of information, a vast array of sounds, messages, and inputs—at the same time or in quick succession. It’s a busy, hectic place. Decisions need to be made quickly, if not instantly. And your product quality hangs in the balance.

The art of manufacturing is best understood by operators who have had extensive amounts of time operating a production line. Experienced operators also pay attention to physical cues from equipment and know instinctively when something has changed with their machinery. Operators evaluate the inputs—the data and information—and then make adjustments or fixes based on those inputs.

And when those artists are armed with the science of data and statistical tools, they have greater insights into what needs to be adjusted and when. The best artist-operators turn to their SPC software and let the statistical tools provide information they can use to take appropriate action. That’s how data is converted first into information, and then into action.

Casting a Wider Net: Aggregate and Analyze

Another way we can convert data into information and then into action is on a large scale. With modern quality management solutions, once you have data that has been gathered across your plant, or across multiple plants in a region, or across your entire enterprise, you can perform post-data-entry analysis. You summarize all the data that's been collected and allow the software and statistical tools to identify golden nuggets of information that you can act on to make high-level quality improvements across multiple plants.

This type of data aggregation and high-level analysis can help you direct Six Sigma teams to areas where their actions can generate the greatest quality benefits for your company—in the shortest amount of time. Aggregated data can help direct strategic activities that can point to specific production lines, plants, or product families most in need of improvement.

Centralized Data

A centralized data repository is the key to aggregating data and obtaining the big-picture view of quality that can yield the greatest results. Instead of solely focusing on quality problems and expending all your energies to fix issues, quality leaders need to look at data that represents quality information across multiple production lines, shifts, and plants—across the entire enterprise. And the way to get the big picture view of your organization is with data aggregation.

Data Aggregation=Centralized Data

When all your data is collected and stored in a centralized data repository you can aggregate it (roll it up) and summarize it—even if specification limits are different between products and production lines. This summary analysis enables you to identify which parts are more problematic, which machines need the most attention, and where overall defects are greatest across all plants.

Data aggregation gives you a bird’s eye view of all your quality data. This type of information is critical for optimizing processes across your enterprise, creating company-wide best practices, and making improvements that can transform business results.

Make It a Habit

Once you learn how to roll up your data, analyze it, and pinpoint where you can make corrections, you need to keep doing it regularly. Once a week, once a month, or every quarter, it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that you need to step back from the grind on a regular basis, look at big datasets, and say, “Okay, what information can we learn from this data?”

Without exception, the most successful companies InfinityQS works with have regular data analysis meetings. In those meetings, quality professionals and managers challenge themselves to look at the data in different ways. They try “sorting, slicing, and dicing” data in unique ways. Their intention? To learn something new, to find information that was previously hidden so that they can continually improve their operations.

Once they have new learnings, these successful companies identify actions to improve production line efficiency, reduce plant defect levels, and make big impacts on company costs and performance. As a result, machines are fixed, best practices are created, and performance is optimized.

Move Beyond Mere Survival

Data gathered on the shop floor for process control purposes should be expected to be repurposed, aggregated, and evaluated to improve quality across your enterprise. Those golden nuggets of information can be turned into action that can benefit your organization on a much larger scale.

Believe it or not, it’s not difficult. It’s actually pretty easy. You just need a purpose-built Quality Intelligence software product that is designed to easily aggregate data and automatically identify high-level opportunities for improvement.

When your primal instinct is just to survive—and you do it day after day, week after week—you get to a point where just surviving is enough. But it’s not. In today’s manufacturing marketplace, it’s not enough to just survive. Living hand-to-mouth is not enough. It’s time to move from caveman to modern man.

InfinityQS quality management software can help your company step out of the cave in which you’re just surviving, move past dreaming of what your organization can become, and thrive.

InfinityQS solutions enable you to take that first step from merely surviving to thriving.

Watch the video: Learn more about how an InfinityQS customer discovered how to make processes more competitive and less costly.