When it comes to statistical process control (SPC), it's easy to get lost in the weeds and forget what you are really trying to accomplish. The whole point is to make better products for the customer. To do that you have to perform the same exact processes over and over across every production line. Most important, it has to be done as safely and efficiently as possible, so you don’t waste time or money.

When Walter A. Shewhart developed control charts, the powerful charts and plots were created with paper and pencil. Today SPC can occur in real time. It doesn’t have to be overly complicated when you stop and think about it. Watch the process, collect data, make that data useful, and then make decisions based on that useful information. It’s as simple as that. Perform these tasks and you will be running to target while reducing variation.

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Data > Information > Decision

Don't get caught up in what program you are going to deploy.

  • Will it be Lean, Six Sigma, or Lean Six Sigma?
  • Will you use this software program or that one?
  • Should you outsource, or will you take it on internally?

When you understand that different companies make lots of different products in lots of different ways, you’ll start to gain a new appreciation for SPC. It is not how you do it as much as “Are you doing it?” As you implement SPC, keep in mind a couple of things: strategy and execution.

Many quality professionals are caught up in the day-to-day tasks of making sure measurement devices are accurate, the sampling frequency is correct, and the data entry is fool-proofed. These are great and noble aims and are worth your time. However, the most crucial step that is being most overlooked in SPC today is using the data to make decisions.

That’s where execution comes in. When you are executing decision-making based on your SPC quality data, product is being made efficiently and decisions are being made based on the data.

How Are You Using Your Data?

You collect data and have databases full of it. You’ve made all of the checks and the auditors are proud. You work extremely hard to collect accurate data. You have tools that automatically collect data from testing centers, computers, and other systems. You have all these nice charts where data lives and breathes.

At the end of the day, how did you utilize that data to make decisions to improve processes? How much did you reduce variation? Are you ensuring that your products are being made more consistently? Are you identifying the root causes of your variation and instituting control plans to prevent them from returning or are you going to have to revisit this next year?

If you’re ready to move to that next level, here are five ways you can maintain your focus on the information that matters to reach your business goals:

  1. Collect data that is relevant for SPC—Don’t collect data just because it is there.
  2. Focus on key characteristics—It’s not reasonable for operators to react to dozens of charts.
  3. Implement a system that highlights exceptions—This is especially useful when many characteristics are collected because operators won’t have to look at every chart to see what’s important.
  4. Enable timely responses—Provide clear instructions to enable operators to act when an exception occurs.
  5. Review the data in a timely fashion—“Timely” may mean different things for an operator, supervisor, manager, and director.

When you slow down long enough to think about what you are doing and why you are doing it, your SPC programs will be significantly more useful.

Carve out a little time, grab a cup of coffee, think about your current SPC implementation, and ask yourself, “How has my data helped me improve my process?”

Learn more about how InfinityQS real-time SPC solutions can meet your quality management and process improvement needs.