An InfinityQS customer once showed us posters strategically displayed throughout their site saying:
Our customers are our reason, our products are our being, but quality is our soul.
For all manufacturers today, quality must be at the heart of all of our strategic improvement and enterprise consistency efforts in order for us to protect our brands.
As manufacturing organizations move from their initial survival mode responses to the global pandemic and into a recovery stage, many are looking at the challenge as an opportunity. Recent events have proven that it’s critical for organizations to be able to identify and respond to quality and operational threats with speed and agility.
The technology to enable such flexible and responsive operations is already available in the Enact® Quality Intelligence platform. With the advantages that Enact provides, manufacturers can reach a level of strategic visibility that can help them protect their brands, no matter what disruptions occur in the future.
Delivering Strategic Improvements
Many manufacturers struggle with consistently achieving greater levels of quality and performance across their manufacturing operations. Often, manufacturers look to improve only a particular line or process, a specific plant or region. Consistently achieving greater levels of quality and performance across the enterprise is not the focus.
One obvious reason is that quality and performance management are often managed at a local level. However, manufacturers with local focus essentially become a collection of loosely connected parts that work together to achieve a common goal or purpose—manufacturing their products. Since the local plants are mostly autonomous, the organization really has no ability to manage and monitor across the enterprise.
The Devil Is in the Details
In a local-management model, performance reporting is provided to upper management and executives in a highly aggregated format—via daily, weekly, or monthly summary reports and key performance indicators (KPIs). The problem with that level of aggregation is that it also creates a high level of abstraction from what is happening in production areas over time.
Think about it like a car trip. If you take a long journey and report the average speed of the trip, that metric doesn’t tell you much. It doesn’t reveal whether you broke the speed limit or stopped frequently. The report leaves out many important details that could paint a more complete picture.
Without that detail, and the ability to drill down into the underlying factors behind each of the aggregated KPIs, your organization is going to struggle to identify where potential performance issues are occurring or where potential improvement opportunities lie waiting to be discovered.
It may take days or even weeks to locate a root cause of a performance issue. During that time, things can take a serious turn for the worse. You will have incurred unnecessary costs, waste, and rework. And productivity and yield are negatively affected. Sometimes, unsafe or poor-quality products can be the result. Nobody wants that.
Highly aggregated KPIs may also mask opportunities for improvement. For instance, we wouldn’t necessarily be able to see details like a particularly problematic process or machine that is suppressing overall performance. It’s just not clearly visible.
Aggregate analysis of KPIs is very important, and is a prominent feature in Enact (see data stream grading). But what’s more important is the ability to instantly drill down into those KPIs and examine specific processes or products or features. You need to see down to a specific point in time—to the details—to determine root cause.
The Excellence Loop
The process of re-imagining quality creates a cycle of continuous improvement. It’s something that we enterprise-quality experts at InfinityQS call the Excellence Loop.
The Excellence Loop begins with unification of your quality data in one centralized database. This unification provides enterprise-wide visibility, enabling you to assess quality and performance information for every region, operation, and product in your company.
With this enterprise visibility, you gain true operational insight into your processes and operations, fueling high-level, prioritized improvement of product quality and sparking some exciting, proactive, strategic decision making.
With access to this level of information, companies gain the ability to globally transform their business through process optimization, cost reductions, and better resource utilization.
Driving Enterprise Consistency
An important aspect of enterprise-wide strategic improvement is enterprise consistency. When quality initiatives break down (or prove problematic), inconsistency creeps in across all your manufacturing operations.
Achieving consistency across your enterprise involves standardizing the methods you use, the data you collect, monitoring, and analysis.
Methods and Data
How and when are you doing quality checks? When, where, and how are your data collections performed? And how is all this data recorded?
If you have inconsistency in these areas, then trying to perform cross-comparisons and -analyses becomes problematic because you are not comparing apples with apples.
How can you be confident in your quality if the methods for performing quality checks across different manufacturing lines, plants, or sites are all different? And when issues occur, how can you ensure that corrective actions are followed correctly (and consistently) across your manufacturing operations?
The data you collect is important. In order to achieve enterprise-wide visibility and operational insights, you need consistent data.
Monitoring and Analysis
How do you ensure that everyone—from operators to executives—is interpreting data and KPIs in the same way? And making consistent decisions based on those insights?
Monitoring and analysis without consistency is like attempting to put the square peg in the round hole. And we all know how much fun that is.
Often the reason why inconsistency emerges is that manufacturers do not have in place a comprehensive solution for bringing information together so that it can be analyzed.
A Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution—like Enact—makes data consistency and cohesive analysis possible because it centers around a unified, centralized data repository.
When all of your methods, data, monitoring, and analysis are consistent—because your data are stored in, and accessed from, a single repository— enterprise-wide strategic improvement is not just attainable…it becomes expected.
Protecting Your Brand
Without doubt, achieving strategic improvement with enterprise consistency can help manufacturers to make significant gains across the board—financial, efficiency, productivity, yield, flexibility, or agility. But perhaps the most important benefit is brand protection.
A manufacturing organization is only as good as the products that it produces. If a company pursues improvements in cost or yield but ends up with poor quality, or even unsafe products, then it's all been in vain.
Customers don’t care about the financial or operational performance of manufacturing companies. They care about the quality and safety of the products they consume.
Errors in quality and safety can be catastrophic for the brand, reputation, and even survival of a manufacturer—and history is littered with examples!
Issues of strategic improvement and enterprise consistency do not apply only to operational performance, but also to quality performance. Manufacturers must have the ability to implement robust quality procedures, policies, and standards consistently across their entire operations and enforce compliance with those requirements.
When quality events and risks do emerge, we need to be able to identify them and respond proactively and decisively. Only with full enterprise visibility can manufacturers truly be confident that they are protecting their customers, their company, and their brands.
We invite you to visit our website to learn more about our cloud-native Quality Intelligence solution, Enact—now available free for 3 months to new subscribers.