Manufacturing finds itself at a crossroads. Organizations have faced a truly monumental disruption that has forced adaptation at a breakneck pace. The experience has profoundly affected most manufacturers at an operational level. But many savvy manufacturers are also seeing this as an opportunity to rethink how they approach many aspects of their business with the aim of improving flexibility and agility.
For more than three decades, InfinityQS has focused on this kind of transformation, providing solutions grounded in Statistical Process Control (SPC) fundamentals and world-class analytics, and enabling leaders to re-imagine the role of quality data to achieve true, overall manufacturing optimization.
Enact®, our cloud-native Quality Intelligence platform, offers plant leadership a variety of ways in which to make their operations more effective. Let’s take a look at six Enact capabilities that are particularly important to modern manufacturing right now.
1. Focusing on Exceptions
Exception reporting has long been a core capability of InfinityQS solutions. On the plant floor, the operator’s real focus is making product, and any time spent away from that—for instance, time spent entering information into quality software—is a distraction. Operators are busy, so when it’s time to collect data or perform a check, they need to know only what’s required right now, so they can get on with their regular job.
That’s where exception-based reporting comes in. Often, quality procedures require operators to look at a wall of charts showing information about a process—and take the time to figure out what about that process is meaningful.
Focusing on exceptions is somewhat of a paradigm shift for manufacturers. It means looking only at data that shows performance variances—the exceptions—so that it’s faster and easier to determine what action to take.
Enact brings that information to the surface, showing users only the issues that they need to care about. That way they can focus on performing the most important aspect of their job—manufacturing consistent, high-quality products for your company.
Enact not only enables but also enforces focusing on exceptions through role-based dashboards. The capability is something we’ve done for years in ProFicient™, our flagship on-premises quality management solution, via notifications. And we’ve carried that capability into Enact.
Why Now is the Time for Focusing On Exceptions
When there’s an issue on your production line—a specification or statistical violation—you want your people to be able to react quickly, resolve the issue, and move on. Right? Everyone on the plant floor doesn’t need to know about it. Just the operator of the line in question, the supervisor, and maybe the quality manager—the people who are responsible for taking appropriate action.
With Enact’s exception-based reporting, when a product demonstrates unexpected behavior like excessive variation or being out-of-spec, the appropriate people are notified. They are not inundated with extraneous information, nor are they waylaid by other concerns. They receive notification about the specific issue in question.
2. Workflows Take Accountability to the Next Level
Enact takes accountability and brings it to the next level through workflows that enable operators, quality engineers, supervisors, and others to respond consistently and effectively to process- and quality-related events. Workflows capture valuable contextual information that can be used by anyone in your organization to better manage or prevent similar events in the future.
Workflows document causes, actions, comments, and other relevant information, as captured by your front-line employees. They’re accountable, and share their knowledge so that when (not if) an event occurs again, that knowledge is put to use, and issues are mitigated. It’s a great use of technology to strengthen any team or organization.
And workflows standardize procedures, providing a great way to ensure that your people are doing the things that you need them to do in response to issues. Accountability through workflows keeps everyone on the same page.
3. Get the Benefits of an Electronic System in More Places
Enact is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) quality management solution. Because it is browser-based and cloud-native, it opens up the quality management experience to more devices.
In many facilities, workstations on the plant floor are enclosed to protect the sensitive computing equipment from extreme temperature, moisture, dust, or whatever harsh (or even caustic) environment may exist on the plant floor. The enclosure can sometimes cost three, four, or five times what the technology housed inside costs. That’s crazy when you think about it.
That cost can cause manufacturers to scale back on the instances of quality software they keep out on the floor because they don’t want to pay for that many enclosures. Understandable, don’t you think?
Other times, manufacturers pull back the number of instances of quality software on their plant floor because—for dedicated computers—they would have to run an additional ethernet cable for a network drop out there.
With a mobile system like Enact, these issues disappear. Because Enact is browser-based, all you need are wireless access points. Now you can have as many devices as you need (tablets are typically much cheaper than dedicated PCs) and they can either be kept in protective cases or simply removed from the area for cleanings and minor maintenance.
4. Enjoy the Benefits of Centralized Quality Management
The global market is extraordinarily competitive now. There’s too much at stake and never enough time. A great way to avoid small problems becoming big ones, to be nimble, to think on your feet, is with centralized management.
In years past, you could get away with not having centralized management for your quality efforts. But no longer. Modern manufacturing requires you to be agile enough to turn on a dime. You need to be able to examine what’s happening in real time in your plants, decide what to do about it, and implement your decision. Quickly.
You don’t have to train everyone to do everything. Your people don’t need to know how to re-configure your quality software when something changes. You need to be able to make quick decisions about a new part or configuration and enable it from a central team. A few administrators. One action. Everyone sees it on the plant floor. Done.
Centralized and standardized configuration reduces the burden on your plant, on your time-starved operators (who really shouldn’t be doing this sort of thing anyway) and makes you agile. Upper management decides to make a new widget, an administrator creates the widget in the software, and all the operators instantly see that it is now available to select when they start their shift. And they are all on the same page when they get the news that “Congratulations! Widget One was so successful, we’re making a Widget Two!”
5. Easier End-User Training Allows Employees to be Cross-Trained and More Flexible
How do you make end-user training easier, enabling your employees to be quickly cross-trained and thus more flexible? Enact does it by making the interface as consistent as possible. Dashboards are a great example of this consistency.
Dashboards deliver many benefits for users, including (but not limited to) time savings for both the user and the person configuring the system, consistency, quick and thorough analysis, and adaptability.
The value of consistency in manufacturing can’t be overstated. With everyone using the same dashboards in Enact, you are guaranteed that they are all using the same analysis and metrics.
In addition, everyone can rest easy knowing that the dashboard always looks the same. But its contents may change depending on what the user is currently responsible for. So, if you want to cross-train an operator to manage line 2 in addition to line 1, no problem. The dashboard will evoke the same muscle memory, even though the information they’ll deal with may be different. The important thing is that when they’re responsible for line 1, they’ll see line 1 data, notifications, and alerts.
And how is this making your employees more flexible? Well, when the operator for line 1 is away from the plant floor, the operator from line 2 can quickly and easily cover. When an employee is ill for an extended period of time, you can rest assured that the duties of that employee are fulfilled by another. And so on. You can see how in times of uncertainty Enact can virtually expand your workforce to cover all your lines.
In addition, when an operator is filling in for someone else, you don’t need to worry about them being lost when they interact with the information on the dashboard. The look and feel are exactly the same; the information just pertains to a different line now. There’s nothing for the fill-in operator to interpret; simple, consistent, exception-based reporting takes the guesswork out of the information they see.
6. No Need to Pull Data for Regional or Corporate Review
Imagine how great that will be! This is great news. When supervisors or corporate management need/want data, they have no need to go knocking on anyone’s door or walking down to the plant floor.
What seems to happen frequently is that internal site-level quality departments, the folks who address “putting out fires” with customers, tend to be the data-pullers. They end up pulling and culling what they need from whatever system is in use, exporting it out to a spreadsheet, formatting it, and then sending it out to the customer—probably with an explanation. Painful. Time consuming.
With access to Enact, supervisors and management can see whatever they need to see right in the software, with just a few mouse clicks. They have it right at their fingertips…all the time. Whenever they need it.
Keep working on what really matters
The current global pandemic is remarkable in size and scope, but it is by no means unique as a manufacturing challenge. Manufacturers understand the need to adapt—and today, they are realizing how much a modern, data-driven solution can enable the agility they need.
These kinds of capabilities are what will make a real difference. Centralizing and standardizing management, simplifying operations, and empowering meaningful action will enable your manufacturing organization to not just recover but also thrive going forward.
Transforming operations in this way can seem like an overwhelming undertaking. But it doesn’t have to be. InfinityQS is offering Enact free for 3 months to help manufacturers in their recovery efforts. In addition, we include professional services at no cost to help you set up a Proof of Concept that will get you on the path to Enact implementation. Learn more at our website.