If continuous improvement is your goal, mastering quality may seem like a daunting task. As with many big projects, it helps to break it down into smaller areas of focus.

In fact, tackling a few areas can help you with the big picture of better quality.

Modern manufacturing quality requires a host of techniques. Perhaps you want to optimize your data collection, prioritize quality tasks, analyze data and improve your entire organization.

While complete mastery of quality may be an elusive—and lifelong—goal, consider the many ways that you can improve processes throughout your organization. This can start at the operator level, progressing to managers noting trends, and executives finding ways to get the most out of this aggregated data and make better decisions because of it. Operational efficiency is worth aiming for.

Let’s examine a few areas of quality that you might be interested in working on:

  • Data collection
  • Compliance 
  • SPC/Control Charts 
  • Data Collection

 

Data Collection

What to do about all the data available at your facility?

If you’re struggling with data collection, know that you’re not alone.

 “There is certainly not a lack of data available,” writes Kale Panoho in Forbes. “However, the quality of that data still leaves much to be desired. A study from the Harvard Business Review discovered that data quality is far worse than most companies realize, saying that a mere 3% of the data quality scores in the study were rated as ‘acceptable.’”

Panoho continues, “This is problematic because low-quality data adversely impacts many areas of business performance. In particular, it can translate into incomplete customer or prospect data, wasted marketing and communications efforts, increased spending and, overall, worse decision-making. Therefore, improving data quality should be a top priority for all businesses.”

This can be accomplished with the right tools.

Timed data collection is another way to make this process easier. Consider using data collection reminders for special conditions, such as pre-op, start-up, idle, shut-down, post-op, and maintenance checks. If you’ve ever missed a quality check—an easy thing to do with so many things going on at once—you’ll appreciate the ease of timed checks.

 

Compliance

No matter how good your quality is, if you aren’t complying with quality standards, your organization won’t get very far. It almost seems impossible to adhere to standards without the right software in place. A good compliance software should make finding documentation a breeze, with all of the required information at your fingertips. Compliance can be much easier with streamlined data management and better processes in place. In fact, the right tools mean that you can be audit ready every day. Automated compliance software allows you to focus on your manufacturing processes rather than just adhering to regulations. Quality can return to its rightful place as the main driver of your work, rather than just compliance.

 

SPC/Control Charts

According to ASQ, “Statistical process control (SPC) is defined as the use of statistical techniques to control a process or production method. SPC tools and procedures can help you monitor process behavior, discover issues in internal systems, and find solutions for production issues. Statistical process control is often used interchangeably with statistical quality control (SQC).”

ASQ continues with information on the control chart, a popular SPC tool, “originally developed by Walter Shewhart in the early 1920s. A control chart helps one record data and lets you see when an unusual event, such as a very high or low observation compared with ‘typical’ process performance, occurs.”

Control charts look at two types of process variation: common cause and special cause. ASQ defines them this way: “Common cause variation, is intrinsic to the process and will always be present. Special cause variation stems from external sources and indicates that the process is out of statistical control.”

Statistical process control software has been around for a while—at least since the 1980s—but it continues to evolve and change to meet today’s quality needs.

Operational excellence is possible. It takes a dedicated approach to quality and perhaps a new way of thinking, but it is doable no matter where you are in the process. The good news is that you are likely already complying with standards and regulations, collecting data, and using SPC to improve your organization. It’s not starting from scratch—it’s simply upgrading your current processes to take your quality systems to the next level. Colleagues and customers alike will benefit from this approach.

Get the most out of your data and use it to its full extent. It’s possible to reduce scrap and rework, eliminate process variation, and maintain compliance all while improving product quality. And there’s no time like the present to get going on this mission.

Mastering quality isn’t beyond your reach. It’s time to take these ideas out of the realm of theory and into practice.