So your team has been charged with selecting, purchasing and implementing a key manufacturing system like SPC. In addition to searching for qualified vendors, these teams are tasked with building a financial case for return on investment. They must construct a case and quantify financial gains from things like reduced scrap or more efficient use of machinery to pay for the new SPC implementation or other technology investments. In the drive to show that the savings cover the investment, what might be overlooked? Are there hard to quantify, intangible benefits that come from a data driven quality system? I believe there are significant intangible reasons to implement SPC across an enterprise. Reasons that, in the end, may be more important than those that are used to quantify the original investment. It is important that teams consider these “hard to quantify” benefits as part of a comprehensive understanding of the benefits of the entire project.
Here are four intangible benefits we see over and over.
Eliminate the gut
We are not talking about an unsightly belly but the gut feel or intuition that can drive so many shop floor decisions. Experienced team members are highly valuable to any manufacturing company. However, there are situations where their experience can hinder really digging into why a production process is not performing. They fall back on their years of experience and, at times, go with what their gut says.
An intangible benefit our customers have realized is eliminating the gut feelings and replacing them with data supported arguments. Team meetings are elevated as the facts are debated—not just different group members’ opinions. Again and again, this is one of the first things we hear from clients when we ask them what has improved in their work life since implementing a quality solution.
End the data shuffle
Excel spreadsheets rule the world or ruin it depending on who one asks. They make it easy to enter a few numbers, work up some calculations and instant answers. However, in reality the answers are rarely instant. Valuable hours are spent tracking down data to feed the spreadsheet monster. Multiple people are asked to feed in data to complete the analysis. Then when it is all done, the process starts in earnest again. The worst part, although Office 365 has helped a bit, the spreadsheet remains isolated on a difficult to access hard drive with little chance of wider visibility.
It is not uncommon for someone in a quality role to spend 10 or 15 hours a week shuffling data and compiling spreadsheets. A recent convert from spreadsheets related how one quality engineer reduced their weekly report building time from 15 hours to about five minutes. That’s it. Could this have been quantified, sure, but these types of savings are rarely in the initial justification. They happen later as people start to use the software more effectively, enjoying the benefit of reliable, timely data at their fingertips. The best part is the hidden data factory has been shut down and people’s time can be shifted to more productive pursuits. More significant savings!
Apples to Apples
How one line, shift or plant is performing against another is a common question we help companies answer, but what is the value of readily available apples to apples comparisons? The ability of a company to present key quality values consistently, across the enterprise, has significant value. Clear visualizations show where performance is highest, improving or in need of assistance. However, consistent visibility is key. Get it out in front of as many people as possible in ways that tell a clear story.
Nurture a culture of quality
Finally, building and maintaining a strong, positive corporate culture of any kind is tough. It takes long haul vision and hard work. Companies that want to be known for quality must nurture that culture and use a comprehensive quality software system to support it. Perhaps your company has made a recent commitment to changing the way business is done and increased its emphasis on quality or is continuing a long tradition of putting quality first. Employees need to see regularly what that commitment to quality means from throughout the ranks. Otherwise one’s efforts will wither as questions are asked about why we collect all this data but nobody does anything with it.
Quantifiable and unquantifiable benefits
Well executed, comprehensive statistical process control software can drive financial benefits to a company’s bottom line quickly. It pays for itself in a short time. But perhaps your company has already improved quality with spreadsheets or point of pain fixes that knocked the low hanging fruit and significant financial payoffs are harder to come by. Make the case for intangible benefits like the ones mentioned here. Decision makers do value things other than just the bottom line. Build a vision for them of a quality improvement journey that includes things like data driven decisions, ending the data shuffle, nurturing a quality culture and consistent, useful reporting. Not things that lend themselves to dollars and cents, but things that can build a competitive advantage that is the envy of your competitors. Q