To improve your manufacturing operations, you first need to understand how they work. But uncovering your production processes is easier said than done. Simply listing a complicated string of tasks doesn’t provide any insight into how things actually work—or more importantly, how they should work.

Addressing problems in your production operations requires asking tough questions. As you ask these questions, consider not just a single department or site but also your entire organization.

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In addition, consider how much easier it would be to uncover manufacturing issues and solve production problems with a custom quality solution.


The Big Questions

When you think about how you accomplish tasks in your manufacturing operation, there are four big-picture problems to consider:

  1. How do you identify your biggest opportunities for product/process quality improvement?
  2. Once you’ve identified those opportunities, how do you prioritize your resources to address those improvement opportunities?
  3. How do you know people are collecting the data they are supposed to collect?
  4. How do you know what your biggest challenges are?

These are all tough questions to answer because they require an enterprise-wide view of your quality data AND the assurance of consistent data collection and analysis. InfinityQS’ quality intelligence platform, Enact®, can help answer these questions because it provides the necessary visibility and consistency.


Identifying Opportunities

The first question, “How do you identify your biggest opportunities for product/process quality improvement?” is the most fundamental and the starting point for all the questions that follow.

Enact allows you to look at large swaths of time and thereby uncover trends and potential problems down the road by bringing all your quality data together in a centralized data repository.

For example, in your average manufacturing environment, there are lots of machines and data collection devices, each speaking its own unique language. The Enact Quality Intelligence platform can hear what each device is saying, translate it into a common language (or format), and store everything in one place. Then, when it comes time to put it all together, all that data from across your enterprise is easily rolled up and summarized—ready to become information that you can use to improve business performance.

Bubble charts are one of the newest additions to Enact. They really help identify opportunities for improvement. Bubble charts are the intersection of the two fundamental questions most manufacturers ask of any quality intelligence platform:

  • Are we collecting all the data we’re supposed to be collecting?
  • Are our measurements “good”? That is, do the measurements meet specifications?

Bubble charts provide this information—and more— in a quick snapshot. Below is a bubble chart that shows the percentage of on-time data collections and expected yield for all critical features across 11 manufacturing sites:

bubble chart

In this example, you can easily see which sites needs help with their data collection, which sites are struggling with yield, etc. Having such a snapshot available to instantly identify where to start your quality improvement efforts is invaluable.


Prioritizing Resources

The next question is, “Once you’ve identified those opportunities, how do you prioritize your resources to address those improvement opportunities?” Enact’s stream grading feature addresses this need. Stream grading provides a unique way to roll up and interpret performance across products, processes, and sites. As the white paper Does Your Quality Data Make the Grade? explains, “Grading is a great tool for quality professionals who are ready to ‘interrogate’ their quality data—dig deeper into it than they ever have before—but need an elegant way to prioritize their efforts.”

As you can see in the graphic below, stream grading is color-coded and easy to read and use. This allows you to see not only where to prioritize your resources but also what level of effort is likely required.


This site summary tile shows each critical feature in its own column and a row for each site. You can sort the columns by performance and then click on a specific cell to drill down and learn more about the individual processes and parts that resulted in that grade. You can quickly learn which facility or production line needs prioritized attention.


Data Collection in the Crosshairs

The next fundamental question is, “How do you know people are collecting the data they are supposed to collect?” The answer is all about timed data collections. Many manufacturers shudder at the thought, which is ironic because most data collection forms (whether paper or electronic) include a “time” column that specifies a check at 8:00, 9:00, etc. In such a case, you already have implied timed data collections, but you’re relying on operators to fill in the forms correctly, on time, and according to your specifications. Do you really think the data will be collected at exactly the specified time?

Companies almost invariably ask, “Can you just give me a list of all the data collections people did today? Then I can see how many they missed.” The answer is, “Yes, but how do you know how many should have happened?”

What you really need are timed data collections. Timed data collections not only ensure that data is collected when it should be but also provide a visual countdown, so operators don’t worry about when the next collection is due. Timed data collections ensure that operators can focus on doing what they do best—running your production line—and are alerted when it’s time to perform a data collection.

Timed data collections also give quality assurance personnel and management peace of mind because they know data are being collected consistently, correctly, and on time. When a collection is missed, the appropriate people are notified and reasons are entered to explain the miscue. You get a clear list of how many data collections were on time, missed, and late.


Meeting Challenges

The final question is, “How do you know what your biggest challenges are?” The answer is a continuation of our previous discussion of timed data collections, because we’re really talking about exception-based reporting.

To continue with our example of timed data collections, a manufacturer might say, “I want to know why we’re missing timed data collections.” That’s an excellent opportunity for a Pareto chart—which InfinityQS quality intelligence solutions can quickly provide (and a lot more). You’ll know how many times each line missed checks AND the reasons they missed them. That’s exception-based reporting.

You’ll be able to answer questions such as “Where are we having the most spec-limit violations?” “Why are we having those spec-limit violations?” “Where and why are we having the most statistical violations?”—as well as “...across all of our production lines at all of our sites.”


The Power of Exception-Based Reporting

Most people can’t answer those kinds of questions today. In fact, most people don’t even think to ask the questions, because the answers seem nearly impossible to find.

InfinityQS’ quality intelligence platform, Enact, can help. Focusing on exceptions is somewhat of a paradigm shift for manufacturers. Old habits die hard. But rather than forcing operators to sift through pages of data, look at a ‘wall of charts,’ or shuffle through dozens of Paretos and Box & Whiskers, Enact brings to their attention, or ‘surfaces,’ 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.

Exception-based reporting in Enact takes place on dashboards. With control charts, you’re supposed to be in the details, in the weeds. With dashboards, you float above. Dashboards enable the kind of analysis that manufacturers can really appreciate. Rather than take an exorbitant amount of time with paper and pencil, you can make the kind of comparisons you need to make with a dashboard in a few clicks of the mouse.

And that can only be better for your operations; rather than slogging through compilations and calculations once a quarter to see how everyone is doing, isn’t it better to just keep an eye on things all the time and know how everyone is doing at all times?

reporting dashboard

To sum up, your Enact dashboard can show statistical violations or missed data checks. These are two very different things, with different actions to take—but they can exist side by side on your dashboard. Enact is a one-stop shop, giving you one place to look, big time savings, and greater efficiency.


Act Now with Enact

Enact can help answer the tough questions that manufacturers face today. Enact is a centralized repository for ALL of your quality data. It’s designed to aggregate, roll up, and slice and dice your data in many useful ways. Regardless of whether you’re a multi-site organization or a single-site factory, Enact can help improve your operations.

See Enact in action to learn how it can provide the consistent visibility and intelligence you need.