Improving efficiency is essential for manufacturers to stay competitive. They need to use the latest technology and software on their production lines and develop new ways of looking at problems. They also need to know where to focus their efforts.
An efficient factory floor focuses on:
- Pinpointing production issues
- Promoting standardization
- Careful data collection
Pinpointing Production Issues
We’ve helped companies fix almost every kind of production issue you can think of, including trouble on the production line of a toilet paper manufacturer. At its most basic, making toilet paper is a process of transforming magazines and other paper products into nice, soft paper squares. One step along the way involves giant rollers the size of two-story houses that gather wet pulp out of a slurry. The rollers spin the paper dry before sending it to the “slitters,” which cut it into squares.
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Things usually work until they don’t, and for whatever reason, one day the paper just fell off the rollers. Instead of paper being fed into the slitters, it was shooting all over the floor like silly string from a cannon. Everyone went into panic mode to get the issue sorted out. Hopefully, your problems aren’t quite so dramatic.
Every system with hundreds or thousands of moving parts will eventually run into trouble. Usually, when something breaks, it’s pretty easy to determine the cause of it. You just work backwards until you find the break in the process. And, typically, there are documented fixes for those sorts of occurrences.
But, sometimes, more insidious things happen. Some problems just wreak havoc on quality and schedule, and leave people wondering what is going wrong, and what the root cause is. Determining the root cause of unwanted variations can be a time-consuming, exhausting effort.
To pinpoint production issues, you need insight into your manufacturing process. Manufacturing is a series of transformations. Every step in the process, every input and output, from raw materials all the way to finished product, is a transformation. Ensuring quality on the production line requires collecting the right data while these transformations occur.
Putting a sampling strategy in place, where necessary, allows you to collect data and confirm that transformations remain effective. This can be as simple as asking two questions:
- Did the transformation occur?
- Was the expected outcome achieved?
By collecting the right data along the entire production line, you can detect any undesirable variations. This will allow you to then isolate where and when the variations occurred, and ultimately get to the root cause of the problem a lot faster.
If your manufacturing process was simple—say only two or three steps—then identifying the source of the problem would be easy. But that’s not the real world, so efficient manufacturers use the right tools help them work faster.
Modern statistical process control (SPC) tools like InfinityQS’ Enact Quality Intelligence platform enable manufacturers to pinpoint production issues more easily. Operations teams receive automatic notifications and alerts at critical points throughout the production process. This maximizes uptime by quickly sorting through hundreds of potential sources of variation until the right one is found. Reducing the time it takes to investigate and discover the root cause of a problem greatly improves production efficiency.
See how modern manufacturing teams use Enact to Improve Efficiency and Productivity.
Manufacturers, like almost everyone else, are shifting from on-premises servers and workstations to the cloud. As we move into this seemingly inevitable future, let’s hope that we don’t make the same mistakes we did using pencils and paper.
Let’s be frank: you feel safe with paper and pencil. At least until the ice cream truck theory takes effect.
The ice cream truck theory goes like this: Betty knows where everything is. She knows which filing cabinet has the info the auditor is seeking, and which folders contain which customers’ information. But then one day Betty is run down by an ice cream truck. Now, you can’t find anything. (The more common version of the story involves a beer truck, but we’re trying to keep things light. So, ice cream for everyone!)
Avoid single points of failure
Betty represents a single point of failure. If she’s gone, the whole thing falls apart. And the harsh reality is that you can create the same mess electronically. It’s easy for two people to create two different databases for their quality data. This can work okay until management decides that they want a single, centralized database for the entire company.
Trying to combine two quality databases is a lot of work. And if you have a dozen databases? You’ll be praying for that ice cream truck.
Problems like single points of failure or multiple databases can be avoided if everyone is putting their data into a single location with a standardized format that they trust.
A capable solution like Enact is a shortcut to standardization. A quality intelligence platform keeps data uniform by enforcing a regimented, diligent, thoughtful, organizational structure. To enter a data point into Enact, you need to assign it a part, process, and feature, and more. You’re prevented from inputting data that is not properly organized, structured, and tagged.
Investing in this level of rigor and detail upfront pays off in the form of simplified and speedy data retrieval. And this is reflected further downstream, too, with easy reporting and powerful analysis.
This ability to quantify and measure inputs and outputs extends to the entire production process. There is a place for everything in InfinityQS solutions. This means that Enact users, both operators and quality pros, experience improved efficiency and productivity.
Careful Data Collection
While a capable SPC platform like InfinityQS Enact is rigorous in how data is input and stored, it should make collecting it simple. On the production floor, data can be collected many different ways: manually, with handheld devices, from sensors, from reading other files, and via timers.
To aid in the process of data collection, InfinityQS offers add-on tools like Dynamic Scheduler. This module employs an easy-to-read schedule and automated data collection reminders. Also available is Data Management System (DMS), which helps teams automatically collect measurement values from a multitude of data sources and store them directly in the database.
Another aspect of driving workplace efficiency is keeping scheduled tasks on schedule. Operators are busy, so they need to be reminded in advance of data collection tasks. InfinityQS helps customers organize data collection by setting up requirements, reminders, and countdowns. Here's an example of some data collection reminders, with missed data collection notifications (on the left) and countdowns (located below images). Note that in this example, the operator has 1:43 left to perform a torque check in Enact
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These tools are also great for remaining in compliance. When external regulatory bodies need to know about data collection compliance statistics, your SPC software platform should make it easy to report. Was data collected on time? Were any of the measurements late? Were any measurements missed? These questions can all be answered by Enact. Once you’ve completed the initial setup for data collection requirements, reminders, and countdowns, the system handles the rest.
Proper data storage is only a start. In order for a system to improve efficiency it must retrieve data properly, too. Manufacturers need to be able to quickly pull the information they need to get answers to questions. This requires knowing how data are related. Enact’s Quality Intelligence solutions make these connections between data clear.
All Enact entries store part, process, and part feature. In ProFicient™ software, all entries contain part, process, and test. In both cases, these key elements that manufacturers need to make decisions are always related to a piece of data. They also collect other data points like time stamp and source, which could be a machine tool, sensor, or employee.
These features all work together to improve production quality. By tagging data elements with these markers, product inspection teams can see where an issue starts and how it affected production both upstream and downstream from the alert. Using this data, the root cause can be discovered and resolved more efficiently.
Reporting and Data Visualization
InfinityQS Quality Intelligence solutions enable customers to visualize their data. Both the cloud and on-premises solutions offer histograms, control charts, Box and Whisker plots, and Pareto charts. Enact customers can also drill down into data streams across multiple sites, using the stream analysis, stream grading, bubble charts, and site summary features.
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Stream grading really simplifies process performance analysis by letting users easily zoom from a site-level view to an individual data stream view. Doing this shows where process improvements can have the most impact on product yield. (Learn more about Enact’s stream grading capabilities in this white paper.)
This easy, at-a-glance technology enables operators to keep an eye on things without adding more to their daily routines. Manufacturers increase efficiency by pinpointing issues on the production line, striving for standardization, and keeping a sharp eye on data collection. Enact helps them do all three, ultimately increasing productivity and impacting the bottom line.
We invite you to visit our website to learn more about the benefits of modernizing your SPC toolset.