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Across almost every industry sector, manufacturing has evolved into an increasingly complex and demanding endeavor. Manufacturers today face volatility and disruption from rapidly changing consumer demand, geopolitical issues, and unpredictable events such as natural disasters and global pandemics.

Those dynamic and rapidly evolving challenges make today’s manufacturing environment more complex than ever. In response, manufacturers must become more agile, efficient, and faster.

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Successful organizations accomplish this by streamlining and simplifying their plant floor operations—the heart of production. Such adaptations enable an agility that allows them to offer more product formats, increase production runs, and reduce lead times, while maintaining high quality.

But manufacturers can’t address these challenges while using outdated Statistical Process Control (SPC) systems and complex processes. They need solutions equipped to deal with sudden changes and unforeseen disruptions.

Legacy vs. Next-Gen SPC

Factories today support innovation through automated machinery and inspection systems, intelligent sensors, robotics, controllers, and more. But many important manufacturing processes, like data collection, are still physical processes. At these companies, plant floor data is entered manually in spreadsheets, or worse, on paper. That can result in variability, uncertainty, and unpredictability.

Many manufacturers use SPC to optimize complex manufacturing processes. But traditional SPC systems haven’t seen the same level of innovation that’s been applied to plant floor automation.

However, a next-gen SPC-based quality solution like InfinityQS Enact® is different. It provides key capabilities like data centralization, usability, process models, and exception-based reporting.

Let’s look at some key features cloud-based SPC solutions offer.

Secure, Centralized Data Enables Standardization

Legacy SPC systems that lack a unified data repository end up putting critical business information in separated, siloed locations. However, modern SPC solutions are architected around a secure, centralized cloud-based repository. This architecture offers significant advantages.

A centralized database stores not only quality data but also information such as parts, processes, specification limits, data collections, and quality check requirements. For example, a specific part (stock-keeping unit, or SKU) can be defined once and used anywhere in the organization that it is manufactured. A specific data collection or quality check requirement can be defined once and used consistently across the entire organization. And so on.

This principle of reuse promotes a high degree of standardization that is otherwise impossible to achieve. This significantly reduces the complexity involved in managing and maintaining processes and data across entire manufacturing operations.

Measurement and checklist data that is captured throughout manufacturing processes is also stored in this single unified location. This enables consistent analysis and comparisons to be performed at any level and from any dimension across an entire organization—region by region, plant by plant, line by line, process by process, shift by shift, product by product, and so on. In just a few clicks we can go from a highly aggregated summary of a region’s performance, down to the individual analysis of a particular feature on a particular part, on a particular process.

When data is standardized, that makes it easier to manage and maintain processes across manufacturing operations. Standard conventions also enable organizations to easily compare or analyze data from different plants and regions. That’s crucial to continuous improvement.

Anywhere, Anytime Access

Another important aspect of modern SPC solutions is universal access through a web browser. This allows workers to access the system through any device, at any time, and from any location. It doesn’t matter if you’re an operator on the plant floor at a workstation, a supervisor using a tablet, or a plant manager using a smartphone on the road.

Universal access eliminates the burden of complicated IT infrastructure. It also promotes flexibility, allowing workers to work remotely and see what is happening on the plant floor—even if they are not there.

Easy User Interface

Modern SPC systems focus on improving the user experience through a simple interface. Role-based dashboards provide users access to relevant information, insights, and intelligence so they can focus on performing their essential job duties, not on managing a complex system.

For example, a filling line operator on a particular line may use the same dashboard as a packaging process supervisor, but each user sees only the information relevant to their work responsibilities.

Simple user interfaces also ensure data is entered into the system correctly. And dashboards and can be built to remind workers to enter data at appropriate intervals.

Box and whisker plotClick on image to enlarge.

Process Model

Before introducing changes to production, it’s helpful to map them. Process models included in InfinityQS solutions provide an intuitive way for manufacturers to create a visual representation of real-world manufacturing processes, their relation to similar processes, and the data collection requirements for each process.

Visual process models help eliminate errors while simplifying operations management. Process models reduce complexity by enabling users to see the relationships between different processes across the entire manufacturing operation—from raw materials input to finished goods output.

Enact Process ModelClick on image to enlarge.

Simplified, Exception-Based Reporting

Reporting should surface relevant information and save time. In legacy SPC systems, operators spend time watching control charts and monitoring process parameters and quality measurements. They wait for an out-of-spec event to happen.

Instead of making users watch for exceptions, a modern SPC solution surfaces that information automatically through exception-based reporting. The system automates continuous SPC-based monitoring across the entire manufacturing operation. When abnormalities occur, the system automatically triggers a notification to the appropriate workers to identify and correct. No more continuously watching control charts.

Enact Missed Data Collection
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Better Insights from the Data You Have

A significant factor in managing complex manufacturing operations is that the data itself is complex. Data is everywhere—on paper, in spreadsheets and management reports, in ERP/MES systems, on machine HMIs, gauges, sensors, SCADA systems, notice boards—and in legacy SPC systems.

It’s a complex array of data sources and extracting meaningful insights from them can be even more complex. Unfortunately, that often means we don’t try to find that meaning. We then lose the opportunity to diagnose problems or find opportunities for improvement.

Modern SPC solutions such as Enact automate data visualization—pulling data from all those sources into a single, unified system—from which we can quickly get meaningful insights and actionable intelligence.

For example, the data stream grading capability in Enact presents users with a visual analysis of underlying data in a simple and intuitive format.

Site SummaryClick on image to enlarge.

At the highest level, this visual representation can show the performance of each critical feature across all plants using a grade A1 to C3. Clicking on an A3 cell for a particular site and feature immediately shows how that feature is performing across different lines and products across that site.

Layered detailsClick on image to enlarge.

Instantly, we can pinpoint where we have potential issues and where we have opportunities for quick wins in terms of performance gains.

To achieve that same level of insight without Enact would take a whole lot of time and effort, and a whole lot of statistical wizardry. This illustrates how next-generation SPC solutions, like Enact, can mitigate data complexity and turn what might currently be “information overload” into easily accessible, intuitive insights and actionable intelligence.

Tools for a Complex Future

There’s no indication modern manufacturing will become less complex anytime soon. Today’s manufacturing organizations are outgrowing their legacy SPC solutions.

But a modern SPC system such as Enact gives manufacturers the tools to address these complex challenges and increase their efficiency. It’s time to enable an operational transformation through simplifying shop floor operations and leveraging the important quality data you already collect.

If you are looking to digitize your shop floor, InfinityQS can help. Read this executive brief to learn more about why overhauling an outdated SPC system is crucial to managing complex manufacturing operations.