In their upcoming session at The Quality Show South, Sophronia Ward, PhD and Mark Nash CSSMB, will discuss the best ways to use data, how to use software without letting it use you, and other ways to improve your manufacturing processes.

Quality: Can you tell us a little bit more about your topic and how you came up with the idea?

Sophronia: Well, I've been thinking an awful lot about what happens in organizations that are really interested in putting an effort into quality, but don't seem to be making as much progress as perhaps they want. And it's, there's kind of a spinning the wheel sort of thing going on. And Mark and I've been talking a lot and I threw this out to him and he has put together our basic outline. Mark, why don't you take us through that?

Mark: Sure. Our topic is going to be using data to drive organizational action. And some of the things that Frony and I have been discussing over the past, man, now probably three years has been that challenge working with our clients to understand what data they ought to be using, and how they ought to be using, it.

One of the things that really has jumped off the page at us is that there are a lot of companies out there that they have software that supposedly is helping them with their quality. But what we've learned is, is that many of these companies don't really know how to use the software to attain the results they're looking for. Instead, the software uses them. They go in and do whatever the default is and march off down the road. And the second piece of it that we've been talking about is a lot of companies just don't know what data to really collect.

Sophronia: I'll piggyback on that, Mark. We had a client a couple of years ago who had four new production lines and they were collecting data on and the four new production lines were not really up to snuff yet, and they were collecting an amazing and absolutely amazing amount of data on it. And I was puzzled as to why they were collecting so much data, and it finally occurred to me that the people who selected the data to be collected weren't really thinking about the process. They were simply trying to figure out, did this particular piece meets back rather than understand how the process worked and I was flabbergasted when it finally became clear to me that they were just pushing on the wrong kind of thing.

Mark: And, and a lot of times that comes from upper management from the C suite where they decide what the KPIs of the organization are going to be. And then they decide. How they're expecting each level of the organization to report to them. And when we talk about quality, many times that just completely misses the target.

Sophronia: One other thing, Mark, one of the thing about is that there's often times a lag between when data is collected and when it's analyzed and when it gets to somebody who could probably use the results of the analysis and understand it, but, but the, uh, opportunities long since gone.

Mark: Sure. We worked with a client a couple of years ago where we saw the quality text would go out and collect the data on the lines and then come back to the lab and they would drop off the samples. And the expectation was, is that the lab would then take their measurements within 45 minutes. And in that amount of time, so you're talking anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half, depending on how long it took the text to cycle through. It might be an hour and a half before a measurement was made that said, you are out of spec and you might have a problem here. But in the meantime, you've processed and made hundreds of hundreds, if not thousands of units. And you see that you're just like, okay, we're missing the boat here. We're not taking advantage of the data that's available to us. And we're in this, in that particular case, we were measuring it wrong. We should have been measuring it on the line in an immediate situation, if that was truly a critical dimension we needed to be measuring. Instead of picking up samples and bringing them back to the lab and saying, hey, when you get around to it, check this for me. You know, we see that all the time. And the reason why they were doing that was because they had limited numbers of seats on their software license. And so they wanted to minimize those seats. And so they collected all the data and put it in at one spot. And to make it even worse then, when they had set up their outline, their framework for how they were looking at it. They were using spec limits on top of a control chart and trying to run to the spec instead of understanding what was going on with the process. And it created chaos throughout the process. I'm working with a client right now that had run into the same issue and it was amazing that as soon as they took the specs down and said, let's look at just the process, their world changed because then all of a sudden they understood what they're capable of doing.

Sophronia: And that it's really quite interesting because that difference between do you, do you determine what the process can do and is doing, and then look to see how it lines up with specs, or do you just go in and start measuring units to spec? And the latter comment I just made is an invitation to disaster, because the process itself is such an interesting entity. It does what it wants to do. Unless you choose to understand the critter, you will not know how to adjust it or how to impact it to do what you would like for it to do because it has a mind of its own.

Mark: Yeah. You know, when you turn people loose without the knowledge and tell them to collect data and measure data and it should meet this, if they don't know how to, number one, if they don't know what to collect and number two, they don't know what they're doing with it other than recording a number. Are you really making any improvement? And that's a very interesting situation that I'll be honest with you. We run into it an awful lot.

Sophronia: I was working with a company in the late eighties, early nineties. And I know that history is not necessarily, it doesn't impress a whole lot of people, but at that point, the folks had gotten online software, finally, rather than doing all the kind of stuff we talk about by hand. And with that online software, they were touting, this is really great. All the measurements come into the engineering department. And they can then understand and figure out what to do, and then let the quality people know what they've learned. Meanwhile, you have gone through what? Two or three departments worth of folks that just don't communicate with each other. And then you, what, maybe two days later, you might have some answers and it's way too late.

Mark: Yeah. Some of the other issues that we've been discussing that I think really drove us to this presentation for The Quality South show, circles around how you set yourself up for success. And it's been kind of a breath of fresh air for me the last, I don't know, probably the last year, year and a half, I've actually started working with a couple of different companies that they have decided that they're going to just reset the quality bar. And they've asked for training and consulting help to develop their quality system, essentially from the ground up again. They're like, can we come in and get some APQP training? We want to understand what all that's, what's involved in it. How much effort is that going to take? Do I need to have everybody involved? They're asking all the right questions. And if they're willing to throw everything out and start over, I see it as a breath of fresh air, the fact that someone says, we're not doing quality right, what do we need to do to fix it? And, one company, I even challenged them on their software that they were using and they admitted that they didn't have anybody that really even knew how the software worked anymore. The engineers that had set it up had all left the company. So, you know, where do you, where do you go? And I don't know if that was what really drove them to say, do we need to start over or not? But, it's not often that we actually get that we actually get. Clients that we're working with to say, we don't know where we're at and help us. Typically, it's a specific project that they're looking for.

Listen to the rest of the interview below.

For more information, go to the 2024 Quality Show South Agenda

They will kick off the learning theaters at The Quality Show South at 10:30 a.m. on May 1.

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