8 myths about SPC software your boss believes (and how to dispel them)

Is there anything more frustrating than a commonly believed myth? Dispelling myths can be difficult, especially when they’re believed by decision makers who affect your ability to do your job. Below are some of the top SPC software myths that your boss believes and the logic that can help you dispel them. 

 

1. Quality is the engineer’s job. Why do we need SPC software to fix/maintain our quality?

Producing quality requires SPC Software

There is no better place to start than here. Without a doubt, when we speak to engineers who are getting pushback from upper management, this is the #1 comment they get. What do you say to overcome this? 

The short answer: SPC software is a tool, not a robot. It gives you data, tells you where and when your processes are out of control, but it doesn’t tell you what to do or how to do it. Regarding quality, knowing what to do and how to do it is the engineer’s job.

Saying that the engineer doesn’t need SPC software to fix/maintain your quality is kind of like saying you don’t need to get your accountant tax software in order to make sure that your organization’s taxes are done right. It’s about having the right tool for the job

2. It’s only for large, mostly automated manufacturers.

It’s important here to get a short history lesson in SPC. Walter Shewhart essentially invented SPC in 1924. Automated manufacturing didn’t really exist yet. W. Edwards Deming took SPC over to post war Japan where manufacturing was crippled and attempting to get back on its feet. Most of the organizations Deming worked with were globally very small and robotic manufacturing was at best a fledgling concept. SPC was and is a tool that relies on methodology, rules, and a culture of quality. SPC software is accessible for all, regardless of size or how manufacturing is done.

We have customers ranging in size from multi-national corporations that manage multiple suppliers and need enterprise level solutions to job shops that need simpler solutions to produce the same outcomes: high quality product that they can take pride in. 

Today, SPC software has expanded beyond manufacturing. You can use SPC software to track and control any process that has measurable inputs, variation, and a quantifiable outcome. In recent years, the healthcare field has been using it more and more. Want to see how a visitor washing their hands before entering a hospital wing affects patient infection rates? Use SPC software. You’ve got measurable inputs, variation, and quantifiable outcomes. One of the most interesting recent applications of SPC software we’ve seen is in education. Again, you’ve got measurable inputs, PLENTY of variation, and outputs that can be quantified.

3. The man hours saved and efficiency created kills jobs.

Just because a company is focused on efficiency and uses SPC software doesn’t mean that they will cut jobs.

The grand slam of utilizing SPC software is that you’re able to produce more product, at higher quality, with lower scrap rates, and in the same amount of time with the existing number of employees. When organizations are able to do this, all they’re spending money on to produce the additional product is power, supplies, and raw materials (but even the raw material cost may not be that high if you’re reducing your scrap rate). The costs of equipment, overhead, and labor are the same as they were before they started using SPC software, so essentially you have zero cost on all of those. 

In words your boss will care about: your profit margin just increased exponentially. Without raising prices, you’re able to make more money per unit than before. At this point, you can do at least three things to grow that don’t require killing jobs:

  • lower prices to increase market share (you can make the same margin as before but at a more competitive price point)
  • keep prices the same (and make more margin than before)
  • raise prices because the quality has gone up and the price is justified (you can make a much higher margin than before) 

With any of these options, you can invest the increased profits in expanding into new markets, making new products, or creating more demand for existing products. All of these investments would create new jobs.

4. It only affects the quality department.

 

W. Edwards Deming believed that improvement in any company relied heavily on viewing the organization as a complex system with several internal and external interrelated connections and interactions. Seeing the organization in terms of isolated departments puts you in a constant state of symptom management. Conversely, seeing the interconnectedness of all of your processes, departments, and environmental factors allows you to focus on cures.

To quote from The Book of Statistical Process Control:

“Morale will most likely increase as SPC is implemented. As morale improves, workers take more pride in their work. More pride improves product quality. Better products and lower prices increase sales and product demand, which in turn creates more jobs.”

The Book of Statistical Process Control p.15-16

Improving your quality improves all other parts of your organization. Just for its ability to improve morale alone, SPC software’s results are worth it. Improved morale is key to employee retention, sales, and marketing. SPC software and the results it produces affects your organization far beyond just the improvements it makes in your quality department.

5. Too complex and hard to adapt to.

This is one of our favorites.

From a technical standpoint, this is just patently untrue. For your operators, if they’re already doing normal and standard quality measurements and know how to punch numbers into a keypad, it’s not too complex. Regarding managers, if they know how to run reports and read charts, it’s not too complex. And of course, for the engineers, nothing is too complex.

We can’t speak for all providers’ SPC software programs, but for us, we can teach you how to use the software in one day. Beyond that day, we provide free customer and technical support support, and the software setup time is negligible. You can go from installation to data entry in as little as 30 minutes

From a motivational standpoint, we have found that most organizations vastly underestimate their employees’ ability and desire to “get on board”. Employees take pride in making quality product. The tools and insight provided by SPC software can show them what it takes to produce it.

6. We don’t need it because the defects always fall within the scrap allotment parameters.

We can say with 100% confidence that your boss would LOVE to significantly reduce scrap costs. Year after year, quarter after quarter, they are under stress to hit projected numbers for profitability. Reducing scrap levels is one of the easiest ways for them to do that. Mention that SPC software can pay for itself in the reduced scrap cost alone and you’ve already made a pretty convincing argument. For Foam Design, SPC software paid for itself in a matter of weeks. For Portage Plastics, it paid for itself in the first year and they cut their product return rate to less than half a percent

 

7. It’s only useful on isolated projects where a customer requires it. There’s no long term value.

First, while SPC software is certainly valuable when the customer requires it, it’s extremely short sighted to say that there’s no long term value.

W. Edwards Deming’s third point in his 14 points for management talks about reducing or eliminating the dependence on time consuming and costly mass inspection to achieve quality. Instead, he emphasized using process control through statistical techniques. SPC software is a valuable tool when it comes to achieving and maintaining quality. It can set you on a path toward continuous improvement. 

Second, knowing that you will have future customer audits from time to time anyway, recording all of your data with SPC software allows you maintain a constant state of audit readiness. When a customer asks you what your quality is like, you already have the data to show them. No need to sort through paper or try to remember which spreadsheet you saved your information on. It’s all right there. 

Third, if you’re already collecting data on paper anyway, you might as well get more value from it. In addition to being able to look back at and analyze historical data, if your SPC software is real-time, you are also able to take advantage of early detection. Getting an alert ahead of time that a process is about to go out of control is WAY more valuable than finding out after the fact. It’s the difference between “you’re about to waste a bunch of money if you don’t change the course you’re on” and “you just wasted a bunch of money that you can’t get back”. 

 

8. The ROI is slow compared to buying new machines.

This one is simple. We can show you ROI in as little as 2 months, whereas machines can take as many as 5-10 years. Additionally, the machine’s technology may be out of date by the time it starts meeting the ROI requirements. SPC software’s technology can be updated at any time without needing to purchase a new product. Our software is consistently updated and all active customers get free upgrades. Also, the yearly maintenance cost for SPC software is considerably lower than a typical machine’s. It never “breaks down”, so you don’t have to worry about unplanned downtime.

Additionally, SPC software can help you produce better results from your existing machines. This increases your ROI even more, not only on your SPC software, but also on your machines.

 

Any way you look at it, there’s no question that SPC software is worth it’s weight in gold. Some people just take more convincing than others, especially when myths like these exist. If you’re still having trouble convincing your boss that SPC software is worth it, fell free to reach out to us. We’ve been dispelling SPC software myths since 1983

Upgrading For Industry 4.0 Has Never Been Easier

The Future is Now

Zontec adds Keyence Interface Module to updated Multi-function Toolbox Version 3.0

If you read any industry publications at all, you’re constantly hearing about Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Previously separate devices, factories and people are constantly being integrated and are now communicating with each other. Technology is making tasks that used to take hours now take mere seconds, and the manufacturing industry is keeping pace.

Zontec’s Multi-Function toolbox takes that concept to the next level.

 

The Importance of Measurements

As we all know, you’re only able to improve what you measure. If you want to improve the quality of your product, you have to measure it. Once you’ve got the data from your measurements, you’re able to analyze and act accordingly.

As a manufacturer, it is imperative that you measure your quality both accurately and efficiently. Measuring accurately ensures that you have the right information about where improvements need to be made and measuring efficiently ensures that you don’t spend all of your time measuring and analyzing.

Accuracy without efficiency leads to making high quality product slower and efficiency without accuracy leads to making poor quality product faster. Neither model is sustainable. You need both: high efficiency and perfect accuracy. Unfortunately, they tend to be inversely proportional. How can you increase one without decreasing the other? How can you get the best of both worlds?

The answer: the Keyence Instant Measurement Machine paired with Zontec’s Multifunction toolbox.

 

Push-Button Measuring

Keyence’s Instant Measurement Machine is an Optical Comparator that increases both the accuracy and efficiency of your measurement process, ensuring that any quality improvement actions you take are successful. It removes operator error, measurement inconsistency, training time, and data entry speed. With the push of a button, you can measure any part with +/- 2 µm accuracy.

  • Want to hire more operators but tired of training employees to properly measure?
    • This requires no training.
  • Need to measure multiple parts at the same time?
    • This allows you to do that.
  • Having difficulty manually measuring rounded parts and curved surfaces?
    • Not anymore.

With the push of a button, the Keyence Instant Measurement Machine allows you to measure up to 99 dimensions on up to 100 parts at a time, easily and accurately, even those with round and curved surfaces.

 

Data-Collection on Steroids

The Keyence Instant Measurement Machine is an amazing tool that makes your measurements both more accurate and more efficient and it’s even more amazing when you pair it with the SynergySPC Multi-function Toolbox. With the Multi-function Toolbox, your measurement and data collection processes become even more efficient. The Multi-Function Toolbox pulls all of the measurement data taken by the Keyence Instant Measurement Machine into your SPC data tables, giving you lightning-fast insight into your product quality in real-time. 

Current users Fastco Industries say that previous to using the Multi-Function Toolbox, entering 300 data points would have taken 30 minutes. That process now takes 30 seconds, a time savings of 77%. Said Brian Kropp, Quality Control Manager for Fastco, “[This system] provides measurements in seconds that you would normally have to use 2 to 3 other measurement tools for. We can import these dimensions into Synergy. Most people are very impressed with it, as I was.”

 

Supercharge your quality control initiatives today! Contact a representative from Zontec for more information on how you can make your measurement and data collection processes highly efficient and perfectly accurate.

Request a Demo

 

What’s the value of piece of mind?

A Story: Cost vs. Value

A friend of mine was helping his son move out of the house and across the country this past weekend. As most 20 year olds do, his son “had it all figured out” and had “taken care of all the details”. “Don’t worry about it Dad, I’m an adult and can take care of myself,” he said.  

value

At one point in the move, my friend needed to move the U-Haul his son had rented for the move. After tossing him the keys, his son said, “Be real careful with it Dad. I didn’t buy the insurance.” My friend asked why he didn’t buy the insurance. The response was fairly predictable, coming from a 20 something who thinks he’s going to live forever: “I didn’t want to the spend $14 to insure the vehicle. I figured if I’m just really careful, I won’t have to pay the money for the insurance and everything will be ok.”

My friend’s response was also predictable, coming from man with 55+ years of experience in the randomness and unpredictability of life: “I see. So you just figured $14 was too much to pay to protect the vehicle and that you’d rather just pay the whole $45,000 to replace the vehicle if something goes wrong, right?”

The Lesson

There are several lessons here. The first has to do with the wisdom that comes with age and the hubris of youth. To wit, Mark Twain once said:

“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

But another deeper lesson is here as well, and it has to do with cost vs. value. Too often, people look at the cost of doing something vs. doing nothing as a cost that doesn’t need to be incurred because it’s not something they’re currently spending money on.

Those of us who have the benefit of wisdom that comes with age know that while cost is something to be considered, the value is often more important. Any fool can look at the cost of paying $14 for insurance vs. not paying for the insurance and see that in the present, it’s better to spend $0 than to spend $14.

A wise person looks to the future though and sees what that $14 is buying: insurance. Protection. Piece of mind.

What this means to us

In the manufacturing world, a certain degree of variation always exists. This is why we do what we do. We give companies of all sizes and in all industries the tools to know, in real-time, the where, what, when, why, and how much when it comes to variance. We help you figure out what could be improved with your processes to reduce your costs and ultimately your risk.  The essence of SPC is probability—bringing a greater degree of certainty to an uncertain world.

Is there a cost to these tools? Yes, although it’s probably less than you would think. Are these tools valuable? 5,000 companies think so. So there’s only one question that really matters when we’re talking about cost vs. value:

What is the value of piece of mind to you?

Poor Quality Is Everywhere

This past weekend, I went out for a ride on the local bike path. This path is well loved and experiences a fair amount of traffic, so I guess I shouldn’t have been all that surprised when I saw a sign alerting walkers, runners, and cyclists “Rough Pavement Ahead”.

A maintenance crew had put down fresh asphalt recently, but the surface ended up being fairly rough and you could see lines where the roller had spent too much time on some parts and not enough time on others. This wasn’t a big deal. I stood up on the pedals, experienced a bumpier ride than normal, then I was past it and back to much smoother pavement.

Less than a quarter mile later, there was another “Rough Pavement Ahead” sign. Again, not a big deal, but by the time I rode through the 6th “Rough Pavement Ahead” section within 2 miles, I was a little irritated. I’m not an engineer, but I couldn’t help but think like one:

How could you improve the quality and repeatability of the asphalt repair process?

At what point do you recognize there’s a problem and decide that you need to figure out a better way to do things?

Symptom management is not the same thing as medicine

Thinking even more broadly, when do you start to look at the waste involved? I asked a friend and found out that repairing the path in this way is a regular occurrence. At what point do the powers that be decide that enough is enough: we’re wasting too much time and money putting out fires. We need to be more proactive. We need to reduce or eliminate defects sooner in the process. We don’t need more firetrucks, we need to create a fireproof environment.

Constantly putting out fires wastes time, money, and other resources that could be put toward growth. In the case of the bike path, that growth is expansion of the trail. In the case of your company, that growth is expansion into new markets, landing more customers, and creating more jobs.

At what point do you say, “enough is enough”?

Learn more about how SPC Software can help. 

 

 

How Do I Know If I Have Issues With Quality?

When is the best time to look at improving your quality?

This is kind of like asking when is the best time to check the batteries in your smoke detector (Hint: BEFORE there’s a fire). Likewise, the best time to check if you have quality issues is before a disaster happens. Once disaster strikes, you’re usually too busy putting out fires and trying to get your head above water to do any work on future disaster prevention.

If you successfully avert the crisis, you’re quickly back to business as usual–HOPING that no quality issues come up to put your job and company’s future at risk again. As we know though, hope is not a plan. Hope is a wish. Hope is crossing fingers that no fires break out instead of paying $100 to get batteries, a smoke detector, and a fire extinguisher. Regardless of whether you just averted a crisis (lost a customer, failed an audit, etc.) or haven’t had one happen in a while, now is the perfect time to start asking questions about improving your quality.

The cost of poor quality is getting higher every day.

Those who don’t take the time to look into improving their quality suffer predictable fates. No one, regardless of size or prestige, is immune to this. As an example, just this past week, the U.S. Air Force found poor quality on six of seven Joint Stars aircraft built by contractor Northrop Grumman. Forget about the maintenance costs involved in getting the existing planes back up to required performance levels. The big story here is that now the Air Force is looking for replacement aircraft, which means that Northrop Grumman will have to compete side by side with competitors like Boeing and Lockheed Martin to keep the business they already won–all while trying to convince the Air Force that the quality issues they just had won’t happen again.

What’s a reputation of quality worth to you?

Will Rogers once said, “It takes a lifetime to build a good reputation, but you can lose it in a minute”. The cowboy/actor was right. On paper, the cost of doing anything to improve your quality may be higher than the cost of doing nothing, especially if you haven’t had any problems recently. However, the risk is huge and the cost becomes very high once you do have a problem. Unfortunately, at that point it’s too late. You’ve either frustrated or lost your customer and will continue to do so if you don’t change. You need to act now, before it’s too late.

Regardless of whether you just averted a crisis, haven’t had one happen in a while, or have never had one happen, NOW is the perfect time to start looking into ways to improve your quality. Because nothing is more expensive than a lost reputation.

 

Learn more about SPC software and how it can help you improve and maintain your quality.