Why Do We Need Statistics Anyway? Capable and Stable Processes

Why statistics? Because they are possibly the most useful tool we have to understand what might happen. Statistics make it possible for us to make fairly accurate predictions with small groups of data. It is not possible to predict individual events but statistics will give insight to the overall results. But let’s dig deeper on why do […]

“What’s your product quality like?”

A prospective customer has a product design and ask three different manufacturers, “What’s your product quality like?” The manufacturers respond:

Manufacturer 1: “It’s good. It’s really, really good.”

Manufacturer 2: “We’re proudly certified to ISO 9001:2015.”

Manufacturer 3: “We recently manufactured a product very similar to your design. We produced 99.99% of the finished product within tolerance and the largest distribution of quality was centered at the designed optimum. If you’d like to see the data, I’d be happy to pull it up for you right now.”

Which one do you think would get the work?

What is product quality? 

Product quality, most would say, is somewhat subjective. Depending on who you ask, you may get several different answers. A sales manager, who’s read a lot of Peter Drucker, might say the product quality is good if it sells and has few returns or complaints. A designer, focused on minimalist design, would define quality by how many parts it requires to achieve its end use. The end user, concerned with “fitness of use”, would say a product that performs as expected has good product quality . Each of these people would be right, but in the above scenario, there’s only one definition of product quality that matters – manufacturing quality

What is manufacturing quality? 

Manufacturing quality refers to how well a product meets the design specifications.

Assuming the customer knows what they’re doing when designing the product, their primary concern is manufacturing quality. Therefore, the manufacturer that can best demonstrate their ability to meet specifications should win the business. Let’s examine the responses of each of the three manufacturers and how the prospective customer would respond. 

Manufacturer 1: “It’s good. It’s really, really good.”

Manufacturer 1 is a lot like the job candidate who comes in for an interview but clearly hasn’t prepared. Hearing them say, “Trust me, I’m the best at what I do!” isn’t comforting on its own. Without hearing specific examples that support their claims, you wouldn’t be likely to hire that candidate for the job. By the same token, the prospective customer wouldn’t be likely to hire a manufacturer who gave this answer. When you’re hired to manufacture a product, the customer is placing a bet that you will successfully produce it. The more supporting information and proof you can give them that what you’re saying is true, the better. In the immortal words of W. Edwards Deming,

“In God we trust, all others must bring data.”

-W. Edwards Deming

Manufacturer 2: “We’re proudly certified to ISO 9001:2015.”

Manufacturer 2 is better prepared than the first because ISO 9001:2015 is an international set of quality manangement standards. An organization certified to this standard has passed an audit to verify they are following best practices and are credible.

ISO 9001:2015 developed from seven principles: customer focus, leadership, engagement of people, process approach, improvement, evidence-based decision making, and relationship management. This is an excellent framework for a manufacturer to improve quality but it doesn’t show to what degree a manufacturer produces quality. With over one million companies around the world certified to ISO 9001:2015, is it correct to say they all produce similar levels of quality products? No.

Just being certified does not mean you can win over a prospective customer. In some industries, most if not all manufacturers have achieved certification so it’s not really an advantage. Additionally, it is essentially a pass/fail certification. You are either ISO certified or not. It is a little bit like a medical school joke.

Q: What do you call a medical student that graduated at the bottom of the class?
A: Doctor

How do you choose between doctors with the same certification?  You use data. Let’s say you’re getting a complicated procedure, like open heart surgery. All things equal, knowing each doctor’s success and failure rates will help you make a better decision about which doctor to choose. Just knowing a doctor is certified isn’t enough.

Manufacturer 3: “We recently manufactured a product very similar to your design. We produced 99.99% of the finished product within tolerance and the largest distribution of quality was centered at the designed optimum. If you’d like to see the data, I’d be happy to pull it up for you right now.”

Manufacturer 3 came to play. Hard numbers that give information about how good they are at producing products to specifications goes beyond certification and gives the customer information on the degree to which you are able to produce quality products. This is an important piece of information for your prospective customer. It gives them the best possible information to make a decision. It is more important to them than anything else.


A Baseball Analogy

Your favorite team is in a bases loaded, bottom of the ninth situation. A hit wins the game. All other things being equal, which player would you rather see coming up to the plate:

  • your next door neighbor’s kid who says he can hit really well in the clutch
  • former Major League player Mario Mendoza
  • former Major League player and career batting average record holder Ty Cobb

Your next door neighbor’s kid is not the obvious choice here. He may have moxie, but he’s not a Major League player.

Mario Mendoza was a Major League player who had a career average of .215 (for the non-fans, out of every 1000 at bats, he got a hit 215 times). We know the degree to which he excels at hitting.

Ty Cobb holds Major League Baseball’s record for highest career batting average at .366. Like Mendoza, he is a Major League player, and we know the degree to which he excels at hitting.

All other things being equal, we can easily see which player would be more likely to produce the desired output: a hit. Knowing that, we would feel most confident in producing a hit if Ty Cobb was coming to the plate.  


Manufacturer 3 has really gone above and beyond to ensure confidence in their ability to produce quality. They give information about their quality when producing a similar product to the prospective customer’s. Information like this gives customers the necessary information to choose one manufacturer over another. In a world where many of your competitors still say “we know good quality when we see it”, having hard numbers that are as specific as possible to your prospective customer’s needs will make it easier to win new business.

 

Conclusion

In this scenario, manufacturer 3 is the obvious choice. They were the only one to produce proof that:

  • certifies them as a producer of high quality (which makes them a preferable choice to Manufacturer 1) 
  • says to what degree they produce high quality (which makes them a preferable choice to Manufacturer 2)

Manufacturer 3 has given the prospective customer the information needed to decide whether or not they want to award them the business.

 


Stop losing business to competitors who have better data about their quality! 

Request a free demo today and start winning business again. 

We are the only SPC software provider to have solutions for all size businesses and in all industries. Find out more.


 

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

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Dispelling myths can be difficult, especially when they’re believed by decision makers who affect your job performance. We’ve compiled eight SPC software myths your boss believes and the logic that can help you dispel them. 

1. We have a Quality Engineer. Why do we need SPC software?

 

When we speak to quality engineers who are getting pushback from upper management, this is the number one SPC software myth they hear. What do you say to overcome this? 

The short answer: SPC software is a tool that automates large amounts of real-time quality data and alerts you when and where your processes are out of control, but it doesn’t tell you what to do or how to do it. Knowing what to do and how to do it is the quality engineer’s responsibility.

Saying that the engineer doesn’t need SPC software to fix or maintain your quality is kind of like saying you don’t need tax software to make sure your accountant is efficiently and correctly doing your taxes. It’s about having the right tool for the job.

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

It’s important to start in 1924 when Walter Shewhart essentially invented statistical process control (SPC). And later, W. Edwards Deming took SPC to post war Japan where manufacturing was crippled and attempting to get back on its feet that the impact became obvious. Made in Japan changed over time from meaning low quality, cheap to high quality, dependable quality products. SPC was and is a tool that relies on methodology, rules, and a culture of quality. SPC software is accessible for all, regardless of industry, company 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 create value for their brand and company. 

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, healthcare is benefiting from SPC software. 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 efficiency and reduced man hours kills jobs.

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

The benefits of implementing SPC software include, producing higher quality products with lower scrap rates in the same amount of time with the same number of employees. When organizations are able to do this they are creating tremendous value and customer satisfaction that is likely to increase business in the long run. 

In words your boss will care about: your profit margin just increased exponentially. Without raising prices, you’re able to lower costs per unit. 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 into expansion into new markets, making new products, or creating more demand for existing products. 

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 your entire organization. SPC software impacts your organization far beyond the improvements it makes in your quality department.

5. Too complex and hard to adapt to.

SPC software mythsThis is one of our favorites.

From a technical standpoint, this is just patently untrue. For your operators, if they’re already doing 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 quality engineers, nothing is too complex.

We can’t speak for other SPC software programs, but for Zontec, we can teach you how to use SYNERGY 100, SYNERGY 1000 and SYNERGY 2000 SPC software in one day. Beyond that, we provide customer and technical support as needed to help you continue to utilize all the features built into the software. Don’t worry about software setup time. You can go from installation to data entry in as little as 30 minutes

Employees take pride in making quality product. We have found that most organizations vastly underestimate their employees’ ability and desire to “get on board”. The tools and insight provided by SYNERGY 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, companies are under stress to hit projected profitability numbers. Reducing scrap levels is one of the 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.

While SPC software is certainly valuable when the customer requires it, it’s extremely short sighted to say there is 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. 

Knowing that you will continue to experience customer audits from time to time, recording all of your data with SPC software means you are audit ready. When a customer asks about your quality, you have results to show without sorting through papers or remembering which spreadsheet has your information. It’s available at your fingertips.

If you collect quality data with paper and pencil today, you might as well get more value from it. In addition to looking back at and analyzing historical data, with real-time SPC software you are able to take advantage of early detection. Getting an alert that a process is about to go out of control is significantly more valuable than finding out after the fact. It is 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 much longer. Additionally, the machine’s technology may be out of date by the time it starts meeting the ROI requirements. SPC software is technology and can be updated at any time without purchasing a new product. Our software is consistently updated and all active customers receive free upgrades. Also, the 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.

SPC software helps you produce more consistent quality 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

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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? Cost vs. Value.

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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.  

 

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?