SPC Software is one of the tools used to improve a company’s processes to meet expectations.

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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.


 

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?

How Do I Know If I Have Quality Issues?

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When is the best time to improve 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 time to check for quality issues is before a significant safety concern/disaster happens. Once disaster strikes, you’re usually too busy putting out fires to work on prevention.

If you successfully avert a 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. As we all know, hope is not a plan. Hope is a wish. Hope is crossing your fingers that no fires break out instead of paying a small amount for batteries, a smoke detector, and a fire extinguisher. Regardless of whether you just averted a crisis (lost a customer, failed an audit, or worse) or haven’t had one in a while, now is the perfect time to start asking questions about improving your quality.

The cost of poor quality gets 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 risk. As an example, 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 is that 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 is a reputation of impeccable quality worth?

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 improving quality may be higher than the cost of doing nothing, especially if you haven’t had any recent quality problems. However, the risk is huge and the cost is high when you have a problem. Unfortunately, at that point it’s too late. You’ve either frustrated or possibly lost your customer.

Determining your strategy and putting a quality plan in place before it’s too late is your best option 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.

Do This When Evaluating Your Quality Program

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Evaluating Your Quality Program

evaluating your quality programImagine this, you have a highly unpredictable and/or unstable process that causes you to lose tremendous amounts of money due to production errors and untold hours lost trying to assign a cause to the issues. On the other hand, maybe you’ve been at the quality game for a while and seemingly have a good system with an SPC software solution in place but you’re unsure if the technology is “current”.

It’s time to consider evaluating your quality program.

A good place to start evaluating is to assess your current or ideal quality program. Be aware of the tools and systems that are in place and support your quality program currently. For some, the answer can even be, “we don’t have any system or tools!”. This is fine.

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