Manufacturing is not precise. During production, variations occur anytime and are often hard to accurately predict. Statisticians have developed statistical methods that monitor and control a process. Statistical Process Control (SPC) is used to help uncover and minimize variations in the production process.


What’s the value of piece of mind? Cost vs. Value.


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.

Zontec SPC Software is the Right Tool for Quality Engineers


Place the right tool in the hands of the right engineer

If you’re an engineer, you are trained to evaluate problems. You see ways to improve things and detest poor design. Frequently, you’re called upon to exceed where others have failed. Placing the right tools in your hands can literally change the world. 

SPC Software in the hands of a Quality Engineer

Henry Ford, not long after creating the River Rouge complex, had a problem with one of that plant’s larger generators. All of his best engineers looked at it and yet none of them could figure out what was wrong.

Tired of dealing with the decreased output in his factory, Ford called in General Electric engineer and mathematician Charles Steinmetz to take a look at it. Steinmetz arrived and asked only for a notebook, pencil, and something to sleep on. After two straight days of observing the generator, listening to it, and writing notes, he asked one of Ford’s engineers if he would bring Steinmetz a ladder and a ball-peen hammer. He leaned the ladder against the generator, climbed up, and lightly tapped on the side of the machine with the hammer. It began working perfectly.

Afterwards, Ford received a bill from Steinmetz for $10,000. Shocked at this figure, Ford asked the engineer to itemize the invoice. Steinmetz was happy to send it to Ford:


Tapping on generator: $1

Knowing which hammer to use, how hard to hit, and where to hit: $9,999


Get the right tool for the job

While you can draw several morals from this story, we’re concerned with the simplest one. Since most problems are not one size fits all, expecting solutions to be one size fits all is ridiculous. Having the right tool for the job is just as important as knowing which tool is the right one and how to use it.

If Steinmetz had chosen a sledgehammer instead of a ball-peen hammer, the results might  have been completely different. Could he have made a sledgehammer work just as well? Maybe. Engineers are incredibly smart people and he was one of the smartest. Was it the best way to accomplish that task though? Certainly not.



We’re here to help

Zontec is proud to offer the broadest suite of SPC software on the market. Our SynergySPC statistical process control software (SPC) products are able to meet the needs of any size organization from small shops all the way up to multi-national organizations. They are completely customizable to your individual needs.

Our team has helped companies all over the world, probably similar to yours, decide which SPC software product is the right one to help you reduce waste, improve quality, and boost profitability. With our 100% Investment Retention program, we are able to grow with you so you’ll always have a solution that delivers results for your company.

Contact us today about getting the right tool for the job when it comes to improving your processes.

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Free Statistical Process Control eBook Available To Download

The Book of Statistical Process ControlZontec’s popular Book of Statistical Process Control (SPC) is now available as a free downloadable eBook to members of the quality assurance community.

The complimentary eBook is offered in connection with the publication of the second edition of the reference guide. The second edition marks the fifth printing of The Book of Statistical Process Control since its initial release in 2002. Read more