Using SPC in the real world

Continuing the discussion, if you are thinking about trying statistical process control, here are some ways to tell if you’re ready.


If you liked my last post on this subject, you should probably think that SPC is pretty cool and pretty valuable, as long as you don’t have to think too much about all the math. (Even though the math is pretty cool as well.) But, SPC is not for everybody nor is it the cure-all for everything that ails you or your manufacturing process. So, I’d like to talk about ways to know whether or not you’re really ready for SPC.

As I said, clearly SPC is not appropriate for all areas of the business or even all areas of a manufacturing process. But, SPC is both a very powerful and an extremely valuable tool that should be applied to targeted areas in manufacturing.

SPC makes sense if you’re manufacturing processes are generally stable and consistent, or at least as stable and consistent as you can make them. If your processes are unstable and inconsistent, and you already know that, then you probably don’t need SPC. Get your processes as stable and consistent as you can without SPC, and then apply SPC to take them to the next level.

If your process improvement initiatives have reached a plateau with your existing tools, then SPC might be a good way to get them rolling forward again. All process improvement initiatives tend to plateau from time to time and then make big strides from one plateau to the next. If your initiatives have flat-lined, then SPC might be the way to get them going again.

If you’re already using some tools as part of your quality programs, continuous improvements, or whatever, and you’re ready for some more advanced tools, then SPC might be the answer. If you’re already set up and operating with various tools like SPC in place then it might be time for something a little more advanced. SPC gives you a lot of power and is a very advanced and powerful tool for process improvement.

If you find yourself kind of stuck and it looks like you can’t get to the next level without some new tools, then consider SPC. With SPC you can start small and then grow as big as you want. But, more importantly, you can also start simple and grow more advanced as you want to.

Take a look at your other initiatives and see if SPC fits in. Look at your continuous improvement program, your quality program, your testing program, your process improvement program, and so on, and look for ways that SPC would fit in. I think you’ll find that SPC fits pretty well , but you’ll just have to take a close look and find the right tie-ins.

Finally, think about how your people respond to new tools and new techniques. If they’re the kind of people that like new tools and look for opportunities to use new techniques to try to do a job better, then SPC just might fit right in. If they’re comfortable with tools, know that tools are necessary to get the job done, and always like the idea of getting another tool in the tool belt then SPC is probably a great tool to give them.

So, what do you think? SPC’s not for everyone and it’s not for all manufacturing processes. But, if you’re ready for it, it can be a very valuable tool. So, take a look at it, see if you’re ready for it, see if it fits in, and, if it makes sense, make SPC your next tool in your tool belt. Good luck!

This post was written by John Clemons. John is director of manufacturing IT at MAVERICK Technologies, a leading system integrator providing industrial automation, operational support, and control systems engineering services in the manufacturing and process industries. MAVERICK delivers expertise and consulting in a wide variety of areas including industrial automation controls, distributed control systems, manufacturing execution systems, operational strategy, and business process optimization. The company provides a full range of automation and controls services – ranging from PID controller tuning and HMI programming to serving as a main automation contractor. Additionally MAVERICK offers industrial and technical staffing services, placing on-site automation, instrumentation and controls engineers.

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