What Does Statistical Process Control Really Do? (Part 2)

Posted by John Clemons on February 14, 2013 @ 8:24 am

From my last post on this subject, you should probably think that statistical process control (SPC) is pretty cool, and pretty valuable, as long as you don’t think too much about all the math.  (Actually, the math is pretty cool as well.)  But, SPC is not for everybody and it not 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 the 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 you know you’re processes are unstable and are inconsistent and you know that without SPC telling you, then you probably don’t need SPC.  Get your processes stable and consistent as best 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 plateau.  If you’re initiatives have plateaued then SPC might be the way to get them going again.

If you’re already using some tools as part of your quality programs, or 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 tools then consider SPC.  With SPC you can start small and then grow as big as you want.  But, more importantly, with SPC you can start simple and grow more advanced as you want to as well.  So, SPC is really a great choice when you find yourself stuck and really want to break out and take it to the next level.

Take a look at your other initiatives and see if SPC fits in.  Take a 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 actually fits pretty well into these kinds of programs, but you’ll just have to take a 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 that look to use new techniques to try to do something 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!

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