Statistical process control and quality improvement...What is statistical process control and how is it best applied to drive quality improvement ?
Statistical Process ControlStatistical process control is a method of applying charts and graphs to track the performance of pre-determined critical quality attributes against defined performance criteria. The defined performance criteria are usually detailed in product or process performance specifications, for example, dimensions, weight, frequency, voltage, chemical mix, etc.
The process control charts provide a visual representation of actual performance. It is this visual representation of performance, compared to say a spreadsheet of numbers which is the unique advantage of statistical process control. The visual nature, allows the use of the SPC charts by non technical, non mathematical, non engineering personnel. Often the people with the best knowledge of how a product or process is performing are those involved in day to day operation on a process. Improving a product or process requires combining technical knowledge and non-technical user experience towards identifying a problem, proposing and implementing a solution. Statistical process control lends itself to facilitating this combination of skills, competencies and experiences.
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Quality ImprovementQuality is about meeting and exceeding customer demands. It requires understanding the customer, anticipating their needs and consistently delivering on time, high reliability product at a competitive price. Ideally, the objective is to “delight” the customer, to achieve the “wow” factor.
Achieving the “quality” goal, requires continuous communication with the customer, understanding the wider market place, anticipating how competitors and technology may impact on you and your customer. With the knowledge gained from understanding the customer, combined with future anticipated customer demands you can set out a path for your organization, in terms of future product streams, future product refinements, future organizational necessities in terms of delivery lead time, reliability expectations, technology demands and price expectations.
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Statistical analysis, statistical control and quality improvementOnce you have a clear vision of the direction required for the organization, then statistical process control can show for current products and processes, the gap between where the product or process currently lies and the level of performance that needs to be achieved.
Where you are meeting current customer expectations, then the statistical process control will act as a visual control mechanism, which can be delegated to line employees allowing technical focus on those performance gaps which need to be eliminated, thereby improving overall quality performance.
Statistical Process Control lends itself to ensuring and driving quality improvement across product and process design, technology transfer, engineering change management, customer feedback.
For example, many organizations when transferring a product from research and development into manufacturing, require process capability to be determined in advance and will only allow production to commence upon say achieving a process capability of 1.8. Similarly, annual targets for capability improvement are set in organizations with a requirement to continually improve process capability.
A critical step in effectively driving quality improvement via statistical methods of analysis and control is a solid understanding of both statistical process control techniques and quality management system process requirements, by those responsible for and tasked with implementing.
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