In order to deliver effective and repeatable quality control, many companies choose to use statistical process control (SPC) software, which tracks the data that comes off manufacturing lines and alerts machine operators and plant supervisors to potential problems.
This buyer’s guide provides a brief overview of statistical process control and SPC software to help buyers better understand the market. Here’s what we’ll cover:
In manufacturing, statistical process control (often associated with overall equipment effectiveness, or OEE) describes the process of collecting quality control data for statistical analysis. The collection of this data allows manufacturers to identify any quality concerns that need to be addressed before they escalate into expensive problems.
Statistical process control can be applied to individual components or end-products to ensure they perform within specified parameters. SPC can also be applied to manufacturing tools and machines themselves to optimize machine output. This helps reduce scrap rates and the number of components that need to be checked and replaced during the maintenance cycle, lowering the chance of machine failure and unscheduled downtime.
SPC software facilitates statistical process control by collecting data in real-time and alerting the manufacturer to any results that fall outside the accepted range. This, in turn, helps reduce process variation, improves manufacturing efficiency and lowers overall production costs.
Screenshot of Synergy Software by Zontec
SPC software generally has two main functions:
Real-time monitoring and alerts. SPC software is used primarily to identify quality concerns the moment they occur so they can be resolved before they become major problems. To that end, it constantly monitors production data to alert the quality team the instant an anomaly is discovered.
Long-term data collection and analysis. To benefit companies in the long term, SPC systems aggregate historical data, allowing for analysis and optimization of processes and quality improvement.
As a manufacturer looking for a statistical process control solution, you may fall within one of the following groups:
Full-suite buyers. If you’re looking to integrate SPC functionality with broader manufacturing functionality, such as inventory management, production planning or manufacturing accounting, you may want to evaluate an integrated manufacturing system. This type of system features the above-mentioned applications, which can be applied throughout the manufacturing cycle.
Specialty manufacturers. Some industries, such as aviation, food and beverage and pharmaceuticals, have very specific regulatory requirements they must comply with. Some SPC systems are created to address these unique requirements, so you may want to consider investing in a system that meets your industry-specific needs.
Single application buyers. Some manufacturers have straightforward SPC requirements and are simply looking for basic quality control functionality to manage production variations. For this type of buyer, it’s best to evaluate a stand-alone system that is easier to deploy.
Common benefits of implementing SPC software include the following:
Savings through reduced process variation and waste. Real-time SPC software allows your team to detect small errors before they lead to larger defects so you don’t end up producing—or, worse, shipping—defective products. This results in less waste and rework and greater cost savings.
A systematic approach to quality improvement. Since SPC software aggregates and reports on historical data, it helps plant supervisors and other manufacturing personnel develop a more data-driven approach to managing product and process quality.
Improved workflows. SPC software gives engineers, operators, quality controllers and executives access to the same data. This helps team members work together to identify process inefficiencies and improve workflows.
For any SPC software purchase, it’s critical that your software be compatible with the tools and technology you already use on your manufacturing lines. It’s also important to recognize that any software is only as effective as the processes behind it. Companies that realize the greatest benefits from implementing SPC software are those that recognize the system is just one component of an overall SPC plan, which requires buy-in from all employees and a commitment to ongoing process improvement.
The below mentioned trends can help you identify the current trends in the statistical process control software market.
Integration with SCADA systems: Statistical process control software solutions are on the rise and most vendors are integrating their products more completely with supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems. Currently vendors are targeting their solutions to a wider audience, such as sales and customer support people, rather than only to quality engineers. In addition, vendors are now opening up programs for easier data import and export.
Increase in customizable tools: Since the audience for statistical process control systems is growing fast, vendors are offering various customization tools for their solutions. Features, such as control limits, frequency of data points and types of charts, are now available in completely configurable forms. Different types of alarms are also available in a single solution. Currently, most of the standalone systems are offering extensive options for personalization and flexibility.
Ease of availability: Similar to other software markets, customers want their statistical process control system to be available at any location and in any device across the globe with all the functionalities. This will help them monitor multiple processes across locations and integrate a wide range of data so as to get a holistic picture of their quality improvement environment.
Demand for data representation: Along with data being available on their fingertips, customers are looking for features that help them visually represent the data in meetings. Customers want to show data on a real-time basis to both executives in a meeting room and to workers on the plant floor. Such data visualization will help improve the quality and add value to meetings in real time.
Easy-to-use interface with external programs: Statistical process control software designers are moving toward developing an easy-to-use interface that can connect smoothly with third-party programs. The solutions that are currently being developed can interact with databases that support open database connectivity (ODBC). This functionality makes it easier for organizations to import and export data.
Hence, as a buyer you need to be aware of the latest trends happening in the statistical process control software market so that you can align your business needs with the current trends.
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