Improve Your Production Stability for Competitive Manufacturing with Minitab Engage

Bruno Scibilia and Mark Ellis | 27 February, 2019

Topics: Lean Six Sigma, Manufacturing, Project Tools, Six Sigma, Continuous Improvement, DMAIC, Data Analysis, Statistics, Quality Improvement, Minitab Engage

Stability is a major concern in manufacturing. Any unstable behaviors and processes will generate quality problems and disruption for customers. To prevent issues, your parts need to be made with a stable process that meets the intended specifications and exceeds customer satisfaction. 

Yet there are often multiple consecutive steps in a manufacturing process. Even a slight misalignment in one step could impact the entire production line. To help you better understand manufacturing stability, this blog will:

  1. Explore common threats that prevent improved production stability 
  2. Introduce how you can overcome those threats 
  3. Empower you to run your own improvement projects using Minitab EngageTM

Let's begin with a brief overview of manufacturing stability. 

What is Production Stability?

Production stability is the ability for an organization to maintain its production levels at any given time period. 

What is lean manufacturing stability?

In lean manufacturing, the term stability is used to describe the production process that can be repeated with the same material, equipment, and people. Having stable processes supports high quality output with minimal waste and in predictable timeframes. It is the opposite of variation, which negatively impacts the above.

How to Improve Production Stability in Manufacturing

Below, we outline some common threats to stability and ways to address them for your organization. 

Threat 1: Standardization vs. Human Nature

Generating ideas across teams, collaborating toward data-driven solutions, and using robust methods to identify variation sources all require standardized and validated tools.

Unfortunately, there are natural human tendencies that cause problems and confusion for teams:

  • Jumping to solutions before a problem and scope are defined.
  • Moving on too quickly to the next problem before completing current project and solving the issue at hand.
  • Suggesting potential solutions based primarily on subjective conjectures, rather than data and hard evidence.
  • Starting to analyze data without checking its quality, including the way it was collected and measured.

To avoid these common pitfalls, implementing a methodology with a proven track record helps teams share a common view. For example, to help you effectively solve complex problems, the DMAIC methodology has the following standardized stages: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control. It divides the issue into smaller stages that are easier to manage, and uses a tool box with many diversified and powerful tools. DMAIC, along with other problem solving methodologies, are available in our latest end-to-end improvement solution, Minitab Engage.

📽️ Video: Industry Expert Greg Kinsey explains why Minitab is a primary tool for DMAIC

Ensuring your projects go through all the steps of a methodology requires discipline. Fortunately, Minitab Engage keeps your projects on track through phase reviews and approvals, dashboard reports, and email notifications.

Threat 2: Tolerance

It is often impossible to completely eliminate variation in a process. Tight tolerances that are difficult to manage can often lead to an increase in final costs for an organization. If this threat is not fully taken into consideration from the very beginning (during the design stage), manufacturing plants will struggle to achieve their expected performance.

As supply chains continue to expand globally and suppliers strive to complete larger orders, a key criteria for supplier rank is their ability to stay well within specifications for critical parameters.

Threat 3: Stability = Competitive Advantage

Companies constantly encourage their suppliers to better control the stability of their processes. Cost due to instability will increase whenever they are passed between vendors...and eventually the customers. Defects are detected much later in the manufacturing process, which is why a reliable, predictable supplier can gain a major advantage over their competition, and establish long-term profitable relations with large customers.

Threat 4: Lack of Collaboration Across Departments

Stability improvement often involves solving complex problems to identify critical factors that directly impact variability. Solving such problems will often involve collaboration from several departments such as Production, Quality and Design. These departments generally tend to have differing perceptions regarding stability problems.

To improve this situation, individuals may try to implement their own ad hoc solutions that will differ across teams. Typically, these include Excel files with calculations and methods that have not been validated company-wide, which could reduce the level of cohesiveness.

Luckily, Minitab Engage is the ultimate solution specifically designed to help organizations collaboratively build improvement and innovation programs, and execute them with the help of problem-solving tools and proven project management methodologies.

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