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Eric Weisbrod


The Transformative Impact of Standardization

Three steps to enterprisewide clarity—and efficiency

Published: Monday, August 26, 2019 - 12:03

In manufacturing, standardization in production and process control leads to increased profitability and cuts down on many siloed problems that can plague even the most quality-focused organization. But when you have multiple, disparate plants around the country or the globe, standardization can seem unattainable, as each site operates more like an island with its own way of doing things.

I previously worked with one company that had numerous plants throughout the United States and Europe. Over time, each site had developed unique practices. One specific issue that came up was whether to use the metric system for quality data collection. Unfortunately, the company did not standardize. So, when it was time to run cross-plant reports, the results were in different units, presenting a challenge to comparative analysis.

In contrast, I worked with a separate organization that was very adamant about using a standardized approach and implementing the same quality management system at every site. Standardization made it easy to deploy the system to approximately 80 plants in merely 18 months. In addition to streamlining deployment, standardization enabled the company to perform enterprisewide reporting for better decision-making.

In the following, we will look at how organizations can facilitate standardization, despite seemingly insurmountable odds, and gain the resulting benefits.

Standardize on naming conventions

Making sure parts, features, processes, and more use-consistent naming conventions in all plants may seem like a small detail, but it can save you enormous headaches when looking at performance from site to site. Unfortunately, it can boil down to even the most minute discrepancies. For instance, a beverage manufacturer might want to compare bottle-filling data between two plants that produce the same drink. One plant may use “Cranberry Juice 123” while the other uses “Cranberry-Juice-123.” Even something as simple as hyphens—or the numerical units mentioned earlier—can prohibit analysis.

By standardizing naming conventions, as well as units of measurement, manufacturers can establish a common language when referring to the multitude of components involved in the production process. This saves time and eliminates confusion between manufacturing sites, teams, and executives. It also encourages cross-plant analysis for quality intelligence that leads to global improvement. This might seem like an obvious benefit but is often overlooked and means organizations don’t get the most value out of the systems they put in place.

Standardize with a centralized data repository

Another way to facilitate standardization is through a centralized data repository, where everyone saves to and works from the same data pool. A centralized data repository leverages the cloud, creating a single system of truth, providing real-time process information, and breaking down data silos between manufacturing sites. You then gain visibility into the performance of not only individual locations but the entire enterprise as well.

For example, one food and beverage company adopted a centralized data repository to store data from six facilities and its corporate lab. Working from the cloud, its quality assurance teams can access and respond to fluctuations in data at specific sites. With this real-time data, the company can make rapid adjustments to prevent waste, reduce giveaway, and maintain a consistent taste profile. To date, it has been able to realize $2.1 million in savings due to waste reduction alone. When extended to its other dozen plants, annual savings exceed $10 million.

Standardize to one quality management system

Standardizing so that all facilities use the same quality management system—in the same way—makes sense for many reasons, not least of which is collaboration. Because everyone has the same tools and functionalities, teams can freely share information. When shop-floor operators learn something new, they can share it with others. It becomes easy to turn best practices from high-performing plants into standard operating procedures within all sites for exponential benefits. With everyone looking at data through a consistent analytical lens, decision-making is easier, which enables you to solve more issues, plan for upcoming changes, and efficiently allocate resources.

A single quality management system can also help to standardize in the areas covered above: naming conventions and a centralized repository. Items are named once—and used universally. Users all work from the same set of data. In another example, one consumer goods manufacturer started with implementing a quality management system in one plant to take control of overfill on 12 production lines. During the course of two years, it was able to realize more than $250,000 in waste-reduction savings. By standardizing and applying the same solution to multiple facilities, the manufacturer has been able to attain $1 million in sustainable annual cost savings.

Uncover the benefits of standardization

By standardizing in these three areas, manufacturers can realize numerous benefits, including streamlined software deployment. A standardized approach—especially through a software-as-a-service (SaaS) system—is faster to deploy and can scale as new sites are built and added. A SaaS system is also much easier to maintain, since you make a modification once, and it applies to all other processes, lines, and sites. Perhaps most important, standardization gives you “Hubble-like” visibility across sites to make the kind of comparisons you otherwise would not be able to make. The Hubble space telescope could see unimaginably far into space. With standardization, you can see across the enterprise, find new operational insights, and realize global transformation. And that’s priceless.


About The Author

Eric Weisbrod’s picture

Eric Weisbrod

As vice president of product management, Eric Weisbrod oversees the creation and sharing of Enact strategy, roadmaps, and functionality with the InfinityQS marketing, sales, and services teams, as well as with Channel Partners and service providers around the globe. Eric joined InfinityQS as an application engineer in November 2006. He earned a bachelor of science and master of science in mechanical engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where his graduate work focused on finite element analysis for the semiconductor industry.




Getting the management systems  ( ISO 9001, 14001 .. ) documented, cerified and audited throgh same external providers, implementing 5 S at all locations can be useful tOO.  


Hello Eric, just want to say I completely agree with you about standardization.  For 10 years I worked as Quality Assurance Manager in a plant making polypropylene based non-woven fabrics.  We had a plant in Washington State, another in South Carolina, and a third in Sweden.  I tried very hard to move to the type of standardization you talk about, primarily with respect to measurement methods, units, and to a lesser degree names and analytical methods.  My motivation often stemmed from sales inquiries with the question, Which plant's product best matched the prospective customer's needs?  Because we had no standardization this often involved some type of round-robin testing of current samples in one of the plants and/or our corporate lab.  A giant waste of time.  The Swedes and I were all for standardization but never could get approval for action.  The "cloud" wasn't an option at the time.

Glad to see you are with InfinityQS International.  Working for another company we used this tool and over two years went from a five user license to a twenty five user license in manufacturing with floor and lab input for analysis and reporting.