Jason Stoughton’s picture

By: Jason Stoughton

Remember that documentary you saw that finally explained metrology and why measurements are critical to practically every aspect of modern life? Yeah, neither do I. Probably because that documentary doesn’t exist... or does it?

The Last Artifact, a new one-hour film that PBS stations started broadcasting in September 2020, aims to fill that cinematic void by bringing metrology to the people. It tells the tale of measurement science and features researchers from metrology laboratories around the world, including several faces from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).


The crew of
The Last Artifact films NIST’s Kibble balance, a complex instrument used in the redefinition of the kilogram. From left, NIST researchers Stephan Schlamminger and Darine Haddad, sound recordist Parker Brown, director of photography Rick Smith, and co-director/producer Jaime Jacobsen. Credit: J. Stoughton/NIST

Jason Chester’s picture

By: Jason Chester

Before we get into a case study about how enterprisewide SPC software would work on both the shop floor and the C-suite, let’s talk about a long-held bias about “blue-collar” workers: That because they’ve traditionally been associated with manual labor, they should use manual tools; “white-collar” front-office workers, on the other hand, need the slick technology tools.

Imagine walking around the offices of a large manufacturing organization and finding salespeople managing customers’ information using a Rolodex. In a planning meeting, the CEO is using acetates on an overhead projector. In the procurement office, staff are issuing purchase orders using a Telex machine.

Now imagine walking the plant floor at that same manufacturer. The production supervisor is writing machine settings for the next shift on a board next to the machine. The quality engineer is writing the results of a critical quality check on a clipboard with a blunt pencil. A bunch of people stand around murmuring, scratching their heads, and wondering why a machine isn’t working properly.

In the first example, you might think you’d traveled back in time. The scenes are absurd. But the second example is a common reality.

Multiple Authors
By: Ryan E. Day, Dirk Dusharme @ Quality Digest, Taran March @ Quality Digest

In order to best illustrate how enterprisewide SPC software can help address shop-floor problems and then funnel the captured data to the corporate level where strategic issues can be analyzed, here is a case study of a hypothetical manufacturing facility. In it, the company makes effective use of SPC for data-driven decisions.

A global food products manufacturing company with 11 sites worldwide had chosen to master quality, both tactically and strategically, as its top goal. Each site collected and analysed data in the company’s enterprisewide SPC software, both to monitor and respond to quality issues at the site, and to share those same data with the corporate office.

At the company’s Prague site, the quality manager looked at her shop-floor data for the previous month. As figure 1 indicates, the software reported a total of 737 events, which at first glance seemed like a big deal to the manager. However, on closer inspection, she could see that these weren’t massive quality issues with the product or processes. However, there were 517 missed data checks. Although not a line-stopping issue, missed checks could result in noncompliance to agreements with customers or industry requirements.

Eric Weisbrod’s picture

By: Eric Weisbrod

In recent months, we’ve learned that manufacturing during a global health crisis puts organizations under immense pressure to maintain operational efficiency while upholding product quality and employee safety.

Initially, organizations focused simply on taking the steps required to survive. However, as organizations around the globe have pivoted to overcome those initial challenges, manufacturers are taking the opportunity to explore how they will not just survive but become more resilient—even thrive—going forward.

Recent operational challenges have shined a light on existing process weaknesses and technology limitations. Manufacturers are taking their cue and proactively identifying opportunities to optimize processes, empower workers, and make operations across the organization more effective.

Enact, InfinityQS’ cloud-native quality intelligence platform, offers plant leadership a variety of ways to make their operations more effective. Here are six Enact benefits that can help your organization make critical shifts that are necessary for the future of manufacturing.

Jon Speer’s picture

By: Jon Speer

Risk can mean many different things depending on the situation. Flying on an airplane, biking on a busy road, driving in a car—all of these involve some level of risk.

Although risk is a variable we encounter in everyday life, it means something uniquely different to the medical device industry. Risk is a critical factor to consider throughout the life cycle of a medical device because it can mean the difference between life and death for patients.

Industry resources like ISO 14971 exist to help medical device professionals define and clarify risk management best practices. According to the internationally recognized standard for medical device risk management, risk is defined as “the combination of the probability of occurrence of harm and the severity of harm.”

There are varying levels of risk factors medical device companies must consider in practicing effective risk management. By following the established processes outlined in ISO 14971 and leveraging the best quality management tools, medical device companies can improve their overall risk management system.

Guoli Chen’s picture

By: Guoli Chen

A novelty in the C-suite not so long ago, the chief sustainability officer (CSO) is fast becoming a fixture in companies of note as climate change and inequality increasingly dominate global attention.

During the past year alone Citigroup, General Motors, and International Paper have each appointed their first CSO. They join Diageo, P&G, Mastercard, and Tyson Foods on the growing list of firms that have added a CSO to their top management team in recent years. Yet these firms are hardly trailblazers. Between 2004 and 2014, the number of S&P 500 companies that have a CSO increased from 25 to 90.

Dirk Dusharme @ Quality Digest’s picture

By: Dirk Dusharme @ Quality Digest

It’s been 40 years since “If Japan Can, Why Can’t We?”, W. Edwards Deming, and total quality management. More than 33 years have passed since the release of the first iteration of ISO 9001 (remember checklists?). For four decades the importance of building quality into processes rather than trying to “inspect in” quality has been pounded into our little quality management brains. Proactive good, reactive bad. We get it.

Or do we?

Despite “risk management” or “risk-based thinking” becoming part of everyday quality parlance, quality on the ground is still largely reactionary. Tactical rather than strategic. In short, we still seem to be just “doing” quality rather than mastering it, i.e., we are using traditional quality processes and tools at only the shop-floor level rather than using next-generation enterprisewide quality tools throughout our entire organization.

Taran March @ Quality Digest’s picture

By: Taran March @ Quality Digest

In the intro to this series we noted that, too often, quality tools and the data we glean from them are used only to solve immediate, mostly shop-floor problems. These gold nuggets of opportunity aren’t used in an equally valuable way to address a company’s strategic goals.

Here we’ll consider how to master quality at the shop-floor, tactical level. More than just byproducts of the production process, quality data are the vital signs that determine if individual processes—and by extension, the entire production system—are healthy. That information can in turn help drive business strategy.

It starts on the shop floor

For most companies, learning to use data to their best advantage entails drifting between visionary potential and problematic reality—the strategic vs. tactical tension. As part of this inevitable tug-of-war, data are rounded up, variability is tamped down, and quality anxiously measured.

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Ryan E. Day’s picture

By: Ryan E. Day

Those of you involved in matters of business strategy know: Strategy matters. Your strategies guide you to reach your objectives. Behind every successful business are purposeful strategies. Then again, as Alvin Toffler said, “The absence of strategy is fine if you don’t care where you’re going.”

We’re talking specifically about data-driven strategies like using “improving operational efficiency” to support a goal of increasing your profit margin. Or “improving product standardization” to increase international market share. The question is, how do you support your data-driven strategies? Where do your data come from?

Many leaders don’t realize they are probably sitting on a gold mine of data just waiting to be transformed into actionable information to support their strategies. I’m talking about the quality control data that are collected every day on the shop floor.

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Julio D'Arcy’s picture

By: Julio D'Arcy

In my synthetic chemistry lab, we have worked out how to convert the red pigment in common bricks into a plastic that conducts electricity, and this process enabled us to turn bricks into electricity storage devices. These brick supercapacitors could be connected to solar panels to store rechargeable energy. Supercapacitors store electric charge, in contrast to batteries, which store chemical energy.

Brick’s porous structure is ideal for storing energy because pores give bricks more surface area than solid materials have, and the greater the surface area, the more electricity a supercapacitor material can hold. Bricks are red because the clay they’re made from contains iron oxide, better known as rust, which is also important in our process.

We fill the pores in bricks with an acid vapor that dissolves the iron oxide and converts it to a reactive form of iron that makes our chemical syntheses possible. We then flow a different gas through the cavities to fill them with a sulfur-based material that reacts with iron. This chemical reaction leaves the pores coated with an electrically conductive plastic, PEDOT.

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