Keep Track of Your Stats
by Zontec Inc.
Pentium processor-based PC; Windows 95, 98, NT or 2000; 32 MB RAM; local area network.
$2,000 per user (discounts available). $60,000 for unlimited site license.
Contact: Zontec Inc.www.zontec-spc.com
1389 Kemper Meadow Drive
Cincinnati, OH 45240
Telephone: (800) 955-0088
Fax: (513) 648-9007
by Dirk Dusharme
From an organizational standpoint, one of the more tedious aspects of computer-based
statistical process control for complex processes is keeping track of which files belong with which measurements of which parts. While almost all lower-end software packages do a fine
job with SPC (the math is all the same), many lack a built-in file structure for data. It's up to the quality engineer to come up with a structure and keep the SPC tables organized, often in a
folder named after a part number, with all associated control charts and tables stored inside.
This is where programs such as Zontec's Synergy 2000 are worth the extra money
for the harried quality engineer, taking over the data structure within a networked environment and letting the engineer focus on what's really important--process
control. However, this isn't Synergy 2000's only strong point. The ability to query and work with data subsets, connect to data collection equipment for real-time SPC,
and (as with any enterprisewide software) share real-time data across the company are all good reasons to consider this package.
There are three Synergy 2000 modules--Engineer, Manager or Operator--with the difference lying in the functionality level. This review focuses on the Engineer module,
which has the most functionality.
The root of Synergy 2000 is the Data Bank Worksheet, which is configured for a part
or assembly and contains all measurements or attributes related to that item. All data collection, charting, monitoring, analysis, communication and reporting is available
here. Each worksheet row contains the status for a particular measurement: a red, yellow or green status flag, based on control limits; another status flag for the
specification status of each observation; the sample size; the number of samples taken; and the number of the current observation. The data upon which the status rows are
derived are stored as data tables (we'll discuss these later). To display any kind of SPC chart directly from the worksheet, the user simply clicks on the status flag for
the measurement in question.
To create a worksheet, the engineer first provides a description of the part, operator
name, operation, machine number and plant location. The worksheet rows are created by either selecting existing data tables (existing measurement or attribute data) or
creating new tables. A Data Bank Worksheet for a machined part might have data tables for part weight, thickness, diameter and for various attributes. Data tables can
be linked to an unlimited number of worksheets. Using this subtle but key feature, managers might create worksheets based on data tables from dozens of parts from
multiple facilities, enabling them to monitor entire processes at a glance.
Data entry is handled manually, imported from other applications or brought in using
a data collection device. Manual data entry is accomplished by typing data into the Data Bank Worksheet or the measurement data tables or through the simplified, but
somewhat limited, Easy Data Entry interface. Incoming data may be run through user-defined formulas to create calculated table values. Math tables can accommodate up to 500 sets of calculations.
An impressive feature of Synergy 2000 is its ability to perform all of the product's SPC functions on subsets of data. Users can query the database for only those parts
that were measured by a certain operator, shift or plant and run a separate control chart based only on those values--excellent for zeroing in on nonprocess-related problems.
Synergy 2000 does all the requisite SPC charting, including process capability, Six Sigma capability and short run. The charts are clean and readable with scaling handled
automatically. Users can display multiple charts in side-by-side or overlay formats. The only shortcoming some users might find is that Synergy 2000 has no provision
for calculating Cpk on non-normal distributions (or rather, there is no routine that "normalizes" non-normal distributions so that process capability can be calculated).
This issue will be addressed in release 4.0, due in June. The only real complaint we had with the user interface is chart clutter caused by Synergy 2000's not sensing that
it already has a specific chart open (the user can accidentally open multiple copies of the same chart).
More nice features include the ability to merge data (useful for interrupted runs), trend analysis, gage R&R scheduling and alarms, and e-mail and annotation
capabilities. We can't really do justice to all of the features in this space, but Synergy 2000 is packed.
The $2,000 per license starting price tag might be a bit off-putting for smaller companies, but, small or large, if you're collecting measurement data on a lot of parts
and sharing that data across several departments, the extra expense of an enterprisewide, structured SPC package may well be worth it.