Flying on yesterday’s data? StatBoard™ and SPC put you in the pilot’s seat

Steve DaumKnowing what a variety of processes are doing in real time can more effectively facilitate process monitoring and reduce waste. Quality professionals are finding that a “dashboard” format helps them do this—especially when you can go behind the dashboard graphic to get the real picture from control charts. Put yourself in the pilot’s seat and chart your own course of quality improvement using StatBoard.

An airline pilot can determine a plane’s altitude and speed, the direction and velocity of the wind, fuel consumption, terrain information, equipment condition—all by glancing at indicators that are part of the cockpit apparatus. This phenomenon is something we all take for granted; a passenger would be shocked if the flight captain could not instantly report wind speed and estimated arrival time, or if the information were not up-to-the-minute.

What is routine in both small airplanes and large—the expectation of real-time data instantly available for constant monitoring—is demanded as well in manufacturing industries to those who improve quality using real-time data. Looking at yesterday’s charts may be interesting, but knowing what a variety of processes are doing in real time can more effectively facilitate process monitoring and reduce waste. However, when many processes need to be evaluated at once, as is the case with flying an airplane, you need to know what processes need your attention the most. This is where prioritizing your SPC charts is needed.

Like the airline pilot, quality professionals are finding that a “dashboard” format helps them do this—especially when you can go behind the dashboard graphic to get the real picture from control charts.

StatBoard™, a statistical dashboard feature in CHARTrunner® Lean that provides at-a-glance process summary information for data-driven decision making, allows users not only to see real-time data, but also to “drill down” to examine control charts reflecting that data. “This ability addresses a number of frustrations that quality managers face,” according to technical support manager Matt Savage. Among these are:

  1. The sheer number of charts means insufficient time to evaluate them;
  2. Charts are not prioritized by most-in-need-of-attention;
  3. Management wants output in simple-to-interpret format;
  4. Quality personnel also want output in simple-to-interpret format;
  5. Quality professionals want users to actually analyze and evaluate control charts (process behavior charts) and not simply react to scoreboard mentality;
  6. Everyone demands current real-time results.

Savage says that StatBoard addresses all of these frustrations and more with the following solutions:

  1. All charts can be put into a list that is automatically prioritized by the metric you select to analyze the data;
  2. StatBoard ranks charts, from “most in need of action,” to “no action needed” (or “don’t waste time looking at the chart”);
  3. StatBoard lists charts in easy-to-understand visuals, with red, yellow, and green colored bands for simplicity in interpretation;
  4. The software also shows chart thumbnails that also indicates the value of the metric being calculated;
  5. Users can select the chart thumbnail images and go immediately to a control chart, with one click;
  6. StatBoard results are “live,” and can be updated continuously.

StatBoard can be tailored to individual needs. If the department is most interested in out-of-control signals, the StatBoard can evaluate charts on out-of-control. If the key metric is out-of-spec, Cpk, or Ppk, the StatBoard can prioritize on these metrics.

Since StatBoard is totally customizable, a user may choose to utilize it to peruse charts relating to a specific process, a particular time period, or an individual part. The collection of charts that are placed into the StatBoard can be modified at any time.

Metrics related to Cpk, Ppk, and percent out-of-spec are key to identifying which processes are not acceptable or which are offering proof of poor quality performance. Results are displayed over the thumbnail image of the chart and are updated as needed, providing real-time results in StatBoard. In healthcare and service environments, StatBoard provides support to analysis of stability in processes. Many service and healthcare processes are focused on stability and trends rather than specification, so the StatBoard metric will typically be an out-of-control statistic.

In the airline cockpit, a warning light or buzzer indicates when a process requires attention: a change in wind speed may demand adjustment of altitude or other decision. In the same way, the CHARTrunner Lean StatBoard monitor will signal a situation that demands attention. When a process is out of control, for example, the situation is immediately discerned so that action may be taken.

As data becomes increasingly complex, the demand for data at one’s fingertips mounts. The old days of tacking a day’s worth of charts on the wall—primarily to prove that they had been done—have been replaced by the need to know. Knowledge of processes and proof of quality are the fundamentals for improvement, a fact that renders consistent monitoring essential.

After all, you wouldn’t want your pilot to announce the estimated time of arrival for yesterday’s flight.

To learn more about how CHARTrunner Lean and StatBoard can help your organization improve, download a free 30-day software trial, or attend a free web demo.