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SPC stands for Statistical Process Control. It is an industry-standard method for controlling quality during the manufacturing stage. This involves statistical methods to control and monitor a process to collect data in real-time.

This data is then plotted on a graph with predefined control limits to ensure that the process operates efficiently, produces the products conforming to specifications, and minimizing wastage.  Control limits are worked out by the efficiency of the process, and specifications are put according to the client's needs. 

If data is within control limits, that means everything is operating as expected. And on the other hand, if data falls outside the control limits, that means the process is likely to cause alterations in the product and the measures should be implemented to fix the problem before any defects start occurring.  

Variations during the production can increase the overall cost that might be due to unnecessary wastage and lost man-hours because of rework or abandonment. Statisticians and IT experts have developed a method known as SPC to monitor and control the processes involved during production to thoroughly reduce these problems in order to reduce wastage and boost profitability.

An SPC software or tool helps in streamlining and reducing the complexity of the SPC procedure. It helps in locating and eliminating variations in the production process. SPC software simplifies the entire SPC procedure and makes sure that users get the optimal visibility and insight into the accuracy and inadequacy of a company’s manufacturing process.

These software use various statistical methods to eliminate any guesswork and drastically enhance one’s cohesion and potential in real-time. That means one can have complete transparency of the ongoing processes and will be able to implement course adjustments in real-time. And the best thing about these tools is that one doesn’t need to have any expertise in statistics or mathematics to operate it.

The manual data collection process can be complex and lengthy, but implementing a Statistical Process Control software (statistical analysis software) can help you automate the data collection process.           

Before putting into use any SPC tool, the manufacturing process needs to be evaluated to figure out the primary reasons for resource wastage. For instance, reworking, abandonment, longer inspection time, etc. can slow down the manufacturing process. Therefore, it would be advantageous to apply SPC solutions to these at first. During the SPC process, not all the aspects are scanned due to expenditure, time, and production delays that are likely to incur.

Registering and Gathering data: The data in the SPC process consists of elements like measurements of a product dimension or feature, or process channel reading. Then, depending on the type of data obtained, it is registered and tracked on several kinds of charts. It is necessary to use suitable charts to get useful information and gain value. The data can be collected in two ways; first, as individual values, and secondly as a means of several collective readings. 

Control Charts: Generally, most control charts for volatile data follow the X-bar and R chart pattern where X-bar means the average of the variable ‘x’. And R chart stands for Range Chart that represents the variations with the subgroup. In simple words, the range is the difference between the highest and lowest value. 

Once this is prepared, the technician will measure various samples and calculate the average of all the values. This value will be registered on the X-bar chart. Similarly, the range of subgroups is also registered. A sample assessment should be carried out at regular intervals to ensure the consistency and accuracy of the process. 

However, one thing must be noted here that this X-bar and R chart is simply an example from many of the control charts available. 

Data Analysis: For a manufacturing process to be reckoned as statistically controlled, it should be free from any special causes in any of the control charts. A controlled process is supposed to have no special causes diagnosed in it. And to make sure that happens, the data registered on control charts should fall between control limits.

Common cause variations may include alteration in material properties with respect to the defined specifications, change in temperature and humidity due to season, wearing of tools and machines due to time, variation in controlled settings, etc.

And on the contrary, special cause variations may include inaccurate equipment setup, alterations in the measurement system, change in process, defective machine operation, etc.

During the monitoring process in SPC, control charts are verified to ensure that all the data points are within the control limits and any trends and sudden changes are observed. In case any special cause of variation is identified, then relevant actions should be taken to implement remedial measures in order to take the process back to a state of control. 

Dealing with special causes, trends, or any changes in the process can ensure that the products or goods are being produced in accordance with customers’ requirements.     

SPC process involves various types of control charts. These charts are quite similar to each other up to some extent and they are prepared to suit specific characteristics of the quality attribute that needs to be analyzed.

Two main types of charts are the Variable Control Charts and Attribute Control Charts.

Variable Control Charts consist of x bar control chart, Range ‘r’ control chart, and Standard Deviation ‘s’ control chart while Attribute Control Charts contain ‘u’ and ‘c’ control charts, ‘p’ and ‘np’ control charts, and pre-control charts.

SPC software are most commonly used in manufacturing and production industries. The primary aim of this process is to measure how a product performs in accordance with the given specifications. Every company strives for consistency and quality. Best SPC software can help them achieve that.

Here are some remarkable benefits of utilizing SPC system that manufacturers need to realize:

  1. Optimal productivity: Problems or defects are inevitable, they are bound to happen somewhere down the road during the manufacturing process. Not having any SPC system in place can be disadvantageous as identifying the problems or defects is tough manually. It’s likely that the problems will be detected at the end of the manufacturing (manufacturing software} process. And the manufacturing process needs to be stopped or shut down completely to identify the cause(s). Therefore, locating the problems and rectifying them can eat up a lot more time. But, with an SPC quality tool, the problems or defects can be detected in real-time during the manufacturing process and to address them only a small portion of the process would be affected. The workflow of any specific problem area can be switched to an auxiliary production line and this will prevent shut down of the entire process. 

  2. Boost operational efficiency: SPC software for manufacturing shows statistical information in various control charts for monitoring the manufacturing quality. Detecting any variations, trends, or unusual activities becomes quick and easy through graphs. Statistical data can be analyzed in real-time to detect any issues as soon as they occur and rectify them without any assumptions or guesswork.

  3. Minimizing rework, abandonment, and warranty claims: Consistency is crucial in any kind of production. And Statistical Process Control tools ensure that consistency is maintained throughout the process. Consider this for instance, in the case of a manufacturing plant of ready-made food, everything must taste the same and retain the same quality even though they are produced in large quantities on a daily basis. SPC systems ensure uniformity of the products and ascertain that they are produced strictly in accordance with the predefined specifications.

  4. Minimizing the need for manual inspections: Recognizing any defects after the completion of the manufacturing process results in unnecessary product wastage. SPC allows error detection during the production stage. Therefore, equipment or machine settings can be adjusted to keep the process going without any need for manual inspection.

  5. Better customer experience: Universally, the aim of any business or enterprise is to meet customers’ expectations and become a trusted brand to serve the customers in the long term thereby enhancing customers’ experience with time. Utilization of SPC solution assures customer loyalty as manufacturers can depend on quality products due to receiving quality materials. 

  6. Cost efficiency: Another great benefit of SPC software is that it can assist in cutting down or control the cost of the whole manufacturing process. SPC allows users to keep an eye on the quality of the products produced, and defects & variations can be known before sending the products out.

  7. Comprehensive analytics and insights: Best SPC software lets users extract reports about their SPC data. These reports can be viewed, saved, printed, or converted to other formats for convenience. Then they can be formatted or modified to be reviewed by different personnel according to their requirements. This can include Process Information Reports, Product Inspection Report, Product Analysis Report, etc. 

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • With the industrial revolution and technological advancements, there came an era of mass production. Therefore, maintaining the quality of the product became a serious challenge. And that is why SPC was developed, its aim is straightforward - to control the process and not the product because a controlled process will automatically produce quality products.
  • It’s simple, just ask yourself the following questions: - Are you aware of your quality costs? - Are you able to detect the cause of any quality issues? - Do you know when your machines and equipment are in need of preventative maintenance? - Are you able to forecast yields and production results accurately or you’re relying on assumptions and guesswork? - Do you have the data on which decisions can be made?
  • SPC is a widely implemented quality tool in many industries. Any industry dealing with manufacturing and production of goods can implement SPC and it becomes a vital element in the industries where maintaining the quality of the product is of utmost importance. Some of those industries include - food processing, textiles, automobiles, engineering materials, etc.

Kiran BajpaiBy Kiran Bajpai | Last Updated: October 29, 2020

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