I recently had a conversation with a new client about his selection of GainSeeker® Suite for real-time SPC in his plant. I’ll call him Bill, although that is not his real name. I think you’ll see as this story unfolds why he asked me not to use his name.

Planning for ERP and EQMS upgrades

Bill is the Director of Quality at a manufacturing company somewhere in the Midwest. Like a lot of manufacturing companies, his organization is upgrading their operations management software. Their upgrades included both their ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and their EQMS (Enterprise Quality Management System) applications.  He told me, “Our ERP system was based on the AS/400. It is a commercial application with over a dozen home-grown add-ons that we built over the years.”

At the same time, they realized they needed to upgrade their quality management system. After careful research they selected one of the well-known EQMS solutions.

Bundled SPC Solutions fall short

“We started with the quality system because it looked easier to get started,” said Bill. “Still it took a lot of effort to implement. And although they had an SPC module, I didn’t trust the charting and statistical capability.”

During their research on ERP solutions, they zeroed in fairly quickly on one that has a particularly good reputation in his industry. But when Bill dove deeply into their SPC capabilities, they came up short. “We talked to a lot of our peers in the industry that use this particular ERP solution, and none of them fully use their quality module. All agree that it is not very strong,” he said.

“It looks like an afterthought – like they needed to be able to say they have a quality module. But I would not feel comfortable using it to manage our quality. They lack charting and analytics, and the system is not at all flexible. I wasn’t confident I could depend on the outputs,” Bill recalled.

Timing critical

With neither the EQMS or ERP solutions offering the level of SPC functionality Bill needed to be successful, there was a lot of pressure to act fast. “We had already decided the EQMS system lacked the SPC functionality we needed,” said Bill. “And even if the ERP system had the functionality -which it didn’t – it would be another two years before we had it in place. We needed to act now.”

It was easy for Bill to justify the investment in a new system: “Once I was satisfied that neither of these other systems could deliver the functionality I needed, and with a requirement to upgrade from our legacy SPC system, the decision to move forward with a dedicated SPC software deployment was easy.”

SPC requirements

Bill looked for a system that could provide flexibility in collecting data from a variety of sources, including direct, automated gaging. He also needed to get the data into a single data warehouse instead of the multiple spreadsheets and databases they had with their legacy system.  “We had people mining data from all over when we needed to analyze or report anything. Eliminating all that effort to mine data paid for the system by itself,” he said. On top of that, providing easier connections to gages freed up a lot of unproductive labor, and avoided a huge investment in new MUX interface boxes. Finally, they wanted an easier connection to MINITAB.

“We use MINITAB for all kinds of deep analytics,” said Bill. “We needed a system that could get the data for those studies without a huge expenditure of time and effort.”

From my perspective, the justification came from the Guard stage of the quality journey: protecting the customer and your brand from mistakes and problems. Bill’s company has a basic “block and tackle” requirement to collect and report quality data, and can realize a defensible payback in labor savings and reduced capital investment in gage MUX boxes.

Bill believes there will be benefits beyond this, in what I call the Guide and Gain stages, but he didn’t need to go there to get approval for his purchase.

He found all of these capabilities – and more – in GainSeeker Suite.

Dreaming of future integration

We discussed possible integration points for GainSeeker to these other systems. “I’d really like to get my control plan from my EQMS into GainSeeker. That way I could tie them together better,” he said.

He’d also like to use GainSeeker to provide analytics and charting for the ERP system. “There will be a lot of good data in our ERP system once we get it up and running, but it really is lacking in trend analysis and other analytical tools.”

Bill’s comments resonated with findings by LNS Research, reported in this blog a few months ago. Matt Littlefield commented on that post that:

Based on over 500 survey respondents from a number of different manufacturing industries, we have found that SPC and real-time visibility into quality performance has had a substantial impact on performance metrics like OEE, with a median benefit of 7%. It is also important to mention that pure-play solution providers in the SPC space can often implement more quickly and provide a quicker ROI than larger more comprehensive EQMS or MOM software systems.

What about your situation? Does your ERP and EQMS platform provide an SPC solution? Is it up to the job, or are you considering a pure play SPC solution? Please leave a comment, or  write to me at ejmiller [at] hertzler [dot] com. I’d love to hear from you.