Quality vs Quantity: Why Faster Is Not Always Better

Many companies in the Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) industry have manual tasks, as part of their primary batching process, that can cause quality issues due to human error. A number of these companies are now adopting software solutions, such as our Proficy Workflow, to digitize the process and drive consistency and repeatability through electronic work instructions. They use this either to control and guide the primary manufacturing, or to capture production comments across multiple lines for post-production analysis.

One company implemented the Workflow solution with two main goals: reduce the number of “off quality” batches per month and increase the speed of batch production. On one of my visits, the automation manager and I were talking about the system and how they had not had a single batch rejected due to production issues since it went live.  Based on the costs of a lost batch, this was huge for them, but they had not seen the increased speed they were expecting in the primary batching area.

To investigate, we both went down to the line and met with one of the operators using the system. We asked her honest opinion of the system, and she was very complimentary on how it helped her manage daily tasks. Then we asked, “But why have you not been able to speed up the process?” Her response was straight to the point:  “With this system in place no one takes the shortcuts we used to. The system makes sure we all make the same batches the same way consistently.”

So, we concluded that the quality issues seemed to be caused by people trying to speed up the process as opposed to following their own documented processes. They made a few more batches, but those gains were offset by expensive rejects that occurred.

I found this most interesting, as most of the time, the mantra is “do things faster.” In this case it was, “do things as they are supposed to be done,” which has paid off in increased quality.

Have you had similar experiences with production? Do you agree quality is sometimes better than speed?

Barry Lynch

Barry, Global Marketing Director – Automation Hardware at GE's Automation & Controls business, passionately believes that connected machines, mobile data analytics and workforce enablement don’t have to be hurdles in business today. He leads the strategic direction of the company’s automation and information systems programs to help customers apply the power of the Industrial Internet to their businesses. By connecting machines, data, insights and people, our technology solutions deliver critical insight for greater operational efficiency, effectiveness and optimization. Learn more about how Barry works at GE on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter at @BarryLynchGE.

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