Just how much can a quality intelligence solution save your company? For one North American packaging manufacturer, taking control of process quality saved several major client relationships—and the entire plant that produced packages for those clients.
Problem: Quality Down, Defects and Customer Complaints Up
The packaging site had real problems. It produced millions of cartons per month. But not only did it have the highest number of customer complaints of the 20+ sites in the company, the cartons it was sending out were actually shutting down customer production lines.
Aside from the resulting complaints and even fines, the site’s two largest clients were threatening to take their business elsewhere. If that happened, the plant was done for, putting hundreds of employees out of work, and potentially devastating the small town that housed the site.
For this company, quality control wasn’t just a buzzword. It looked to be the only thing standing between this site and certain closure.
Proposed Solution: Drill into Quality Data to Uncover Root Cause
The site’s quality improvement started with a close examination of the manufacturing process, which involved several steps along each of three production lines:
- Rolls of material were loaded onto each line
- Sheets were cut from the rolls
- Cut sheets were printed
- Printed sheets were die cut
- Cartons were glued and folded
At the end of the lines, inspectors examined cartons before packaging. Yet too many defective cartons were reaching customers—and the inspectors had no insights into why cartons were passing final checkpoints but failing when they reached customers.
The company needed to figure out what was going wrong—and fast. The plant manager, a quality advocate, called InfinityQS to implement a quality intelligence solution based in solid statistical process control (SPC) methodology as the foundation of its turnaround effort.
Working with InfinityQS, the plant conducted an acceptance sampling plan, sorting defective cartons and collecting visual defects data. These data were entered into the InfinityQS platform using barcode scanners. The resulting analysis and visual comparisons (via Pareto chart) quickly revealed the primary defects that were being generated:
- Folded and bent flaps
- Cartons that wouldn’t open
- Misprinted cartons
In conjunction with the operations team, the quality team determined that the biggest problem—folded and bent flaps—must be occurring during the folding/gluing process. The next step, therefore, was to check the folder/gluer machines to determine why these problems were occurring. The teams were astounded by their findings. For example, one machine was jammed with not one but two cartons—something that had never been checked because it should have automatically stopped the machine from working.
After checking and correct the settings and specific issues on each machine, the next step was to investigate the sticking boxes. Research into that issue again led to the folder/gluers. Glue was being applied improperly, causing overflows that prevented boxes from opening and caused customer production lines to grind to a halt. Again, the problem was easily resolved once identified.
Further review of Pareto charts in the InfinityQS system revealed that the majority of coloring issues stemmed from only one of the three lines. The six-color printing press there was examined and fixed next.
Result: Quality Improvement Saves the Day—and the Plant
The plant manager’s quality advocacy paid massive dividends for the carton plant. Over a 6-month period, the site realized a complete turnaround:
- Six Sigma quality levels on all primary characteristics
- Overall defect-level reduction of 86%
- Virtual elimination of customer complaints
- Lowest parts-per-million defect rate in the company
- Transition from lowest to highest quality across all sites
By simply using the InfinityQS quality intelligence solution to scientifically and methodically collect data and identify and prioritize problems, the company was able to drive improvements and save the site.
Corporate management’s take on the quality team’s efforts?
“We don’t know what you’re doing, but keep doing it!”