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7QCs: An Introduction to the Seven Basic Tools of Quality Control

Quality control. Of course it is important. When producing parts or products, the ability to monitor, troubleshoot, and adjust manufacturing processes is necessary for companies to remain efficient and competitive. If products are to be made consistently to a required standard, the methods of manufacturing must be measurable, adjustable, and repeatable.

In order to achieve these standards, logical, data driven approaches to finding acceptable solutions can be used, such as the 7QC tools, or the Seven Basic Tools of Quality Control. The 7QC tools are statistical tools that help individuals, organizations, and businesses resolve quality issues for products and processes. They are called basic tools because they are suitable for people with little formal training in statistics and because they can be used to solve the vast majority of quality-related issues.

7QC tools include:

Check Sheets

Check sheets are used to collect data in order to understand the qualitative and quantitative variables that can affect a process. When recording data on a check sheet, check marks or tally marks are used to indicate the amount of what is being collected, which helps in understanding the progress, defect patterns, and even causes for defects.

Check Sheets

Control Charts

Control charts are graphs used to represent process performance over time. Subgroups of data points are collected and compiled together within a short interval of time. The average of the data points within a subgroup is represented as a single dot in the control chart. The amount of variation that exists within a sample data set is the standard deviation, which is used to determine the control limits. When the subgroups exist beyond the control limits or exhibit specific patterns or trends, then the process is said to be “out-of-control.”

Control Charts

Fishbone Diagrams

Fishbone diagrams, also referred to as cause and effect diagrams, are a quality control brainstorming tool used to help identify the root cause or causes of an issue by looking at all possible variables.

When using these diagrams, a central issue or focal point, such as a defect or quality problem, is placed at the head of the “fish.” The “bones of the fish” serve as a way to visually organize all possible variables, or causes, that may have caused the central issue, and sort ideas into categories to investigate further.

Fishbone Diagrams

Histograms

Histograms are a type of bar graph used to represent the frequency distribution, or how often each different value in a set of data occurs. It is created by grouping the data you collect into “cells” or “bins.” The histogram is the most commonly used graph to assess process behavior and demonstrate if the data follow a normal distribution, or bell-shaped curve.

Histograms

Pareto Charts

Pareto charts are a combination of bar and line graphs that provide a visual representation of how often the various issues affecting a process are occurring. Pareto chart derives its name from the use of the Pareto Principle, which states “80% of the effect comes from 20% of the causes.” Using this chart, professionals can decide where to place priority and focus.

Pareto Charts

Scatter Diagrams

Scatter diagrams, also called scatter plots, are graphs used to visually represent the relationship between two variables in order to quickly identify the correlation between them.

This tool is used to determine the type of relationship that exists between the inputs to the process, or process characteristics, and the outputs from a process, or product characteristics.

Scatter Diagrams

Stratification

Stratification is a method of dividing data into subcategories and classifying data based on group, division, class, or levels that helps in deriving meaningful information to understand an existing problem.

Stratification

To learn more about these Seven Basic Tools of Quality Control, and to learn how to apply these tools to solving quality problems by viewing examples, check out the online 7QC courses in the THORS Academy Library, brought to you by THORS eLearning Solutions.

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Is your issue a skills gap or a knowledge gap?

You may have received a call to action to address the skills gap, which might feel making a bridge across the Grand Canyon with a few sticks and some string. The overarching term, “skills gap,” encompasses a variety of workplace topography with very different types of solutions. Perhaps, because of its large scale “skills gap” doesn’t come close to identifying the specific scope or the needs of your organization. The problem may lie in defining what the problem really is.

How do you define a skills gap?

There are a variety of reasons for the rift between matching people with available jobs. 

The Technology Gap

Robotics, artificial intelligence, and other advanced technologies may pose one of two types of concerns. Either your facility is expanding toward the future and your people have skill shortages, or your facility is crawling toward these endeavors and you can’t keep your people from being lured away.

“The types of skills that employees need to possess are rapidly evolving, and it seems increasingly difficult for the workforce to keep pace.

If your facility has embraced AI and robotics in the workplace, educational bridges for these gaps may already be started. If this technology is still in a galaxy far, far away, perhaps first laying a foundational understanding of the basics the technology is addressing is a timelier approach for your current workers.

The Perception Gap

Misconceptions of what a career in your industry involves could be adding to your labor shortage. “It’s these misperceptions that exacerbate the skills shortage we’re facing, as young people, their parents and guidance counselors don’t see manufacturing as a viable career path.” 

Get onboard with an organization that is tackling the manufacturing myth for the workforce of tomorrow or start your own. Host a manufacturing day with a local school or community college and find ways to get employees involved. A group of like-minded change-makers can more readily organize and propose a paradigm shift, even if it is just within your facility or town.

The Knowledge Gap

Aging and subsequent generation identity are important issues in the world of manufacturing. Knowledge and experience are leaving and may not be handed off. A new generation of workers grew up with a very different landscape of tools and methods of learning. In training, these new learners may struggle with a mentor approach that can be sporadic in conveying information.

How do you make strides across the knowledge gap?

Laying a strong foundation of training in the basics for your industry can be an important supporting tool for bridging the gap. If the chasm you are facing is related to the preparation of various levels of experience, THORS courses can help.

The first thing taught is terminology. “From there, we build an understanding of the process and then cover how to apply the knowledge,” Kumar says.

Kumar says, “many training programs focus on teaching how to do something, but the “what” and “why” are crucial to understanding an entire process.” The understanding of the foundation allows for more creative problem-solving.

Skills Gap, Knowledge Gap

Once workers understand the terminology outside of their immediate responsibilities and department, they can have more effective conversations and collaboration with coworkers—“because now they understand what’s going on upstream and downstream from what they do,” Kumar says.

Perhaps by addressing the specific and relevant gap being faced, building a bridge across the skills gap can feel less like a daunting canyon and more like a manageable span over a narrow gulley.

We want to hear from you! Let’s discuss how THORS can aid in identifying and being a resource in your training operations.

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THORS Effectiveness Survey Results

In 2019, a US-based turbine company identified that they had a skills gap developing within their organization. They recognized the need for organized training and decided to make training an area of focus for 2019. Subsequently, they decided to sign on with THORS eLearning Solutions for a 1-year corporate subscription.

Recently, our THORS team conducted an anonymous survey with 12 of the turbine company employees that had taken the THORS courses. The survey audience consisted of 75% technical employees and 25% commercial employees. Employees with prior subject knowledge included 17% advanced and 58% intermediate levels while the novice level was 25%. We wanted to understand the impact THORS training was having on them and how it addressed the skills gap the company was experiencing.

In our survey, we explored beyond the standard questions, such as “Did you learn something from this course?” and asked questions, such as “Would this course have shortened your learning curve when you moved into your current organization or job?”. This type of question provided some excellent insight into our effectiveness in achieving one of our core goals. The results breakdown was as follows:

The THORS methodology takes a multi-sensory approach to learning that consists of a combination of interactives, animations, and quizzes that make our courses easy-to-understand and engaging. The results breakdown for the question “Did you think the course was intuitive, engaging, or both intuitive and engaging?” was as follows:

For the question, “Were the graphics, animations, and activities enlightening, and did they positively contribute to your understanding of the subject?” 100% of the respondents said yes.

We at THORS work with our customers to make sure the courses offered to their employees are relevant to their job.  To this effect, our newly launched customer success team will work with you, the customer, to help you get started. Our customer success team is there to gain an understanding of your training goals and build curricula relevant to your needs. This ensures your employees only spend time on necessary training. An example of this, when we asked the question, “Did you find the courses to be relevant to your work?”, 83% responded absolutely, while 17% responded with either probably, maybe, or not at all.

Even though continuous training is something that every company considers important, taking time away from the job for a seminar/classroom session is always a challenge given schedule differences and potential loss in productivity. THORS aims to be a solution to that problem, with training split into modules, minimizing company downtime. Our customer success team can prescribe and help tailor the curricula, be it courses from our standard library or our custom course offerings, specifically for you and your company. The year 2020 is right around the corner! If you’re looking to identify and fill your skills gaps and would like to expand your training program, contact THORS eLearning Solutions.

We are here to help.

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How to Implement IoT in Your Company – Part 1  

The Internet of Things is changing and improving our lives and work in more ways that you might realize. From tracking heart rates, monitoring machines on the shop floor controlling devices at the home or office, to sensing changes in an environment, IoT is revolutionizing the way we interact with the world around us.

There were around 500 million devices connected to the Internet in 2003. Jump to 2010 and, with the advent of smartphones, the number of connected devices increased to 12.5 billion. Research and advisory company Gartner, Inc. predicts this number will increase by the year 2020 to 20 billion devices. Most of these connected devices will be generating data. And when analyzed properly, this data can help companies make better business decisions, improve customer experience, reduce operational costs, and create new revenue opportunities.

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Manufacturing Industry Trends to watch out for in 2019

The manufacturing industry is changing at an unprecedented speed. According to the International Data Corporation (IDC) “Manufacturers of every size and shape are changing rapidly because of new digital technologies, new competitors, new ecosystems, and new ways of doing business.” Customers today are also much more aware, demanding improved efficiency and innovative products. Technology is the catalyst behind this disruption. And organizations will only survive if they adapt quickly and stay abreast of the current manufacturing industry trends.

engineer-tablet-robot-factory-industry-trends
Manufacturing Industry Trends: Cobots

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5 Reasons Why a Culture of Learning can Lead to Success

Learning is continuous. After all, there are always new skills to learn and techniques to adopt. A culture of learning in an organization can also improve business performance, increase profit, and boost the morale of a workforce.

As per the study “Are SMART Goals Dumb?”, only 42% of workers say they are always or frequently learning on the job, while another 39% percent say they are never or rarely learning. This is because many organizations believe that an investment in learning and development is not only expensive, but it may also lead to a delay in the completion of projects. It is time we bust these myths. Learning and development not only provides the company as a whole and individual employees with greater benefits, but it also makes cost and time a profitable investment.

Group of employees learning and talking with each other
A culture of learning will improve your company’s bottom line.

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Beyond Symbols: Fluency in GD&T Decreases Cost

Due to the complex nature of the geometric dimensioning and tolerancing (GD&T) standard, a company’s bottom line profitability can be affected as a result of reading and interpreting errors. Users who have a lack of knowledge concerning the rules, symbols, conventions, and associated terminology of GD&T are more likely to make incorrect decisions.

Render of a projected tolerance zone

Render of a projected tolerance zone

One such area where a deficit in GD&T language fluency and comprehension can impact manufacturing is in the prototyping process. Situations where a limited understanding can affect this crucial process include the following:

Ineffective design: Designers who do not fully understand the concepts of GD&T may not include GD&T on a print where it would be beneficial. As a result, the part is now much more difficult to manufacture as required information, such as position tolerances, was not provided to ensure the part met fit, form, and function.

Inaccurate manufacturing: Even when GD&T is effectively provided on a print, it may not be understood by the manufacturing team. As a result, there is a higher chance that the part will not be manufactured to the print’s requirements, thus impeding the assembly process. Inaccurate manufacturing means wasted materials, time, and money.

Increased timeline: A limited understanding of GD&T in design, manufacture, or both can lead to multiple back and forth cycles in the prototyping process. With every additional cycle, the time it takes to bring the part into production increases, causing the prototyping timeline to grow longer. Longer timelines equal higher costs, which will ultimately affect bottom line profitability.

The inability to understand and interpret GD&T at any stage of development can have a huge effect on a company’s track to production. Therefore, it is essential for individuals within an organization’s design and manufacturing teams to all be well versed in the language of GD&T in order to have the greatest potential for success.

In the next installment of our GD&T series, we will discuss how an incomplete understanding of GD&T can impact product quality. We at THORS are also happy to announce that our GD&T Fundamentals course has launched!


Kavita Krishnamurthy is an ASQ certified Six Sigma Black Belt with over 15 years of experience in the field of process improvement, manufacturing engineering, and quality management in the automotive and gear industries. She is also the subject matter expert of our GD&T Fundamentals course.

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Robotics & Automation Trends Driving the Manufacturing Industry in 2018

The manufacturing sector has been greatly impacted by the Industrial Revolution and the world has moved towards automation and, finally, digital transformation is here to change the world with areas full of unexplored opportunities, IoT (Internet of things), and AI (Artificial Intelligence). The impact has been a customized production model instead of mass production. Digitization is happening on a rapid scale as customers’ demands and expectations are on a rise, leading to the integration of AI in electronic devices that see day-to-day use, making the entire operation automatic. The advent of artificial intelligence has meant a machine’s ability to learn and adapt to human behavior, which in turn led to robotics. Robotics is not a new concept; traditionally, robots were confined to performing repetitive tasks on the assembly line. Presently, robots are much more capable of identifying human behavior and are highly collaborative with different devices.

Robotic automation system at a factory.

Robotic automation system at a factory.

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A Beginner’s Guide to Forging Fundamentals

The process of forging produces some of the strongest manufactured components as compared to other metal manufacturing process, making it so important in the metal manufacturing industry.  Forging does not change the grain structure of the metal as it is formed, making it all the more innovative. It is the process of shaping metals into desired dimensions by using compressive forces applied through various tools.

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How to increase the number of women in manufacturing in 2018

A skilled workforce is the fuel for the manufacturing industry’s engine of growth. As per a report by Deloitte, approximately 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will likely need to be filled in the U.S. from 2015 to 2025. It further forecasts that the skills gap will leave 2 million of these jobs unfilled. And without sufficient availability of a skilled workforce, manufacturers could face inefficient production lines and competitors snatching their business, making hiring and retaining talent equally critical to company success.