Statistical Process Control (SPC) is not new to industry. In 1924, a man at Bell Laboratories developed the control chart and the concept that a process could be in statistical control. His name was William A. Shewart. He eventually published a book titled “Statistical Method from the Viewpoint of Quality Control” (1939). The SPC process gained wide usage during World War II by the military in the munitions and weapons facilities. The demand for product had forced them to look for a better and more efficient way to monitor product quality without compromising safety. SPC filled that need. The use of SPC techniques in America faded following the war. It was then picked up by the Japanese manufacturing companies where it is still used today. In the 1970s, SPC started to gain acceptance again due to American industry feeling pressure from high quality products being imported from Japan. Today, SPC is a widely-used quality tool throughout many industries.
What is SPC?
SPC is method of measuring and controlling quality by monitoring the manufacturing process. Quality data is collected in the form of product or process measurements or readings from various machines or instrumentation. The data is collected and used to evaluate, monitor and control a process. SPC is an effective method to drive continuous improvement. By monitoring and controlling a process, we can assure that it operates at its fullest potential. One of the most comprehensive and valuable resources of information regarding SPC is the manual published by the Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG).
Why use SPC?
Manufacturing companies today are facing ever increasing competition. At the same time, raw material costs continue to increase. These are factors that companies, for the most part, cannot control. Therefore, companies must concentrate on what they can control: their processes. Companies must strive for continuous improvement in quality, efficiency and cost reduction. Many companies still rely only on inspection after production to detect quality issues. The SPC process is implemented to move a company from detection based to prevention based quality controls. By monitoring the performance of a process in real time the operator can detect trends or changes in the process before they result in non-conforming product and scrap.
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