Consider the operational steps followed in the production of chips in PCC: inbound, storage, cleaning, peeling, slicing, frying, flavouring, packaging, and distribution.
Use the following methods to improve the quality of the process: statistical process control, quality/cost studies, benchmarking, getting closer to the customer.
Statistical Process Control (SPC) is a valuable tool trying to improve quality. It was used for several years in the industry sector, but before to recommend some application in the PCC value chain, we need to know the limitation of this approach:
- SPC was applied for first time in industrial for engineers at Ford Motor Company for improving the quality of car components; so, not all what is designed for one industry could be applied for others.
- SPC was designed for logical processes, not for continuous processes; PCC value chain is essentially a continuous process industry; it has some components that it could be seen as discreet or logic, but essentially is a continuous process).
- SPC for continuous processes was developed later because of the success of the SPC for logical processes. This development involves the establishment of the band limits by statistical approaches. These bands of acceptance, surveillance and action are general, and they don’t take into consideration the process in itself.
- SPC is a statistical process, and such as most of the statistical process has strong limitation based on offsets, deviations, slow trend, etc, that the SPC approach can not capture (e.g.: the volume of any substance could change base on the temperature change; for SPC is very difficult to capture this change. In addition, if SPC is able to capture it, it will be in detriment of other non-quality deviations because SPC can not distinguish the source of the problem; simply it takes a picture of the process without to know the details in the picture).
- SPC establishes the band of work based on the three sigma deviation approaches, which it could be not enough for some processes for ensuring quality.
- SPC is a relatively old methodology, new approaches (some of them as evolution of SPC) could be considered.
- SPC takes long time and effort to be calibrated; it produces a huge amount of non desirable alarms (the output for SPC are hundred of possibilities that the engineers should select; e.g. two samples over one sigma followed by 1 sample over three sigma, etc, etc.). This discourages employees and produces a loss of confidence in the methodology just when it is ready to work.
So, theoretically, SPC could be applied in each part of the PCC value chain (inbound, storage, cleaning, peeling, slicing, frying, flavouring, packaging, and distribution) but it will work better for those processes that are logics. I will not consider the economic efficiency of this process; this will be the second step of analysis after to identify the potential application of SPC at the PCC value chain. Some of these processes where we could apply SPC are:
- size and shape of the potato (to produce a more homogeneous final products);
- measure by samples the density, hardness, nutrients and other properties (skin size, vitamins, copper, potassium, fiber, iron, magnesium, acids, energy, fat, water, carbohydrates, proteins, starch, sodium, etc) (for inbound, after storage, final product and some intermediate steps).
- quality of the potato in each part of the value chain (not only at the beginning, because some parts of the value chain could damage the potato and decrease the quality flow down of the process);
- Temperature and humidity control in each part of the process (including transportation and storage; this will avoid many issues related with quality); all processes.
- Control of the speed that the potato is moving over the PCC process. All processes.
- Control of the water and other substances used for cleaning the potato; control in quality and quantity of the flow, temperature.
- Control of the peeling process in quantity (weight) and quality of the skin removed.
- Control of slicing process quality (e.g.: speed, tool edge, final quality) to avoid damage in the potato chips.
- Control of frying process quality (e.g.: temperature, time, pressure, humidity, final quality)
- Control of flavouring process quality (e.g.: temperature, humidity, flow, weight, speed, final quality)
- Control of packaging process quality (e.g.: temperature, humidity, weight, speed, final quality)
- Control of the distribution process quality (e.g. temperature, humidity, timing, final quality)
Control means SPC. At a second level of quality control and improvement, SPC could be applied for every think that it could be measured in the PCC value chain. The belt speed in the continue process, the light intensity (it is associated with accidents), electric consumption of each motor and pump, the quality of digital and analogical control valve in the process, the time of response of each actuator in the process, each variable (digital and analogical) measured, etc.
Final quality refers to the final quality of the product for the sub-process in standard PCC measurements of quality for its potato chips.
Quality/cost studies should be applied for each proposal of improvement in quality and other issues. The cost-benefit analysis for PCC should be taken into consideration previous the project implementation. Every proposal should fulfill the PCC requirement for new investments. Each segment in the PCC value chain should justify the investment and the return for the segment and PCC. Each manager should study and analyse in a continue basis the income of statement and the schedule of cost for each segment, as well as the indexes that they shows the segment and value chain performance. In this way, new potential opportunities will emerge to improve quality (and costs).
Benchmarking: all the previous control process proposals are based on the installation of instrumentation, automation and control (IAC) systems in each part of the PCC value chain. Some processes or sub-processes could be measured on-line, other by periodic samples. All this IAC process at factory floor will be integrated with the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. This integral system will allow to PCC elaborates many benchmarks and indexes, high level SPC, cross information, tracking of variables, processes, people and process over many years, and finally it will allot to PCC to take the actions for improving these indexes. This process will help in the development of the internal benchmarking.
The internal benchmarking is significantly easier to develop than the external benchmarking. For comparison with other industries or sub-processes PCC needs data with the same quality, period and conditions. In other case, the data could be adapted to reproduce the similar conditions and compare them, but this approach has an important error, needs to know with detail the processes of the other companies, etc. As conclusion, the external benchmarking could be developed when both processes are similar and very well known, or for comparison at high level. The first option is possible if PCC has different plants or processes that it could be possible to compare. The second one could be developed through public data available such as exchange markets, associations, councils, publications, etc.
Getting closer to the customer: one of the inputs for the ERP system for PCC in the full quality analysis and integration should be the customer opinion, expectation and desire for the PCC products. The taste of customer change over the time and it could evolve quickly. PCC should maintain an active approach detecting the customer preferences and their tendencies (e.g. fat potato, more healthy potato chips).
Apply the model: “Re-engineering Process” to determine where quality improvements can be achieved in the PCC production value chain.
The production process at PCC depends of many factors: raw material, machinery, people, designed process, operation, instrumentation, automation and control of the processes, etc. Each segment, processes and sub-processes in the segment has the active participation of each one of the described factors. All and each one of these elements evolve over the time. People has more experience and different motivation, machinery has wear and tear, new and more efficient machinery is continually designed, new instrumentation and control system are in place over the time, management has better knowledge of the process, process engineer has better knowledge of the process, the customer preferences change, the market competition change, shareholders requirements and expectations, management and unions evolve, labour health and safety laws changes and so on.
So, for each one of the changes (and more) enumerated before, the concept of re-engineering process could be applied to adapt the PCC process to the new conditions and improve the quality under the new conditions.
1) Rockwell designs a new motor with lower rotational mass. This implies that the motor could turn faster and spend less energy. This new equipment should be analysed for each motor that PCC has in operation. It could mean a change in the process how PCC elaborate the chips. If any change is developed in the process, this could mean a change in the chips taste that could affect sales. The value of the company could change and the re-engineering process will help creating the new process and maintaining the value of PCC.
2) The motor designed by Rockwell is almost perfect for PCC, the only problem is that use a component for lubrication that is not recyclable and very pollutant. Re-engineering process will help measuring risks and deciding if they could be driven by PCC.
3) SPC shows that a team of workers has 4% lower efficiency during the night activities. This is a case of human resources re-engineering process. It should be analysed the causes, if the problem is any person or the group, etc. business culture could be applied to find a re-structuring process that help workers and PCC.
4) Company vision changes; the CEO had the approval from the shareholders to give to PCC more environmental values. A huge re-engineering process should be developed to find the optimal point of operation under the new boundary conditions.
5) New regulation for flaring and venting is in place. A re-engineering process should be conducted to change the process and adapt PCC factory to the new regulations without change in productivity and quality.
6) Indexes show that the critical path in the process has changed, and a segment in PCC is losing time. The re-engineering process will help to re-design the process based on the new critical path for the process.