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Celebrating 100 Years of Statistical Process Control: Past, Present, and Future

Posted 21st May 2024

Statistical Process Control (SPC) has revolutionised the way industries manage and improve quality, evolving continuously over the past century. As this essential analytical technique celebrates its 100th birthday, there’s no better time to look back at SPC’s origins, examine its journey through time and discover how modern solutions like EasySPC are harnessing its power today.

The Birth of Statistical Process Control

This fascinating story begins with Walter Shewhart, an American physicist, engineer and statistician. Born on 18 March 1891, Shewhart’s ground-breaking work at Bell Telephone Laboratories and Western Electric laid the foundation for SPC. His introduction of control charts —a revolutionary tool for monitoring and improving process quality—marked the beginning of modern quality management. 

It started with a memo in 1924 from Shewhart to his boss which described an idea he had around manufacturing processes that may be of interest. The memo contained the first ever published control chart, borne out of his observations of variations in manufacturing and the desire to know why these occurred and when to respond to them. In fact, much of his early work was dedicated simply to the “detection of out-of-control processes”, says Dennis Crommentuijn-Marsh in a recent SPC podcast.

Shewhart then continued experimenting with his ideas, writing books and creating journals which profoundly influenced quality pioneers like W. Edwards Deming and Joseph Juran, shaping the future of quality control.

What Exactly is Statistical Process Control?

Imagine being able to predict and control the quality of a process with precision—this is the essence of SPC. By employing statistical techniques, SPC helps organisations analyse and control process variations. The result? Processes that are stable, predictable and consistently meet specifications. The benefits are immense: reduced waste, fewer defects, lower costs, and higher customer satisfaction. Whether in manufacturing, services, or complex systems, SPC is a versatile tool that drives excellence.

The Evolution of Statistical Process Control

Over the last 100 years, SPC has undergone significant transformation, incorporating new tools, methodologies, and applications. Here are some key developments:

  • The Shewhart Cycle: Also known as the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle, this framework encourages continuous improvement.
  • Seven Basic Quality Tools: Simple yet powerful techniques for problem-solving and process enhancement.
  • Six Sigma: A methodology that strives for near-zero defects by reducing process variation.
  • Lean: A philosophy focused on eliminating waste and maximising value.
  • Integration with Quality Management Systems: SPC now plays a crucial role in systems like ISO 9000, Total Quality Management (TQM) and the Baldrige Performance Excellence Programme.

EasySPC: Modern SPC in Healthcare and Beyond

Enter EasySPC, a Microsoft certified Power BI custom visual designed to bring SPC into the modern era, particularly within healthcare organisations. EasySPC offers a simple, powerful, and compliant solution for creating SPC charts using your own data. Developed by healthcare professionals and optimised for process-driven environments, EasySPC helps organisations monitor process variation and swiftly identify potential bottlenecks in processes or operational activities. From its intuitive user interface to its seamless user experience, the software enables greater focus on the things that matter most.

EasySPC in Action: Today’s Real-World Applications

A shining example of EasySPC in action today is its deployment at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Known for its commitment to improving child health and care delivery, the hospital uses EasySPC to achieve the best possible outcomes for patients and their families. In our insightful webinar series about the deployment, Cincinnati Children’s team reveals that using EasySPC has spread the message among all staff that SPC ‘is how we do improvement’.  Additionally, in partnership with the East London NHS Foundation Trust (ELFT), EasySPC addresses the unique challenges faced by healthcare organisations, providing real-time reporting for boardroom insights and operational efficiency. ELFT itself has created more than 34k (not a typo) SPC charts, saving the Trust the equivalent of 141 staff hours every day

The Future of SPC with EasySPC

Looking ahead, the potential of SPC is boundless, especially with EasySPC leading the charge. Imagine a world where SPC is enhanced by artificial intelligence, big data, and cloud computing—providing faster, smarter, and more accurate insights. EasySPC is poised to leverage these technologies, setting a new standard for quality management.

Moreover, the integration of SPC with methodologies such as Lean Six Sigma, Design for Six Sigma, and Agile will create a robust, flexible approach to achieving quality excellence. SPC, combined with EasySPC’s advanced capabilities, embodies a culture of continuous learning and improvement.

As we celebrate 100 years of SPC, we also celebrate its future—one filled with endless possibilities and innovations. EasySPC is at the forefront, ready to navigate the complexities and opportunities of the modern world. SPC is not just about tools; it’s a mindset and culture that drives organisations towards excellence and innovation. 

Ready to explore the world of EasySPC? 

Dive into BCN’s powerful solution designed to simplify Statistical Process Control (SPC) for healthcare organisations and beyond. With EasySPC, you’ll discover a user-friendly interface and seamless experience tailored to your needs.

Interested in learning more or booking a demo? Take the next step towards unlocking the potential of EasySPC.

Schedule your demo today and embark on a journey towards operational excellence with EasySPC by your side.

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