BACKGROUND: The Access Group is the plastics division of Amway Corporation and has more than 12,000 employees worldwide and more than 450 types of products or services such as personal care, cosmetic, nutritional, home care and commercial products. They manufacture and also fill the containers with their products. The annual revenue totals $5.7 billion.

PLATFORMS: We are using SAS Version 6.12 ­ AF, QC, STAT, SAS/ACCESS to Sybase. SAS is run off a Novell Network. The PCs networked are IBM 350 P-200 and Sun Ultra 3000 UNIX with four CPUs. All data is stored in Sybase on the UNIX box.

PROBLEM SOLVED: The SAS Quality Solution automates the Access Group's original method of handling all its data: archived, paper-based records. Current and historical data can now be quickly and easily analyzed. The existing SPC system was not user friendly, and data retrieval was very difficult and time-consuming. The automated system is efficient and simplifies and speeds the data review process. Data entry is consistent and accurate. Out-of-specification results are highlighted and decimal precision is enforced. The system is real time on the production floor. Data is entered as it is collected, so it is available for analysis immediately. Finally, it provides shop floor control by requiring that all testing be done and out-of-specification results be signed by a crew leader/supervisor, recording when QA rounds were performed, etc.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: In the future, data captured from the machines will be stored in a separate server by third-party software so that machine data can also be analyzed from the system (including SAS data mining tools). This data will include air temperature and humidity, comparison temperature, etc. The system will be used to store line efficiency and scrap counts. In the screen print area, attributes and scraps counts will be collected.

STRENGTHS: The main reason SAS was selected was its ability to be customized to the plastics process.

WEAKNESSES: The main weakness of the system is the overall speed when saving the data, and the ability to customize the graphs is limited in the data analysis section.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Not only did the SAS Quality Solution provide the flexibility that we sought; but, as a system that Amway had already licensed, it was a less-expensive alternative. First, we made a list of requirements for the system we needed, and the quality assurance (QA) engineering group built a demonstration of the SAS system. With the flexibility of the system, we knew immediately that we wanted it. Within two months, two engineers in Amway's engineering group came up with an online trial. That trial was so successful, and the changes were so minimal, that the Access Group quickly installed the system for full-time use. The installation took less than a month

DELIVERABLES: The SAS Quality Solution improved accuracy and efficiency in QA inspection data; eliminated multiple databases because data is stored in one data warehouse; had the ability to quickly retrieve data and analyze it (capability, production and changeover data) in different review areas (R&D, QA, manufacturing); had a controlled workflow; and determined process capability and operator variation. Problem areas are quickly identified through an out-of-specification result report and analysis section. Operator efficiency has been increased. All variable data is electronically entered into the system which allows for faster and more accurate data entry. The data analysis has been used to quickly spot problem areas and address any quality issues. This includes justifying the expense of reworking molds that are causing quality issues. Cost savings are realized through process improvements, material usage and speed increases.

VENDOR SUPPORT: After several months of demonstrations of products in the marektplace, it was decided to develop the Plastics SPC system in SAS based on what had already been developed for the QA labs. A cross-functional team was put together to help design the system. With input from the team, it took two quality assurance engineering programmers only two months (devoting about half their time to the project) to develop a highly customized application for plastics manufacturing using SAS/AF frame technology.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is very user friendly as is the software. It is used by more than 55 people who have varying degrees of computer experience.

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