Process centering, in a business context, refers to a technique used in process management and quality control where the aim is to reduce variability and ensure that a process or a product’s characteristics consistently meet desired specifications. It is closely linked to the concepts of statistical process control and Six Sigma.
In more technical terms, process centering involves adjusting the process so that the mean (average) of the process output matches the target value. This is often depicted graphically as a bell curve or normal distribution that is centered around the target value, meaning that the majority of the process outputs are close to this value.
For example, if a company is manufacturing a certain component with a target length of 10 cm, process centering would involve adjusting the manufacturing process (e.g., the settings of the machines) so that the average length of the produced components is as close to 10 cm as possible. By doing this, the company can reduce the number of components that are too short or too long (i.e., reduce variability), improving the quality of their product and potentially reducing costs associated with rework or waste.
The goal of process centering is to achieve a state where the process is in control (meaning it is stable and predictable) and capable (meaning it meets customer specifications). It’s an important part of continuous improvement and quality management in many industries.
Example of Process Centering
Let’s say a company produces aluminum rods that need to be exactly 1 meter in length. However, due to machine calibration issues and normal variability in the production process, the lengths of the rods can sometimes deviate from the desired 1 meter.
To address this, the company implements process centering. They first gather data on the lengths of the rods being produced and find that, on average, the rods are 1.02 meters long. In addition, there is a significant amount of variation in the rod lengths, ranging from 0.98 to 1.06 meters.
The company’s engineers then adjust the machine settings and production process to center the process around the target length of 1 meter. They fine-tune the machine, make necessary adjustments, and retrain the staff involved in the production process, if needed. After these changes, they find that the average length of the rods is now very close to 1 meter, and the variation in rod lengths has also decreased significantly.
Now, not only are most of the rods being produced closer to the desired length of 1 meter, but there are also fewer rods that are too short or too long. This means less waste, lower costs, and higher customer satisfaction, demonstrating the benefits of process centering.