Dow enhances reliability with advanced analytics

Adding ‘billions and billions’ in value with Six Sigma

ChallengeTo turn data into knowledge that ensures the reliability of products, fosters innovation and informs decisions.
SolutionThousands of Dow employees rely on JMP statistical discovery software to gain a competitive edge. JMP is used in many facets of Dow’s operations.
ResultsAs Dow transitions from a traditional manufacturer to a solutions provider, JMP has become an essential tool for analyzing and presenting data, sharing it in a collaborative process with colleagues and customers, and using it to project new initiatives.

Times have changed since 1897, when Dow Chemical was founded in Midland, MI, and began producing bleach. Today Dow is a global giant, developing not just chemicals, but an array of products that have become indispensible in our homes, our workplaces and almost everywhere else.

As Dow has evolved from a chemical manufacturer into a system supplier, product reliability has become an area of increasing focus. A team of reliability specialists depends on JMP statistical discovery software from SAS to pinpoint defects in materials or processes, locate design issues and determine how to correct them. The software’s combination of robust analytics and advanced data visualization tools lets users immediately spot trends and outliers in vast data stores.

Reliability at Dow starts with the Six Sigma program, which has overseen more than 75,000 projects. JMP has played an “integral role” in every one of them, according to Kevin McCarron, Dow’s Six Sigma Service Leader.

JMP “is fundamental to what we do in our Six Sigma program,” says McCarron. Trainees are introduced to the basics of JMP and then graduate to proficiency in the use of design of experiments and the reliability platform. “It’s woven into the fabric of the training program.”

And the payoff is manifest. “It’s well documented that Dow has saved or generated billions and billions of dollars in value through Six Sigma,” says Ed Noack, Global Leader of Dow’s Diamond Value Chain Consulting, which provides supply chain and Six Sigma consulting to outside companies. Noack says he has used JMP to analyze the data in every consulting project in which he’s participated.

In one noteworthy example, Noack recalls that JMP helped uncover an inefficiency in a production process that, when corrected, resulted in millions of dollars of savings, a more environmentally sound process and an improved product.

JMP has also been used to determine where to build a new plant, how it should be designed and what the working capital should be. “We’ve built entire models around that,” Noack says.

Six Sigma Service Leader McCarron believes JMP’s new reliability platform is “a fantastic platform for us to build on.” The latest tools, he says, “just nailed it for us,” offering “a whole new area of opportunity for us across the businesses.” McCarron says JMP will play a consistently greater role in the reliability initiative.

“JMP is so ubiquitous,” he adds. “We use it in our continuous improvement and innovation space.”

“When you’re shipping a railcar of material out in a tank car, that’s one thing,” says Chris Haney, a Six Sigma Master Black Belt and Technology Leader at Dow. “When you’re shipping fabricated articles out, that’s another level of complexity.”

That’s why Haney and his colleagues are excited by JMP’s latest reliability tools, which “can help us feel more confident when we put something out there and say, ‘This’ll last for 10 years; this’ll last for 20 years.’”

‘Where has this been?’

Dow is a data-driven corporation that has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in data collection and management. But large volumes of data are of no value without a way to derive meaning from the numbers.

“We have to turn that data into information and then into knowledge to help make business decisions,” says Tim Rey, Director of Advanced Analytics.

From data to information to knowledge to action – JMP helps Dow get there. Dow has some 7,500 active JMP users in 35 countries. They span the gamut of operations in engineering, public relations and legal services, and all have transitioned to JMP Pro, which offers data mining and predictive modeling capabilities.

Dow was an early adopter of JMP; Rey introduced it into R&D shortly after its release in 1989. The software has been positioned at Dow as a midrange to high-end analysis platform. Other SAS® solutions are available for more advanced forecasting or data mining.

Haney loves the ability with JMP to very quickly get an understanding of what’s going on with data. “I’ve met people who have come to Dow who didn’t grow up in a JMP environment, and it’s interesting to watch them when they start to use it,” he says.

“They get one look at JMP and they say, ‘Wow. Where has this been?’”

R&D, A to Z

JMP plays a major role in Dow’s research and development as well.

“We use JMP to help us in planning our experiments in an efficient and effective way,” says Jeff Sweeney, a Dow Senior Research Statistician. “It’s being used throughout the entire scientific method process. We use it to help us to develop strategic data collection plans.

“A lot of the data that is necessary to make those decisions doesn’t exist yet. So we use JMP to help us in planning our experiments in an efficient and effective way, all the way through the modeling of the resulting data.”

JMP displays data graphically, models it, and then optimizes the models to pinpoint, in Sweeney’s words, the “sweet spots” – the best use of technology in designing the optimal product. JMP enables subject-matter experts to explore their data interactively and then collaborate more effectively with other experts who are using other technologies.

Sweeney says that in R&D, JMP’s Custom Design platform is the workhorse.

“A lot of what we do in R&D doesn’t fit into the typical classical design cases, where you’re looking at something at two or three levels,” he explains. “Maybe we want to try different types of ingredients, where we want to look at six or eight different things, and we want that all to be integrated into the design of experiment.” Custom Design allows them to do so.

Sweeney has been involved in R&D projects in which JMP was integral throughout the process, from developing a data analysis plan, through the modeling stage, to the arrival at those sweet spots and the discovery that yes, there is a better way, a better use of technology and, ultimately, a better product than was originally conceived – a product better than any competitor’s.

JMP’s Distribution platform is another heavy hitter at Dow.

“When you’ve got 10 minutes to sit down and talk to somebody about their data set – bang! There it is,” McCarron says. “That really launches so much other activity that you can get into.”

‘Objective-based’

Sweeney believes that what sets JMP apart from other software is its “exploratory interactivity” and the fact that it is organized in a fundamentally different way from any other statistical software: “It’s more what I’ll call objective-based in how it’s organized, as opposed to tool-based.”

Explains Sweeney, “It’s easier, I find, for someone who doesn’t have a statistics background.” A novice probably won’t know which tool is best for what – and with JMP, that’s OK. Tell JMP, for example, that you want to observe the distribution of a set of numbers, and it will offer you the appropriate tools.

But even the most experienced user will one day need assistance – which leads McCarron to the subject of support: The JMP sales and marketing teams’ knowledge of the software “blows me away,” he says. They “know their products inside and out and can, on the spur of the moment, basically answer any question from a group of experienced JMP users. They just take it on … [they] step up to any challenge presented.”

Bottom line: JMP is helping Dow Chemical continue its transition from simply providing products to collaborating on solutions, and arriving at them ahead of the competition.

Noack, the leader of Dow’s worldwide consulting arm, says any company that doesn't focus on analytics won't last: “If we can use analytics to make the right decisions on where we invest our time, our people, our capital so that we can grow in the right areas, then the sky’s the limit on our future growth opportunity.”

Dave Kepler, Dow Chemical
It’s well documented that Dow has saved or generated billions and billions of dollars in value through Six Sigma.
Ed Noack

Global Leader of Diamond Value Chain Consulting at Dow Chemical

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