Barbara A. Cleary’s picture

By: Barbara A. Cleary

Specific techniques for data collection, fundamental to accurate analysis, are sometimes overlooked in the need to see outcomes or trends in data. The lowly check sheet represents a critical tool in effective data collection if it is used correctly.

Because check sheets are such simple tools, they are sometimes associated with quick-and-dirty, penciled notations that record data as it is collected. But creating an effective check sheet involves thinking, understanding why the data is being collected, how it will be used, who will gather it, where it will be gathered, and when it will be gathered. It is, fundamentally, a matter of design. By designing the data collection process rather than simply barging into it, one assures that the data itself will be useful and accurate.

Almost everyone, after all, uses check sheets. Teachers record grades, hospitals list infection types, cooks make grocery lists, families record children’s behaviors, inspectors identify defects in products—all with check sheets in various forms. To be sure that a check sheet will be truly useful, it’s important to go back to that thinking process:

Mark Symonds’s picture

By: Mark Symonds

It’s no secret to anyone, anywhere, that we’re experiencing a global business challenge, especially in manufacturing.

One could argue that for too long, manufacturers in the United States have been complacent and indifferent to signs of market change, steadily losing market share to offshore businesses that were more productive and efficient.

The automobile industry could be considered the poster child for this trend. Where once U.S. automobile manufacturers were the preeminent brands, they’ve now been overtaken by competitors that adopted—and improved upon—the manufacturing processes developed in the United States.

Geoff Bilau’s picture

By: Geoff Bilau

Geoff Bilau, senior writer for the International Association for Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) Group, was awarded first place for his paper by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) for describing the importants of quality standards and accreditation.


Steve Daum’s picture

By: Steve Daum

With several generations of statistical process control (SPC) technology under our belts, it may be time to rethink how we apply SPC in the 21st century.  Basic techniques have been practiced since the 1930s.  Some companies will soon be able to say, “we’ve been practicing SPC for 100 years.” Since the time Walter Shewhart first proposed the techniques, they have been widely deployed. 

Over the years, there have been improvements in how SPC is used. Some of this can be attributed to technological changes. When personal computers and software arrived, the tedium of manual calculations was reduced. When databases came into the picture, it became easier to organize and find data gathered for SPC. When the Internet arrived, it became easier to share and publish SPC information.

Despite the improvements, our current approach to SPC is ripe for an overhaul. A combination of technology improvements, organizational changes, and a more systems-based mindset among companies has set the stage for the next leap forward.

Before thinking about that leap, it is instructive to consider how SPC usage has evolved. While none of this information may be new, it is important to view the sometimes small changes to understand the “big picture” of statistical process control.

Scott Alamanach’s picture

By: Scott Alamanach

 Don’t miss the author’s follow-up to this article, “Going Low Profile in Afghanistan.”

Profitable manufacturing requires efficiency, and this principle guides most (if not all) of our quality management systems (QMS). We’ve learned there’s little gain in correcting a production error if we don’t also find and uproot the error’s original cause. We’re so accustomed to this universal truth that we’re no longer even conscious of it. Sometimes, extraordinary circumstances can shock us out of this mindset and remind us that a quality system’s ultimate goal isn’t a more efficient organization. It is a quality end product.

FARO’s picture


Laser line scanning is ideal for non-contact measurement applications - including inspection, cloud- to-CAD comparison, rapid prototyping, reverse engineering, and 3-D modeling. Laser line probes use a triangulation process to find the position of objects in space. A high performance laser diode inside the unit produces a straight laser stripe that is projected onto a surface and a camera looks at the laser stripe at a known angle to determine the location for each point on the line.

How laser line scanners work

A 3-D laser scanner uses laser light to probe objects. It projects a laser line on the subject and uses a camera to look for the location of the laser line silhouette.

Depending on how far away the laser strikes a surface, each point on the laser line profile appears at different places in the camera’s field of view. This technique is called triangulation because the points on the laser profile, the camera, and the laser emitter form a triangle.

David Millar’s default image

By: David Millar

The moment for action in the United States on climate change has arrived in earnest.  With the election of President Obama and increased majorities of Democrats in Congress, there is unprecedented momentum to pass comprehensive climate legislation that caps the aggregate amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere and which would then decline over time through the year 2050. 

The president and his allies in congress have expressed their intentions of achieving economywide greenhouse gas reductions by enacting a cap-and-trade system.  Cap-and-trade is a market-based approach to controlling pollution, meaning emissions are turned into a valuable commodity that can be traded among market actors.  This reliance on market-based mechanisms for achieving reductions targets should be heard loud and clear in the quality assurance community.  These systems rely on market actors having trust in the emissions accounting so that they can feel confident that their contracts for emissions allowances are representative of real emissions.  Confidence comes from consistent greenhouse gas reporting criteria, independent verification of emissions assertions, and rigorous accreditation and monitoring of verification bodies.  Quality assurance professionals play a critical role.

Mahr Federal’s default image

By: Mahr Federal

(Mahr Federal: Providence, Rhode Island) --­ Tapers play an important role in orthopaedic devices. Most hip and knee implants use tapers because they provide good alignment and can be "locked" into position. In manufacturing these devices, the control of taper and size determines how well an implant performs over its lifetime. Increasingly, air gauging has become the inspection tool of choice for controlling these critical parameters.

"Air gauging was the breakthrough gauging technology of the '40s and '50s" says George Schuetz, director of precision gauges for Mahr Federal. "Introduced decades before electronic gauging, it provided the first high performance 50 µin. or better gauging on the shop floor. Despite its age, air gauging today is actually growing in popularity, especially in high precision areas like orthopedic devices. It is fast, easy to use, provides high precision results even under the toughest shop conditions, and can last for years measuring literally millions of parts."

Arshad Hafeez’s picture

By: Arshad Hafeez

Whenever the economic climate freezes assets and sends investors scurrying for cover, businesses must find new ways to grow and stand out from the competition. Cost-cutting is the obvious, and usual, course of action. But in troubled times, isn’t it better to do something proactive and positive, rather than defensive and reactionary, to impress customers? What about benefits that organizations can offer above and beyond the obvious?

For the aerospace industry, quality has long been a key procurement consideration. For many manufacturing primes, the path to excellence increasingly runs through special processes such as heat-treating, coatings, and materials testing. That’s because original equipment manufacturers (OEM) can often trace the cause of a flawed component back to a special process in a supplier’s shop, and restricting that possibility helps with risk management.

Auditing special processes in aerospace

Twenty years ago, the major aerospace companies were auditing their own suppliers for technical proficiency in areas such as nondestructive testing, welding, and heat treating. This meant a significant workload for the primes, and auditors were often forced to become generalists to accommodate the workload.

Gretchen Hancock’s default image

By: Gretchen Hancock

These days blogs and newspapers seem to make a daily reference to climate change, resource scarcity and security, the environment and the economy. It's overwhelming … and with the legions of experts in each of these fields, hard to see where one organization, let alone an individual, can make a difference.

When I took on the role of driving GE's greenhouse gas reduction program, that's exactly how it felt: Where to start, and in this sea of experts, how to motivate our employees to get involved and make a sustainable impact?

The answer lay in GE's corporate culture. GE employees solve problems. We improve Lean processes and quantify defects from our Six Sigma heritage, and we're accustomed to teamwork and matrix organizations.

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