Barry Johnson’s picture

By: Barry Johnson

When someone mentions design for Six Sigma (DFSS), the initial thought usually turns to developing new, innovative products. While DFSS has its roots in product development, individual components of the toolset can be applied in a variety of ways.

Recently, the use of DFSS has exploded in service industries such as health care and finance as organizations of all types strive to develop processes and products that will excite their customers. This article shares an example of how DFSS tools were used in the public service sector as one library looked to enhance the beauty of their campus.


Design for Six Sigma is a disciplined methodology with a collection of tools to ensure products and processes are developed systematically to provide reliable results that exceed customer requirements. A key function of DFSS is to understand and prioritize the needs, wants, and desires of customers, and translate those requirements into products and processes that will consistently meet those needs.

Alan S. Bandes’s default image

By: Alan S. Bandes

Ultrasonic leak detection has been used for a variety of applications ranging from energy reduction by locating compressed air leaks to quality assurance inspections, such as locating wind noise and water leaks in automobiles. The secret to success is to understand the nature of what type of leak produces a detectible ultrasound and what does not, along with the techniques that can be used for effective leak identification. Once understood, there are instances where the limits of detection can be enhanced to help locate a leak in difficult situations.

Typically, ultrasound leak detection is used to locate leaks where the pressure differential is enough to produce a turbulent flow as the gas moves from the high-pressure to the low-pressure side of a leak. Most often any leak with a rate below 1 × 10-3 std. cc/sec will not generate a detectable, turbulent flow. For this reason, the majority of leak applications for ultrasound are limited to leaks above this threshold. One of the advantages of ultrasound is that leak detection is not limited to a specific fluid. The technology is open to identifying leaks in all types of gas and even fluid systems.

Phillip Smith’s default image

By: Phillip Smith

Automated inspection and gauging systems can help companies to improve overall product quality and grow their business while reducing manufacturing costs, helping them to become more competitive in this difficult business climate. Whether they are producing automotive, medical, consumer, or virtually any other product, all companies have some type of quality inspection or gauging as part of their production process. Some companies specify that their production line operators are responsible for verifying product quality. Other companies utilize quality technicians offline to manually gauge or visually check smaller audit groups of products to verify critical dimensions, the presence of features, or to look for defects. As machine vision inspection cameras and laser-gauging sensors have become more cost effective, many companies are implementing automated inspection and gauging systems in their facilities. These systems can be as simple as standalone cameras or sensors integrated into existing machinery, or as specialized as custom-designed and built turnkey automated inspection machines. No matter what type of system is ultimately selected, automated inspection and gauging offers companies many benefits over the older manual processes and they can help companies to compete more effectively for new business.

Dirk Dusharme @ Quality Digest’s picture

By: Dirk Dusharme @ Quality Digest

Investing in capital equipment always involves an analysis of the return on investment (ROI), but never as much as during a recession. The question this year is often, "Our company is already tightening its belt, is this equipment going to help us save a lot of money in a relatively short time frame?" As reported in Quality Digest Daily, the market for large-scale 3-D metrology equipment could pick up in 2009, but a lot of that hinges on buyers having a clear understanding of the equipment’s ROI and 3-D equipment manufacturers doing a good job of communicating cost vs. benefit.

There is no event in the United States better situated to communicate the value and ROI of large scale 3-D metrology than the Coordinate Metrology Systems Conference. This year’s CMSC, its 25th, will be held in Louisville, Kentucky, July 20–24. It is the only show dedicated specifically to large-scale 3-D measurement equipment and software.

Gary Johanning’s picture

By: Gary Johanning

Three-dimensional (3-D) assembly refers to the use of high-accuracy, in-place, 3-D coordinate measurement devices for the digital assembly of parts. This process is often referred to as computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) or gaugeless manufacturing. Whatever the name, 3-D assembly is replacing classical techniques centered on the use of tools, gauges and other mechanical processes of part assembly. In a nutshell, 3-D assembly can produce more accurate assemblies more rapidly and at lower cost.


Thomas Hinton’s picture

By: Thomas Hinton

There’s a new wave of environmental consciousness rolling across the landscape of U.S. business. In certification circles, we refer to it as the Green Wave. But companies are discovering that going green isn’t easy, and getting green certified is even tougher. Research data from the American Consumer Council (ACC) suggests that fewer than 22 percent of companies that apply for green certification would pass the bar in terms of earning ACC’s Green C certification, a tough standard that gauges a company’s environmental compliance and corporate social responsibility.

Transforming a business from the status quo into a green company reminds me of the quality movement’s early days as companies scrambled to implement Deming’s 14 points and play catch-up with the Japanese and Germans. Books by Philip Crosby, Joseph Juran, Tom Peters, and Masaaki Imai were required reading for anyone who was serious about launching a quality initiative.

Some 25 years later, U.S. businesses are behind once again. This time, however, we’re trying to catch the Green Wave and compete with companies in Europe, Asia, and South America that have already gained a foothold with consumers who are demanding green products and services. This includes everything from energy to carpet, and clothing to automobiles.

Robert Sanville’s picture

By: Robert Sanville

There are several different tools available for the measurement and inspection of parts and products. The specific application often determines the best choice as each tool has its own benefits and drawbacks. Over the years, these tools have become more advanced to keep up with improved quality standards. In this column, I’ll briefly discuss various measurement tools and how they are used, focusing on the advantages of portable CMMs, and why they are the preferred tool in many instances.

Manufacturers are increasingly implementing quality methods such as Six Sigma and working toward compliance to quality standards such as ISO 9001 to continuously improve their products and processes. In addition to reducing or eliminating product defects, these measures strive to detect problems in the manufacturing process. This allows companies to prevent adding value to (trying to improve) already-defective works in progress. To be successful with this approach, manufacturers need to measure every step of their processes, including the various stages of product assembly that may never have been measured before.’s default image


The conventional wisdom is that the United States no longer produces much. The notion that globalization has dealt a fatal blow to the U.S. manufacturing sector is a widespread one. It has become common to hear people declare that "everything is made in China!" Not only do most believe the United States is no longer the manufacturing giant it once was, but they also think it has fallen behind emerging countries that are set to usurp the United States' once-secure lead.

The impression that the United States is no longer on top of the global manufacturing game is reasserted over and over by our day-to-day shopping experiences. Clothes, electronics, toys, and household goods are likely to be made outside the country, and yes, probably in China. We can't be blamed for thinking the United States no longer produces anything useful. However, our daily experience tells us only one side of the story. After all, most of us are never in the market for a communication satellite or an aircraft carrier, big ticket items that are very likely to be made in America. The United States may not be making many of our $20 toys, but it's certainly manufacturing our planes.

Peter J. Sherman’s picture

By: Peter J. Sherman

It is widely known among quality and process improvement practitioners that the lack of a clearly defined scope or charter is perhaps the leading cause for projects not getting started or completed on time and within budget. What are other causes? From my experience, the No. 2 cause for restarting process improvement projects is poor data. Without verifying the integrity of the data, project results can be meaningless.

In Donald J. Wheeler’s “Probability Models Don’t Generate Your Data” from his column “Thinking About Data Analysis” (Quality Digest, March 2009), Wheeler stresses, that the primary question of data analysis is, and always has been, “Are these data reasonably homogeneous, or do they contain evidence of a lack of homogeneity?”

The advice by Wheeler, a respected quality professional, is of course, statistically sound advice. This article expands on this central question by offering 10 additional key questions that can help to provide an even more complete story when analyzing data. The table in figure 1 summaries these 10 questions with an interpretation for each.

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By: James Odom

In “The Power of Observation—Part 1,” we learned that a good portion of problem solving should be devoted to a thorough understanding of what’s going on before any corrective action steps are taken.

In many cases, too much time is spent on proposing various solutions before the problem has been correctly defined. Observation is a powerful technique that can be used to help understand problems.

At the end of the first part of this article, I promised to share some observational tools and techniques that can help you better understand processes. Here they are:

Process mapping or value stream mapping (See figure 1.). Map the process while walking through it from beginning to end. Look for areas where problems could occur, i.e., scrap, lack of process control, lack of method, etc. Visit the area on different shifts. Are differences in method observed, differences in defects, and so on? Are two pieces of equipment making the same part? If so, can a comparison be made? As you walk the process, think about the 6Ms: machine, material, method, man, measurement, and Mother Nature. Look to see if any of them are controlled, vary (create noise in the system), or are specified by procedure, work instruction, etc.

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