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By Quality Digest


A Tell Tool technician using the Hawkeye borescope for part inspection

A mix of mission-critical components for high-stakes applications makes visual inspection a key part of the process for Westfield, Massachusetts, manufacturer Tell Tool Inc. The company manufacturers complex machined castings, forgings, and wrought material for aircraft and spacecraft, so quality control is important to Tell Tool, an ISO 9001- and AS9100-registered company.

For products such as electronic engine controls, hydromechanical fuel controls, auxiliary power units, pump housings, and jet fuel control housing, blueprint requirements are stringent. “If the part doesn’t meet blueprint tolerances, Tell Tool must reject it,” says Michael Ostrowski, head of Tell Tool’s purchasing team. “There’s no repair allowed; the customer will not receive the part. It’s that critical. If a burr were clogging a passageway when the engine is calling for fuel, you could have a catastrophic failure of the engine.”

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By Davis Balestracci

This column is in honor of the first anniversary of my late father’s death. In his last days, Dad enjoyed watching golf, and I’d often join him. Watching the recent British Open, I thought I would apply some basic statistical principles to the final scores.

For example, 83 people made the cut, and the ANOVA of their individual round scores is shown in figure 1.

The two ANOM plots are shown in figures 2 and 3.

Another interesting statistic is the standard deviation of an individual round: square root 8.975 ~ 3. Using the standard Bartlett and Levene tests for equality of variances, I tested the 83 golfers as to whether this was consistent for all of them:

p-value Bartlett: 0.891

p-value Levene: 0.983

Depending on luck and other random factors, an individual’s score could swing by ± 6-9 strokes in a round!

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By Dirk Dusharme @ Quality Digest

Why is it that we have to be at the end of our rope, all hope lost, and near death’s door, before we “see the light?” Near-death experiences; prison time; losing your job, your house, your family; all seem to clarify our focus about where we’ve gone wrong and how we can do better. Once there’s no way to go but up, confession, repentance, and forgiveness all seem so easy.

I’m not speaking from a religious perspective. I’m speaking in even broader terms. Why do we wait until the system breaks before we decide that, gee, maybe we haven’t been as honest as we should be? You need to look no further than recent Quality Digest online or print articles to see where I’m coming from.

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By Quality Digest

In the world of nationwide retail, margins are tight, timing is essential, and inventory management will make or break a company’s success. Third-party logistics (3PL) providers work with major retailers and provide a broad range of fulfillment services. They make the complex process of delivering goods through the entire distribution process as efficient and cost-effective as possible.

Westcoast Warehousing, based in Southern California, is a 3PL that partners with some of the largest and best-known retailers in the United States, including JCPenney, Sears, and Kohl’s. Key services offered by Westcoast Warehousing include pick-and-pack, and direct-to-store (DTS) replenishment, as well as options that allow retailers to ship product in bulk directly to Westcoast Warehousing, which maintains a six- to eight-week supply of inventory on the retailer’s behalf.

Retailers place weekly orders and product is shipped accordingly via prepacked boxes. This relieves retailers of the massive infrastructure and expense associated with in-house logistics and inventory management, and provides significant cost-savings combined with increased efficiency and flexibility.

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By Carey Wilson

In autumn 2006, customer demand was exceeding production capacity at Singer Sewing Machine facilities. To meet the capacity constraints, Don Fletcher, CEO of Singer’s parent company, SVP Worldwide, headquartered in Hamilton, Bermuda, decided to launch lean Six Sigma into all facilities around the world.

Singer had been building sewing machines for more than a century utilizing old-fashioned methods of manufacturing, and the need for change was undeniable. The problem was a lack of data-driven procedures, which sometimes resulted in inefficient processes being accepted as business as usual. The situation clearly needed to change.

First there had to be a champion for change. With that realization in mind, Mike Simmons, SVP Worldwide’s vice president of global human resources, took on the challenge. Simmons decided to partner with Air Academy Associates in the worldwide launch of lean Six Sigma at Singer. The decision to start from the top down was clearly the right choice, and all top management went through a one-week champions’ training on how to launch a successful lean Six Sigma implementation. Greg Atwater, director of worldwide quality and Six Sigma, was brought on board to travel throughout the organization setting up and implementing the plan to train Black Belts and Green Belts.

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By Quality Digest

Why, Why, Why, Why, Why

I agree with Craig Cochran that complex problems are difficult to solve or tackle using the 5 Whys method (“Don’t Fail Your Customers With the Five Whys,” February 2009). Companies and consultants have a tendency to want to use the 5 Whys method as a pill for all illnesses.

Another problem with the 5 Whys method is that by the time you get to the fifth why, the root cause of a problem inevitably ends up being something along the lines of “the employee causing the error is not motivated.”

There are, however, a lot of cases where the 5 Whys method has worked nicely. Normally it’s with simpler or straight- forward situations, or where there’s supporting data for the problem-solving team to explore during the 5 Whys process. I have seen instances where after a lot of complicated Six Sigma or failure mode analysis, problems were never solved. When we applied the 5 Whys correctly and, in a brutally honest way, we got to the bottom of the issue in no time.

--Paolo Chiappina

 

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By Dirk Dusharme @ Quality Digest

You might notice that the copy of Quality Digest you’re holding in your hand is a little light. You’ve been telling us for years that we had too many advertising pages, so we delivered with fewer pesky ads to interrupt your reading pleasure. Is that customer service or what? Of course, we didn’t plan it that way.

As to why we’re skinny this month, our “Quality Curmudgeon” Scott Paton has analyzed the woes facing the publishing industry in his column, so I won’t do that here. Just flip to his column at the end of the magazine (which is much closer than it used to be) when you’re done here.

Obviously the print news industry, including trade publications, is quickly changing. Fortunately for us we have seen it coming and have been improving our online presence and adding exclusive content.

In case you haven’t been to our web site recently, here’s a brief overview of what’s available:

The key feature is the addition of video. We both produce our own content and solicit content from others. The site currently hosts 50 videos, with about two videos being added each week. The most popular videos have been our Technorazzi and Viewpoint series.

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By Quality Digest

Error-Proofing Oil-Cap Assembly

Two vision sensors are used at the station where caps are pressed onto the O-ring loaded on the assembly dial.

Supplying parts to the automotive industry leaves no room for error. That’s why Miniature Precision Components Inc. (MPC) uses three vision sensors to error-proof the automated assembly of oil caps at its Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, facility. MPC’s four manufacturing plants generate approximately $167 million per year supplying the automotive and commercial industries with high-quality, injection-molded parts and assemblies.

“Machine vision has been a key component of our automation strategy for the last seven years,” says Shane Harsha, MPC manufacturing engineering manager.

An automated oil-cap assembly system is a case in point. MPC engineer Brian Champion recently augmented traditional tooling and sensor technology with Checker vision sensors from Cognex Corp. of Natick, Massachusetts.

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By Nicolette Dalpino

HEADLINES

Body Armor Is Safe

Although the Department of Defense Inspector General (DOD IG) report on body armor identified a range of issues involving Army testing processes and documentation dating back to 2007, both the Army, which conducted the tests, and the office of the DOD’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E), which independently assessed and verified the results, disagree with the DOD IG’s report.

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By Dirk Dusharme @ Quality Digest

Pick up any newspaper ([nüz´ pa p r], n. A roughly cylindrical, folded sheaf of paper imprinted with black marks, usually found in a moldering cobwebbed stack behind the hydrangeas), and you will most likely find a story of yet another print media group going through consolidation, layoffs, or just quietly passing on. McClatchy Co., which owns approximately 30 newspapers and just two years ago purchased Knight Ridder, recently announced that it was laying off 1,400 people. Some of this was due to the economy, some to existing debt, and some to both readers and advertisers running off to the internet, a serious issue faced by the entire print industry.

News magazines are also feeling the crunch. U.S. News & World Report recently announced that it is moving from a weekly to a biweekly publication next year, and Time has reduced its circulation base to lower costs. Publishers in general are gasping for breath as readers and ad dollars shift to the internet much more quickly than anyone expected.