Quality Digest  |  12/02/2008


Misadventures in Big-Box Land

Regarding “Big Boxes Beware” (“First Word,” Dirk Dusharme, November 2008): If you want to experience grocery-industry customer service at its finest, visit Wegmans. Their employees will load your groceries in your car for free, provide umbrellas for trips to your car in the rain for those who don’t have one, and personally take you to the items that you’re looking for when you can’t find something.

Those needing a lesson in customer service should shop there a time or two. They will learn what service is all about.

--Chris Wallen


Hear! Hear! My boss was commenting today that he went to “Wally World” on his way to work and tried to buy light bulbs. First of all, he was looking for 100-watt bulbs and the closest that they sell now are the 90-watt kind.

When he went to check out, the register sign was lit up, but no one was there to run the register. He stepped back far enough to see two workers stocking an end cap. They looked his way three times and still went back to stocking.

On the third time, my boss said he even waved at them so that they would see movement at the register. Needless to say, when he left, the light bulbs were still on the counter.

--Mike Janes


That’s Illogical

I have to take issue with Akhilesh Gulati’s premise (“Don’t Think Logically,” www.qualitydigest.com/inside/quality-insider-article/don-t-think-logically.html ). In both the barometer/skyscraper story and the moneylender/pebble story, the answer was not an illogical one, and the methods of solving the problems were not illogical. Perhaps these examples represented outside-the-box thinking, but to say that they are illogical is not correct.

--Stephen Brown


Editor’s note: Thanks to Michael H. Brill for sending us a link to the complete barometer anecdote: http://angrezi.wordpress.com/2006/10/06/niels-bohr/ .


The Fix Is In

Regarding “Psst, Hey Buddy, Wanna Fix?” (Steven Ouellette, www.qualitydigest.com/inside/six-sigma-column/psst-hey-buddy-wanna-fix.html ): Although Shewhart and Deming are widely credited with the development of statistical quality control, they were both very aware of the problem of using statistical inference in making decisions. That is why they insisted on “in-process” sampling with control charts to establish statistical stability before making any decisions about the output of any process. Without the confirmation of a stable process, statistical sampling has no basis in reality and, in short, all bets are off.

Rarely in today’s manufacturing world can we really be assured of stability in a process due to uncontrolled machine adjustments, changing raw-material lots, personnel substitutions, etc. That tells us that even carefully structured statistical sampling is no better than educated guesswork. After fighting this issue for nearly 50 years, I can heartily recommend that most quality engineers and managers should throw their sampling tables away and go to work on their processes to establish stability. Once they get their processes in control, then (and only then) should they try to improve things. Eventually they’ll be able to ship their products with the confidence that they really know the capability of their processes.

--John Bruman


I recall an issue with integrated circuits (IC) from a major semiconductor manufacturer. A large lot of ICs normally running about 98-percent yields was being split between Hewlett-Packard and a military client. This particular lot’s yield was down about 78-percent overall but was acceptable based on the sampling levels for the military. HP, on the other hand, said “No way!” HP recognized that there was an issue that indicated a higher risk in the circuits’ end-use which was unacceptable; meanwhile, the military just said, “We’ll have to buy more parts to make up the shortfall.” I suppose that the soldier having to replace the defective IC can always hope that the enemy shooting at him has one of those bad primers.

--Steve Samples


We Can See Your Roots

In light of the other more serious issues on this project, the costs associated with a full three-day, five-person team to perform root cause analysis may not be justified (Brian Hughes, “To Root or Not to Root,” www.qualitydigest.com/inside/quality-insider-article/root-or-not-root.html ).

If I understood the details in the case study, the contamination issue already had an analysis performed that determined that the existing stock of solder was at fault. If this was a critical application, use of the potentially contaminated solder should have been immediately discontinued at that point in time. Instead, a decision was made to continue the use of the existing solder until depleted.

Regardless of the criticality of the application, I would definitely want to know why the company is still ordering a brand of solder having periodic contamination issues.

--David Thuillier


I believe that there is a much bigger problem than the bad solder. My theory is that management is responsible for knowingly putting suspect product on the production floor. Too many errors of man and method are just waiting to happen in this type of situation. It seems that we have failures in the purchasing process, the production process, and the monitoring and measurement processes. There is a lot of additional information that I would want, but as a manager, I already see process failures that are likely affecting other products or processes. I would certainly want the root cause analysis to take place.

--Ginger Peeples


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