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By Mike Richman

As Dirk Dusharme mentioned recently in this space (“A Bold Step Forward,” June 2008), we at Quality Digest have been working like mad these last few months to launch a major redesign of our web site, conveniently located at www.qualitydigest.com. The primary upgrade involves the addition of streaming video, most of which we script, shoot, and edit ourselves.

Early last month, the new site went live. The results have been even better than expected, and not just in terms of user response. This new project has offered us a fantastic opportunity to learn some valuable lessons about customer service and quality in a whole new medium.

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By Quality Digest

Six Sigma and the Brain Trust

In the article “Leveraging the Brain Trust” (Joe Froelich and Cristopher Del Angel, August 2008), the authors dredge up the infamous Qualpro “study” which asserts that “... 91 percent of the Six Sigma companies exhibited stock performance below the S&P 500.” I addressed this sham claim quite some time ago when it was picked up by FORTUNE Magazine . Qualpro, which sells a service that competes with Six Sigma, refused to respond to my e-mails and never disclosed its data or methodologies. In all likelihood its so-called study is nothing more than a marketing ploy. In the meantime, there is solid academic research that supports the hypothesis that Six Sigma and Total Quality Management pay huge dividends (literally) to shareholders. I wish that Quality Digest’s editorial staff would implement the rule that strong claims demand strong evidence and challenge the Qualpro assertions the next time that they appear in an article.

--Tom Pyzdek


Energy Solutions

Thank you for this excellent, thought- provoking piece on the current energy crisis (“Energy Crisis or Opportunity?” “Quality Curmudgeon,” Scott M. Paton, August 2008).

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By Quality Digest

Stimulated Yet?

Thank you, Scott Paton, for telling it like it is (“Stimulated Yet?” Quality Curmudgeon, March 2009). The bonuses at AIG and continuing troubles at General Motors make it pretty clear that bailouts don’t work. It’s also time people start taking responsibility for their actions. The real enemy is greed and until we can control the reward system, bailouts, Sarbanes-Oxley, regulation, or any other government program, we will fail, adding even more expense to the problem.

Bill Osburn


Paton’s comments recommending that GM and Chrysler go into bankruptcy reflect a standardized, revisionist Calvin Coolidge/Herbert Hoover blather that the “free market” will heal things in due time. Unfortunately, this thinking pervaded the approach of the economists that surrounded Hoover, and the economy plunged into the Depression.

The auto industry actually responded to what many people in the so-called American “free market” wanted: large vehicles, liberal financing, and a demand that was unabated until speculation in the oil markets put a halt to purchasing, along with the complete freeze-up of credit markets.

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By Davis Balestracci

As this is my last column for Quality Digest, I’m delighted to announce that my distinguished predecessor, Donald J. Wheeler, will be writing this column again. You’ll be in good hands.

When I got my master’s degree in statistics in 1980, jobs were plentiful for internal statistical consultants in corporate research and manufacturing. Their jobs involved educating scientists and engineers in the power of applied statistical methods, especially experimental design. Excellent research in applied methods was performed and collegially disseminated by distinguished groups, most notably DuPont, Kodak, and General Electric. I was part of a strong internal group at 3M. Those groups, for all intents and purposes, have now vanished.

Statistical process control (SPC) became more dominant during the late 1980s. Everything became “bigger, better, faster, more, now!” Suddenly there wasn’t time to do response surface experimental designs, except maybe 22 or 23 factorials and a replication--if you were lucky. See “Using Design of Experiments as a Process Road Map” ( www.qualitydigest.com/feb06/articles/02_article.shtml ).

Davis Balestracci’s picture

By Davis Balestracci

Suppose you had 16 months of data on an important process (as plotted on the run chart seen in figure 1). For improvement purposes, an intervention was made after the sixth observation to lower this key process indicator. This intervention is equivalent to creating a special cause for a desired effect.

There is no trend as defined statistically (despite the trend downward of length five from observations 5 to 9; with 16 data points, one would need length six, or five successive decreases). Neither is there any run of length eight either all above or below the median. So, would you want to conclude that the intervention had no effect? I doubt it!

Think of the median as a reference, and consider each data point as a 50-50 coin flip (heads = above the median; tails = below the median). The question is: Would you expect to flip a coin 16 times and obtain the specific pattern of seven heads (run of length seven above the median), immediately followed by seven tails (run of length seven below the median), then a head (run of length one above the median) and, finally, a tail (run of length one below the median)? Intuition would seem to say, “No.” Is there a statistical way to prove it?

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By Quality Digest

Here’s a story that proves once again that exciting quality applications can occur anywhere in the world.

BHP Billiton operates the EKATI diamond mine in Canada’s Northwest Territories, approximately 200 miles northeast of Yellowknife—just below the Arctic Circle. Arctic winter gear is standard attire during the long winters, when the sun barely rises above the horizon. Although the setting is harsh, it can also be a beautiful place to observe and enjoy a truly unique perspective on nature—on those rare days when the temperatures rise above freezing and there aren’t any grizzly bear problems.

The hardy folk who work at the EKATI mine demand equally hardy and adaptable tools to help them do their jobs and ensure quality. Management at the EKATI mine is proud of its reputation as the safest, lowest-cost producer of quality diamonds in the world. BHP Billiton has a long commitment to quality excellence and improvement, not only in maximizing business efficiencies, but also within the areas of health and safety, environmental stewardship, and community relations.

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By Quality Digest

Veriteq software at Teledyne technologies

Teledyne Microelectronic Technologies, a Teledyne Technologies Inc. company, is a microelectronics manufacturer specializing in products and services for the defense, space, aviation, medical, and broadband communications markets. Because these markets are highly regulated, Teledyne maintains a quality management system certification to SAE AS9100, ISO 9001, and major OEM customer specifications.

The challenge for Teledyne was to balance quality, compliance, and costs. Environmental monitoring is crucial because of the electrostatic discharge damage that can occur when temperature and relative humidity levels do not meet minimum/maximum criteria. The ambient humidity levels can decrease significantly throughout the year.

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By Nicolette Dalpino

Cequent Transportation Accessories, a division of TriMas Corp., located in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, designs and manufactures a broad range of accessories for light trucks, SUVs, recreational vehicles, passenger cars, and trailers. The company has a long history of using enterprise quality management to drive market success.

Three years ago, Chinese supplier error levels were unacceptable and in direct conflict with the requirements expected of Cequent’s domestic suppliers. In an effort to mitigate this risk and improve quality, Cequent used the global quality infrastructure from IQS, of Cleveland, Ohio, to implement a successful domestic quality and compliance program.

Nicolette Dalpino and Calleene Egan’s default image

By Nicolette Dalpino and Calleene Egan



Ten Steps to Address Risk Management

As the world seeks to extricate itself from the worst financial crisis for many decades, many senior risk professionals and independent experts are asking about the roles, responsibilities, and limitations of risk management in the world’s financial institutions. Are the tools available to risk managers fit for the purpose? Is there appropriate expertise and leadership at a senior level to guide risk management? Do risk managers lack authority to rein in the excesses of risk-takers? Is there sufficient understanding of potential risk concentrations across institutions’ full range of operations?

Dirk Dusharme @ Quality Digest’s picture

By Dirk Dusharme @ Quality Digest

I always look forward to this time of year. Not in anticipation of prezzies under the tree, but for what changes 2009 will bring.

First, this issue brings you the last columns for two long-time columnists.

Davis Balestracci’s no-nonsense approach to statistics has been popular with our readers for four years. Irreverent, confrontational, and, hey, let’s say it, just a bit feisty, Davis has challenged our readers’ inbred assumptions about when and how to use statistics. Thanks, Davis, for four years of wit and wisdom and showing us how to “plot the dots.”

Stepping in to take Davis’ place is a man often quoted by Davis, Donald J. Wheeler. As the author of 24 books and hundreds of articles, he is one of the leading authorities on statistical process control and applied data analysis. He is a Fellow of both the American Statistical Association and the American Society for Quality. Don was also Quality Digest’s SPC columnist from January 1996 to December 1997. Welcome back, Don.