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SPC Orchestra

by Trackware

System requirements: Workstation requires Pentium 100 or Macintosh equivalent; Windows 95, 98 or NT Server 4.0, or Macintosh System 7 or later; 32 MB RAM; 1-2 GB hard disk space; 10bT minimum network connection using TCP/IP, SPX/IPX or NetWare services. Server requires all the above plus FileMaker Pro 3.0 for 11 or more users.

Price: $250 per license

Contact: Trackware Corp.
101 First St., Suite 353
Los Altos, CA 94022
Telephone: (408) 255-3058
Fax: (408) 343-0174


Track Training with Ease
QSTracker 2.6

by Jeremy Symanietz

One of the biggest challenges faced by companies preparing for ISO 9000 relates to training--more specifically, organizing training needs for a variety of positions, many cross-trained employees, and constant job changes. To track training, some companies use a gigantic spreadsheet that ties each employee to the existing documentation, but this method is not as effective a tool as one would desire from a well-planned ISO 9000-compliant quality management system.

 To fully address these training-tracking needs, California-based Trackware Inc. offers a training-tracking module to QSTracker , a suite of document control and tracking tools. This software is based on FileMaker Pro, runs on Windows and can be networked between multiple users.

 QSTracker was easy to use, appealing and efficient. I found that it responded quickly to searches and report generation on a Pentium 200 desktop computer. It has a definite "learning curve" but should be manageable to anyone familiar with tracking employee training.

 The software divides responsibilities into job descriptions. Each job description is related to required "courses" that need to be satisfied for compliance to training needs. These courses are further divided into procedures, which some companies refer to as "work instructions," that form the elemental base of training. A course can be made up of multiple procedures. Helpfully, this format follows the essential ISO 9000 document structure. Each course is assigned a frequency and linked to each employee's training history, a feature which companies that require recertification training or any other time-sensitive training will greatly appreciate.

 The main menu is divided into five sub-menus. The heart of the system is the employee profile menu, which is for entering employee names and linking them to the appropriate job descriptions. The jobs-courses-procedures menu is for entering procedures that require training, assigning them to courses and linking the courses to job descriptions. The class record menu is for maintaining the lists of current classes, recording training and certification outcomes, printing class rosters, and generating certificates of completion. The training status menu is for identifying training due or past due and reviewing training status. The training history menu is for reviewing training records by employee, course ID, course name or department.

 The security protocols required are extensive, with two levels of password protection, and should be more than adequate to prevent unwanted access to training records.

 I tried printing a few reports and found the process quite simple. Search and sorting capabilities are extensive in this database, and should meet user needs well. The report generation capabilities enable managers to recognize which employees need training and when. This is especially helpful to companies that experience fast-paced changes in employee jobs and cross-training. The ability to quickly access the specific needs by employee, procedure or position is critical to an effective ISO training system.

 The only real drawback concerns the training history menu, which prints out a different set of results when you gain access through the quick access button on the main menu than it does when you use the training history menu button. One includes employees who have finished courses, and the other includes employees who are still scheduled to take the course (because the course hasn't been "closed" yet). Because both screens look the same, you have to be aware of how you entered the function in order to understand what you're looking at. The Trackware representative I spoke with resolved the apparent conflict by closing out all courses.

 It's worth noting that the Trackware representative spent about two hours on the phone with me to explain and "walk through" the software features. The representative assured me that every effort is made to provide all users with this high level of customer service.

 This type of application will benefit a company seeking ISO 9000 registration, and the saved effort and time will justify the expense. I cannot imagine using the gigantic spreadsheet system any longer, given the availability of this type of software. Other users would do well to consider it for their own ISO system.

 A free, downloadable single-user ver-sion is available at Trackware also provides document and data control software and corrective-action tracking software for ISO 9000 compliance.

About the author

 Jeremy Symanietz is the ISO leader at Land O' Lakes Inc. in Perham, Minnesota. Contact him by e-mail at


SPC Orchestra
by D.A. Martin Software

System requirements: IBM-compatible PC; Windows 95, 98 or NT; 16 MB RAM; 30 MB hard disk space; Microsoft Excel 97 or higher.

Price: $449

Contact: D.A. Martin Software
P.O. Box 52848
Knoxville, TN 37950
Telephone: (423) 694-3466

SPC on a Spreadsheet
SPC Orchestra

by Tim Haifley

There are two ways in which SPC tools are applied in industry today. The first is the traditional application, as Walter A. Shewhart intended, of using the SPC charts to manage a manufacturing shop floor or service process. The second is as a front end to other traditional statistical methods in an offline environment. Many companies frequently do this, regardless of the data source, to quickly evaluate the resolution of the measurements before proceeding with the analysis. SPC Orchestra, from D.A. Martin Software, fulfills both of these needs well.

 SPC Orchestra consists of a group of Microsoft Excel worksheets and template files that automate the production of control charts and other SPC tools. SPC Orchestra can generate the following charts: X Bar and R, XmR, split control limit, X Bar/sigma, histograms with optional normal curve overlay, cusum, summary statistics including Cp and Cpk, and attributes (p, c).

 For this review, I used a basic, bottom-of-the-line PC with a Pentium processor, 32 MB of memory and a 1.2 GB hard disk running Windows 95 and Microsoft Office 98. The software was not installed on a server, so I didn't review the site administration features.

 Like many harried modern-day quality managers, I ignored the directions and jumped right in. With some very fresh data in hand, I installed SPC Orchestra, opened up a spreadsheet and ran a simple X, or individuals, chart. My spreadsheet had a label column and a value column, each containing descriptive names in the first row. I clicked on the SPC Orchestra icon and attempted to load my spreadsheet. Because I had not given SPC Orchestra my spreadsheet format, it posted a message box and asked me to point to the label and value columns. Once I had done that, one click and a couple of seconds got me the chart I wanted.

 Several features make this software useful in a shop-floor environment. A very important attribute, an absolute requirement for any SPC software, is the ability to fix the control limits once they're established (typical of "live" shop floor applications when data needs to be added to an existing chart). SPC Orchestra makes this easy with a tutorial that guides users through the process of fixing the control limits and then adding to the data file through pop-up data entry menus. Although I didn't assess the ease of this operation with production personnel, using this system in a shop-floor environment should be quite easy after initial setup by technical personnel.

 SPC chart creation may be automated to minimize the number of keystrokes, which helps streamline its use in shop floor applications. Another very important SPC software feature is ease of handling spreadsheet data in differing formats, particularly in dealing with the various ways in which rational subgrouping is formatted within a spreadsheet. In some applications, one column will contain all of the data, with subgroup one in "N" rows, subgroup two in the next "N" rows, and so on. In others, a subgroup will be defined by one row per subgroup with the values within that subgroup covering several columns. SPC Orchestra handles it either way, but the format must be defined ahead of time. The program also handles variable subgroups, which occur frequently in practice.

 SPC Orchestra also allows users to easily select a subset of the data for closer analysis, omit outliers with the click of a button, and annotate charts with user text. Additionally, it can generate split control limit charts that highlight step changes in level or variability. More than 200 settings allow the user to get the type of chart they need.

 The one operation this program lacks is the ability to perform gage repeatability and reproducibility. Data taken from an instrument and submitted for SPC analysis is all but worthless if you don't know the capabilities of the instruments that took the measurement data. Although there are many gage R&R software products on the market, it makes sense for this function to be included in an SPC package, given its importance to the overall analysis.

 The software's directions are tutorial-based, allowing users to learn the program by walking through the tutorials, which are well-explained and easy to follow. As the manual estimates, the entire tutorial takes about two hours. A table of contents allows users to quickly locate directions for a particular function, and then the program provides a tutorial for that function.

 Although SPC Orchestra was easy to use, it would still be wise to keep technical personnel on hand initially to help production personnel until everyone is comfortable with data entry, chart review and out-of-control material disposition.

  SPC Orchestra is a useful program, and I would recommend it to SPC practitioners working in a production environment. As an easy-to-apply tool, it should find universal acceptance in industry.

About the author

 Tim Haifley is director of product assurance at International Microcircuits Inc., an integrated circuit manufacturer. He has a degree in statistics and extensive experience in shop floor SPC. E-mail him at .

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