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By Dirk Dusharme @ Quality Digest

After spending this summer attending several trade shows, marveling at equipment that can capture a 3-D point cloud of an entire Airbus A380 to within a few thousandths of an inch accuracy, or measure surface defects of a cylinder wall to within fractions of a micron, it’s easy to fall into the trap of regarding measurement equipment as the semi-autonomous guardians of precision. Push a button, and voilà--red light, yellow light, green light--scrap it, rework it, use it. Why, a monkey could do this job!

Unfortunately, precision measurement, even with the most advanced equipment, isn’t monkey business. It’s a highly skilled profession, and a good metrologist is worth his or her weight in gold. That word hasn’t gotten out, however, and the number of people who have the knowledge and skill to perform equipment calibration and precision measurements are dwindling. Just ask around at a measurement conference such as the Coordinate Metrology Systems Conference (CMSC) or the Measurement Science Conference (MSC), and you’ll get an earful. In recent conversations I had with Boeing metrologists, it was apparent that the shortage of skilled measurement specialists is definitely being felt by the aerospace industry.

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By Quality Digest

Giving Thanks

I have been a faithful and interested reader of Quality Digest and the “Quality Curmudgeon” column for many years. As is usually the case, I breeze through the magazine and then cut out the last page so I can take my time with it at a later point in time. I started this back in the day when I realized I cut them out for future reference or to forward to a colleague anyway.

I had not taken the time to read the “Give Thanks” column (December 2008) because, as vice president of sales and marketing for my company, I was too busy working my crazy hours keeping things afloat. Ironically, I have plenty of time to read old items I have saved, such as your column, since today is my first day of unemployment. As the 88-year-old patriarch of the family-owned business told me this past Friday, “Look at this as a learning experience. We can now get three college kids to do the work of a six-figure executive such as yourself.” With that they showed me the door. Ouch!

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By Donald J. Wheeler

The number of major hurricanes in the Atlantic since 1940 (as we considered in my February column, “First, Look at the Data”) are shown as a histogram in figure 1, below. Some analysts would begin their treatment of these data by considering whether they might be distributed according to a Poisson distribution.

The 68 data in figure 1 have an average of 2.60. Using this value as the mean value for a Poisson distribution, we can carry out any one of several tests collectively known as “goodness-of-fit” tests. Skipping over the details, the results show that there’s no detectable lack of fit between the data and a Poisson distribution with a mean of 2.60. Based on this, many analysts would proceed to use techniques that are appropriate for collecting Poisson observations. For example, they might transform the data in some manner, or they might compute probability limits to use in analyzing these data. Such actions would be wrong on several levels.

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By Quality Digest

Regarding H. James Harrington’s video interview with Dirk Dusharme (“Profiles in Quality: Jim Harrington--Episode 2,” www.qualitydigest.com/inside/standards-video/profiles-quality-jim-harrington-episode-2.html): Harrington is highly recognized in the quality management society of China and has made significant contributions to Chinese quality management progress.

The Chinese government plays an important role in business, as pointed out by Harrington. Its responsibility is to ensure that products made in China are safe for consumption.

The Chinese government does not dictate what business should do. Like all business in other countries, Chinese business is led by market demands and consumers’ requirements. If a U.S. importer decides to order lower-grade products for its customers or fails to provide adequate quality specifications that meet U.S. standards, the U.S. consumers will get precisely what the importer ordered. It is not fair for the news media or consumers to blame Chinese producers for providing exactly what they were asked to produce.

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By Nicolette Dalpino



A Macquarie Island beach
(Photo: M. Murphy/Public domain)


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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!

Dirk Dusharme @ Quality Digest’s picture

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.