Quality Digest  |  10/03/2008


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).

I do have an answer. Simply sponsor a nationwide (or worldwide!) contest offering scholarship money as the prizes to high school and undergrad college students. Think up a catchy phrase for the contest such as “Fuel for School.”

Here are the criteria:

1. Develop a reliable renewable fuel source that is affordable.

2. Develop a workable delivery system for said fuel(s).


Offer awards for first, second, and third place and an honorable mention or two, then stand back and be amazed at not only the number of workable solutions presented, but at the number of total entries received.

--Bob Allen


Where I work we have spent considerable time via Six Sigma projects trying to reduce our energy usage in light of spiraling costs and projections for things to get worse.

I couldn’t agree more with your suggestion that politicians need to do something, and that some combination of actions in more than a single area is probably best to get us out of the mess that we’re in. Given the oil shortages of a few decades ago, I wonder why nothing has been done. The way we’re going, nothing is likely to get done any time soon, either.

I’ve written to President Bush, both of my senators, and my representative and asked, as you did, why, if we could put a man on the moon, we can’t get something constructive done with our energy situation.

I hate to think that we’ll still be arguing about who is to blame for what in another ten years.

--Jim Brumbaugh


Being Certain

Your article (“More Certainty About Uncertainty (?),” Fred Mason, www.qualitydigest.com/inside/metrology-column/more-certainty-about-uncertainty.html ) is a great explanation of the so-called uncertainty bug. I like your analogy using the air conditioner and think this could be used some more to blow away the myths. Do we really need to calibrate the room thermostat? There’s a whole story here!

As a quality manager, I often use the term “fit for purpose” when faced with uncertainty issues. The first question when faced with calibration is, “Does uncertainty apply?” In a lot of cases the answer is no, yet we wander off creating a paper trail like no other to state that we have addressed uncertainty of measurement.

Where we go wrong is in looking at the measuring instrument first and making rash decisions about calibration without asking what the instrument is being used for. Simply put, end use determines if calibration is warranted. Having established the end use and the fact that the instrument must meet a specific requirement, we need to take into account where the instrument will be used. For example, if the instrument has been calibrated in an air-conditioned workshop at 22° C, and then we head to the Arctic and start using it at subzero temperatures, will that cause the readings to vary? I bet it would, yet how many calibrators take into account the actual location of the instrument when being used? This decrees that uncertainty of measurement based on operation conditions must be taken into consideration.

Uncertainty needs to be clearly defined before considering calibration of an instrument. The big question at the end of the day is, “When does uncertainty of measurement apply?”

There’s a lot of fun to be had with this topic.

--Rob Langdon


Problem Definition

Thanks for this nice, easy-to-read article (“Defining the Problem,” Craig Cochran, September 2008). I was always taught that if you really knew what the problem was, the solution was pretty easy. Good work--I enjoy most of your articles.

-- David Manalan


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For 40 years Quality Digest has been the go-to source for all things quality. Our newsletter, Quality Digest, shares expert commentary and relevant industry resources to assist our readers in their quest for continuous improvement. Our website includes every column and article from the newsletter since May 2009 as well as back issues of Quality Digest magazine to August 1995. We are committed to promoting a view wherein quality is not a niche, but an integral part of every phase of manufacturing and services.