DOE Software You Can Use
by S-Matrix Corp.
Pentium PC (Pentium III recommended); Windows 95, 98, NT 4.0 with SP3, or 2000; 32 MB RAM (64 MB recommended); 40 MB free disk space.
D.o.E. Fusion Pro--$795
(D.o.E. Fusion One--$349)
Contact: S-Matrix Corp.
835 Third St.
Eureka, CA 95501
Telephone: (800) 336-8428,
Outside U.S. (707) 441-0404
Fax: (707) 441-0410
Review by Felix Grant
Modern quality assurance work relies on extracting the maximum amount of reliable
baseline information on the processes to be assured, often from historical data. And that means designed experiments. Sadly, though, reality often falls short of the ideal. Design of
experiments (DOE) has often played the underappreciated Cinderella in actual practice, but it may have found its Prince Charming in D.o.E. FUSION, the successor to CARD 5.1
from S-Matrix Corp.
Until fairly recently, users saw design as black magic or worse. These made no coherent demands for the software-aided methods
they needed. The lack of supply in such methods, in turn, inhibited development of awareness and consistent practice.
Despite the recent arrival of excellent DOE tools, users are still wary. Richard Verseput of S-Matrix comments that many users may only do experimental design
work perhaps twice a year, and it's very difficult to develop a proper feel for procedures that are used rarely. Until now the available products have provided the
tools for the job but lacked a sufficiently supportive environment. This is where D.o.E. FUSION stands out.
Worksheet packages are presented as familiar-looking word-processor style forms. This has a dramatic confidence-building effect. Experienced users still have full
control through direct menu-based operation, while the more hesitant are supported through every step and decision by explanations and clear, context-tailored dialogs.
Extensive context-sensitive help backs up the interface in real English, not "statistician speak." All this support doesn't obscure the users' decisions or the reasons behind
them, and output is self-documenting for effortless justification later.
The ordering and structure of the user interface help, too. Menu options stack on the
left, like the familiar shortcut bar of Microsoft Outlook. Each layer of the structure expands on a mouse click, then collapses into a single bar above or below your
current choice when not in use. A Windows Explorer-style format is another option.
The product comes in a budget version called D.o.E. FUSION ONE and the more powerful
D.o.E. FUSION PRO. Both are built around helpful Wizards that carry users smoothly through the design, analysis, graphing and optimization phases.
The design function offers a good range, with full blocking options structured and automatically analyzed for effect. It's also possible to combine mixture and process
variables and accommodate up to nine levels of categorized variables. When the user calls on intelligent augment and repair designs, an impressive debugger automatically prepares historical data.
The name change to D.o.E. FUSION reflects the introduction of data-mining elements--a fusion of two software technologies. The combination provides a
powerful capability to investigate relationships within existing data, particularly valuable in conjunction with the data set debugger. Data can be imported directly from
Access and Oracle databases or via the Windows clipboard from spreadsheets or other tabular arrays.
Adventurous users may choose to customize designs, editing effects-estimation terms to suit individual goals. Model-robust A-optimal and G-Optimal designs give an
excellent ability to model nonlinear effects. Nested designs are handled well with very specific quantification of individual factor effects.
Those familiar with generic analysis or visualization products will feel instantly at home with D.o.E. FUSION's very strong graphical capabilities. The software offers
all of the expected plots, in publication-quality color with black or true gray-scale alternatives, exportable in a variety of formats and options. Rotate a contour-banded
response surface any way in three dimensions for detailed examination from any viewpoint. A mouse click gives coordinates for individual data points, or the cursor
can be roamed over the plot for a continuous display of the same data. Conditioned plot arrays automatically show simultaneous views of four- or five-variable
interactions when appropriate. The confidence users get from this kind of intuitive graphics facility is worth its weight in gold, especially for nonspecialists.
S-Matrix claims that its products are market-unique in a number of ways. I was skeptical initially, but I was wrong; those claims are thoroughly justified. The selection
of software should depend on a number of factors, and no single product is the best in all circumstances. However, its combination of transparency, intelligent assistance and power should place
D.o.E. FUSION high on most lists.
About the author
Felix Grant is a lecturer and research consultant in the United Kingdom. E-mail him at email@example.com .