An affinity for organized thinking: A diagram with many uses

Barb ClearyEvery statistician knows that basing a decision on limited data is certain to generate problems. Non-statisticians, however, may find making a decision without any data a bad habit to break. “Point mentality” – responding immediately to data that seems to indicate a change but may just be a reflection of natural variation – is even more endemic to daily decision making. The recurring question is: How can outcomes be evaluated when there are multiple options involved, including ones that no one has anticipated?

Enter the humble affinity diagram.

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Quality quiz (January 2014): A classic quiz from Professor Cleary—and December’s quiz winners!

Mike ClearyWinners of last month’s quiz and a copy of Quality Gamebox are Rick Martos (VSPOne of Columbus); Mollie Sevcik (Mitsubishi Electric Power Products); and Tony Bruno (TECO-Westinghouse Motor Co.). Congratulations! For this month’s quiz, and a chance to win a copy of Quality Gamebox, submit your response by January 31.

To celebrate the life and work of Professor Cleary, we are featuring a classic quiz from our archives.

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Data in everyday life: New Years’ resolutions

Making New Years’ resolutions is a traditional practice, unfortunately more widely known for failing than for succeeding. Nonetheless, keeping a promise to oneself for even a month is an accomplishment, we might agree. This CHARTrunner chart reflects the average length of time that people said they’d kept their resolutions in 2014.


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Bytes and pieces: News you can use

Quality failures: Major product failures such as those found in GM vehicles, often make the news, but many other failed products never receive this public attention. Lists of all recalled products, from kids’ hoodies to bean bag chairs and more, are updated regularly, with description of their failures.

Training events: Webinars, seminars, and other learning opportunities—including those offered by PQ Systems– are listed on the iSixSigma events calendar.

Comparing hospitals: This database offers data related to infection rates in hospitals and provides other useful comparisons. Download the database.

World conference presentation: Matt Savage, Support and Training Services Director for PQ Systems, will offer a session, “Spec Limits—What you don’t know can hurt you,” at the 2015 Lean & Six Sigma World Conference in Houston, March 11-12.

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Organizations need customers—and systems to serve them

Barb ClearyWith a variety of approaches to process improvement, including programs and regimens that have come and gone without a trace, a new generation of business owners, educators, and healthcare providers is ready to get to the heart of improvement and to understand the basics about quality of products and services. Unlike earlier generations, they do not have time to take extensive courses or attend multiple conferences in their quest for this understanding. So let’s boil down the essentials of quality improvement, beginning with the customer’s experience.

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Why is Quality Control Important?

If you want your customers to be happy, ensuring a longer lifespan for your business, then quality control needs to be a priority for you.

Consider what would happen if you produce a product that works only 50% of the time. Chances are good that even your repeat customers would hesitate to keep buying an item that may or may not work. Instead, quality control practices help you to produce a product that works reliably and operates at optimal performance. A quality product, one that is rock-solid in performance, builds loyal customers and keeps your business going strong over the years.

In addition, your company can justify charging a premium price for a high-quality product. Quality is what helps you build your customer base and keep customers returning to you time and again. It also helps you stay competitive as other businesses in your sector raise their rates.

Quality control is also important because it keeps your business functioning as efficiently as possible and compliant with specific industry regulations. Abiding by these regulations keeps opportunities open for working within regulated sectors that require compliance and grabbing new business opportunities that aren’t likely to be open to unregulated companies.

While some businesses choose not to invest in quality control systems, they are losing money in the long run. Integrating a quality control structure is a cost-saving measure as it reduces the amount of rework you do and keeps waste to a minimum. When you produce a quality product, you will have a low number of returns.

Quality is also a great word to associate with your business brand. When you build your organization’s reputation on quality, your target audience is more likely to put their trust in you and buy your product rather than a competitor’s version. Your positive reputation is likely to earn you positive customer reviews and referrals.

The importance of quality control cannot be underestimated. At PQ Systems, we offer quality control software and training solutions to position your business to achieve all of these benefits and more.

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Using SPC To Cut Down Manufacturing Costs

Manufacturing has experienced a kind of revival on a global scale. Production demands are on the rise as an empowered population is spoilt for choice.

In an arena of such competition, companies need to leverage any advantage that they may have. Statistical Process Control (SPC) represents this advantage. By reducing production variability and waste in order to drive down manufacturing costs, companies are offering higher quality products on a consistent basis.


SPC has for long been a way to deliver better value to customers and thus expand market reach and dominance. Reducing waste by monitoring processes saves time and assures customer satisfaction. In recent years, a prevailing reason to keep manufacturing costs in check is one of survival. Masses are unforgiving and a mistake is costly, both in financial and in social terms.


Statistical Process Control represents a way to prevent defective products, not simply to inspect for this waste. By putting tools to collect and analyze data on a real-time basis into those closest to the process itself, companies can determine the possibilities for product flaws before they must be scrapped as waste.


Understanding variation in processes is fundamental to product quality. Reducing this variation means that processes become more predictable—and predictability is a key to saving costs. Established statistical methods help to reduce variability and save costs. Identifying variability and identifying its source early in a process reduces scrap, rework, and waste.

About 80 percent of manufacturing costs pertain to the purchase of raw materials. The quality of this raw material is indicated by a constant Cpk , a statistical index that indicates the capability of a process to produce expected outcomes. Higher values of this constant are desirable as they indicate superior quality. If Cpk varies from one production lot to another, the performance of the products from different batches under extenuating conditions will not be consistent.

SPC software solutions help identify inferior quality in raw material batches, so these batches will not make their way into the final product. With anomalies eliminated, potential orders can be saved from cancellation and quality ensured all across the board.

In short, without real-time SPC software solutions, no manufacturing unit can hope to achieve success in national or global markets.

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Bytes and pieces: News you can use

Culture of excellence: Some insights from a survey from Forbes and ASQ.

Product failure in the news: The automotive industry is reeling from the failure of Takata airbags in 7.8 million vehicles.

Food quality examined: Assuring the safety of food products in the face of threats that include contamination, economic fraud, terrorism, and global climate change is examined in this report.

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