Quality quiz (October 2016)—and September’s quiz winners!

Winners of last month’s quiz and a copy of Practical Tools for Continuous Improvement: Volume 2 are Ray Last (Essential Turbines, Quebec); Sharon Kelly (Toyota Compressor Parts, GA); and Michael Hinojosa (TRW, MI). Congratulations! For this month’s quiz, and a chance to win a copy of Practical Tools for Continuous Improvement: Volume 1, submit your response by October 31.

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Data in everyday life: Presidential voter turnout

Beth SavageLast month we looked at a control chart of voter turnout percentages since 1960, the first year that all 50 states voted in a US presidential election.

Last month’s chart demonstrated that the percentage of those eligible to vote in the US who actually vote in presidential elections has averaged less than 60%. According to Pew Research Center, that is lower than most established democracies. What were voter turnout percentages the first half of the century? Would you expect that they were higher or lower than recent elections? Or, do you think voter turnout has been a stable process for a century? Here’s a control chart based on data from the last 25 presidential elections.

What is your prediction for the voter turnout rate of the 2016 election?

Bytes and pieces: News you can use

PC satisfaction: After a three-year slide, customer satisfaction with computers has rebounded.

Focus on supply chain quality: This company utilizes the work of the quality department to assure efficient performance in its supply chain.

Reducing wait time: Steps to reduce hospital wait time or delivery of baggage at airport may not immediately affect customer satisfaction.

Product recalls: Information about product recalls is available from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Diminished by misuse: Statistics in an alien world

Barb ClearyStatistics has gotten a bad rap. People love to quote Mark Twain (“There are lies, damn lies, and statistics,” alternatively attributed to Benjamin Disraeli), Vin Scully (“Statistics are used much like a drunk uses a lamppost: for support, not illumination”), or Stephen Leacock (“In ancient times they had no statistics so they had to fall back on lies”).

For statisticians, these jokes have become quite tedious. Avoiding small talk at cocktail parties where quips are likely to come up or lying about one’s profession (“I’m a kind of mathematician” sometimes works) are not really satisfying alternatives to the lines that people have saved to shower on the innocent professional. What’s a statistician to do?

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Quality quiz (September 2016)—and August’s quiz winners!

Winners of last month’s quiz and a copy of Practical Tools for Continuous Improvement: Volume 1 are Roberta Martinez (F&B Manufacturing, AZ); Surinder Sikand (Siemens Milltronics Process Instruments, ON); and Kimberly Hammond (Gritman Medical Center, ID). Congratulations! For this month’s quiz, and a chance to win a copy of Practical Tools for Continuous Improvement: Volume 2, submit your response by September 30.

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Data in everyday life: Voting

Beth SavageAmerican citizens who are 18 years or older have the right to vote in US general elections. However, it is the voter’s choice whether or not to exercise that right. This is in contrast to countries where voting is compulsory. In Australia, for example, under federal electoral law, all eligible citizens are required to vote in federal elections or pay a $20 penalty. Australia’s voter turnout percentages top 80%.

So what are the voter turnout percentages in the US? Does the voter turnout process exhibit normal or special cause variation? Let’s look at a control chart of voter turnout rates since 1960 (which was the first year that all 50 states were eligible to vote in the presidential election) to find the answers. Does it give any insight to what our 2016 election holds?

Myron Tribus: A legacy of quality

Barb ClearyMyron Tribus, friend of PQ Systems, died August 31 in Pensacola, FL at the age of 94. Tribus, known as an organizational theorist, was director of the Center for Advanced Engineering Study at MIT, and taught thermodynamics for much of his career. He is best known among quality professionals as a friend, supporter, and interpreter of W. Edwards Deming. For more than 20 years, he shared his expertise at quality conferences and through his prolific writing.  For his work with Pensacola in applying Deming’s principles, he was awarded the keys to the city, and received innumerable awards from quality professional organizations.

Tribus attended many of PQ Systems’ annual conferences, and in 1992 addressed participants as a keynote speaker, where he shared reminiscences about interactions with Deming. I recall a colorful story he shared in his presentation about his first meeting with Deming. This account had a lasting impression on me, as well as on other participants.

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Why capability? And how?

Barb ClearyCapability analysis, with its formulas and the confusion around Ppk, Cpk, Cpm, and other indices, is often perceived as far too difficult, complex, and challenging to consider utilizing. Good reasons for undertaking the analysis are sometimes not considered, in the light of this perceived complexity.

In fact, good reasons for using capability analysis not only exist, but provide compelling argument for utilizing this statistical tool.  And it’s really not that hard.

Capability analysis offers a way to compare a process to a customer’s requirements, coming up with a score that facilitates communication with the customer to indicate how well a process is able to meet these requirements. Since the language and terminology surrounding capability analysis are consistent and generally agreed upon, discussions can be effective, and can initiate continued progress with meeting and surpassing the customer’s requirements.

In capability analysis, these customer requirements are expressed as specifications, not to be confused with control limits.  Some examples of customer requirements (specifications):

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