Comments on Two Articles in July Issue

I would like to make some comments on two well-written and useful articles in the July issue of Quality Progress.

First, I take exception to the use of the word "independent" as a data description in the article "Planning Data Configuration for Statistical Analysis" (William E. Sarell, p. 39). It is clear that the thread cutting dies will exhibit wear in the author's bolt manufacturer example. Thus, the thread measurements are not independent, and their nonindependence is an important aspect to monitor to improve the process.

In the author's chemical process model, the data are also not necessarily independent because of residual factors in the process tanks, such as heat soak and wear. The author has excellent ideas for process modeling, but it is the nonindependence of the data that would lead to a trend analysis.

Second, no mention is made in the article "Quality Lighting Means Quality Work" (John P. Bachner, p. 67) of the productivity gain associated with actively involving the participants. I recently saw a segment on TV about the history of operations research involving experiments with environmental changes. These changes included improving the lighting, and when the conditions were returned to their prior state, the productivity gains remained. The light dawned on the operations research analysts that company involvement in the workers' environment was more important than the actual changes.

I suggest telling workers that the company is improving lighting in the interest of safety. This will focus the thoughts of the workers, and that has as much of an impact as the lighting changes themselves.

Houston, TX 

Sarell's Response

I can appreciate the reader's concern that nonindependence is an important aspect to monitor in a process, and I hope I didn't leave the impression that I wished to ignore this element. The original motivation for the subject was the need to manage data from highly automated data gathering systems that could produce data values from measurement systems with relatively high frequency.

The result was that the data received were too highly autocorrelated to be of any value to a floor operator in seeking out special causes that were important to him. Therefore, the objective was to achieve independence in the measurements that were acquired from the process. Within that framework, then, it is our desire to seek out trends of nonindependent data values that produce important clues for making process improvements.

To use the bolt example, if the manufacturer decided to repeatedly take measurements many times on each bolt between each step of the process, the analyst would have to combine those repeated values into a single value, such as a mean, to analyze the process. Otherwise, the barrage of repeated measurement values would mask trends that might occur, such as the wear of cutting thread dies.

This may appear to be a ridiculous application to bolt manufacturing, but this is exactly the problem we face in the batch chemical manufacturing world. Data historians very dutifully acquire data values from the process every four or five seconds and store them. This is, of course, useful for tracking the process moment-to-moment, but not for batch-to-batch analysis.

Clinton, IN 

Bachner's Response

Regrettably, I did not see the segment in question, nor am I familiar with the research cited. A key concern is the sustainability of the gains involved. I am familiar with some anecdotal reports indicating that, where lighting was improved, productivity jumped and then subsided to levels that still were impressively better than what had existed before the improvement was made. A Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) study showed that when better outdoor lighting was installed people in inner city areas were more apt to call the police to report muggings and so forth, not only because they could better see what was going on, but also because they interpreted the installation of better lighting as a sign that the city really cared about their welfare.

Saying that one is installing better lighting for safety reasons is appropriate when that actually is the case. Good lighting is ergonomically correct, however, and that of itself is what contributes so significantly to better viewing conditions, better productivity, increased safety and so on. Saying that "we're installing new lighting so you can see better" or "so you have more comfortable visual conditions" is probably accurate most of the time.

While having satisfied workers certainly helps enhance productivity, the fact is that even the most satisfied workers in the world cannot produce at optimum productivity when the viewing conditions they have are not ideally suited for the tasks involved. To illustrate by extreme example, even the most upbeat employee of all cannot thread a needle in the dark.

Silver Spring, MD 

Statistician Sympathizes With Statistics Author

thought the article "You Don't Have To Be Awful To Be a Statistician, But It Helps" (Lynne B. Hare, August 2000, p. 76) was awesome. I'm especially glad that I'm not the only statistician who feels misunderstood and abused when encountering one of the mystical events Hare describes. When I try to explain these events to my colleagues and family, I usually have to end my story with, "I guess you had to be there."

Hare makes some great points about listening to the client, asking naïve questions and presenting the results in pretty, colored charts and graphs. It's okay to dumb things down for a client; if that's what eventually gets the point across, then it's well worth the colored ink. Even if the statistician is the only person who gets to really appreciate the glow of the magical, mystical thin place, then so be it. At least there's one person out there who gets it!

Ft. Leavenworth, KS 

Six Sigma Article Only Touches Tip of Iceberg

he article "Six Sigma, E-Commerce Pose New Challenges" by Jenny Kendall and Donna O. Fulenwider (July 2000, p. 31) addresses the new challenges in store for quality professionals. I thought the article was very helpful, but it only touches the tip of the iceberg. I am certain in the next few months quality professionals will see a lot of new quality concepts emerging from e-business.

I entered the information technology (IT) business one year ago after working in aircraft manufacturing for more than 20 years. What a huge difference! Here are some examples of the way I see things changing:

* The IT business is far more dynamic. Most processes change before anybody has the time to analyze and stabilize them, let alone improve them.

* Processes are more numerous and complex, so it's almost impossible to anticipate all possible scenarios. The statement "Say what you do, and do what you say" is more like "Mission Impossible" in the IT field.

* Data collection is easier, faster and more accurate, but being able to identify which of the terrabytes of available data can really become information is an enormous task for the quality professional.

We are definitely witnessing the birth of e-quality!

Cincinnati, OH 

Total Quality Management Survey Misses the Mark

he survey conducted by the authors of the article "Obstacles to Implementing Quality" (Gary Salegna and Farzaneh Fazel, July 2000, p. 53) had the opportunity to make a real contribution but missed the mark.

If the authors had asked the following questions, the answers would have highlighted the obstacles to implementing total quality management (TQM):

1. "If management shows interest in TQM by talking about it; giving employees the time, tools and training to solve problems; setting improvement goals; holding people accountable for meeting goals; and appreciating and rewarding those people who do meet the goals--how confident are you that TQM will be successful in your organization?" (Please answer on a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 being a failure and 7 being a success.)

2. "If management is indifferent to and rarely discusses TQM; doesn't officially give employees the time, tools and training to solve problems; has no goals; holds no one accountable for solving problems; and rarely appreciates and rewards anyone for solving problems--how confident are you that TQM will be successful in your organization?" (Please answer on a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 being a failure and 7 being a success.)

Once an organization's top management realizes that TQM's benefits will deliver more than the cost of people's time and that leading improvement is one of their top obligations, they can't logically ignore the subject. When management proceeds, it will do so in the way the questions imply. Along the way, top management will deal with the other obstacles mentioned in the article.

Portola Valley, CA 

Authors' Response

Charles Harwood's comments about our article "Obstacles to Implementing Quality" highlight the importance of strong leadership and management to the successful implementation of total quality management (TQM). We agree with Harwood that having leaders who believe in TQM principles and understand the value of a TQM culture is a prerequisite for the success of any quality initiatives. The fact that management is responsible for and can change the goals and culture of an organization is not in question.

Believing in TQM, however, is not enough to assure a successful implementation. The failure of many TQM initiatives, which is well-documented in the literature, indicates that the implementation process is a critical factor in determining success and failure. Harwood contends, that management that realizes the benefits of TQM will "logically" do the right things as suggested in the first question of his comments and take care of any other obstacles along the way. This contention is an oversimplification of a difficult process.

We agree that if the concepts of TQM were truly understood and there was management commitment, then implementation failures would be greatly reduced. However, no matter how well-intentioned the management, the chance of success will be diminished if it is not aware of and prepared to deal with possible problems encountered during the implementation process.

Our article provides management with the knowledge of obstacles and their severity that others have experienced in their implementation of TQM. If management is aware of the potential pitfalls along the path, it will be better equipped to plan for contingencies before and during the implementation process. Even the best managers can benefit from the knowledge acquired through the past successes and failures of others who have been through this process.

Normal, IL 

Normal, IL 

We welcome your letters. Send them to EDITOR, ASQ/QUALITY PROGRESS, 611 E. WISCONSIN AVE., PO BOX 3005, MILWAUKEE, WI 53201-3005; or e-mail them to editor@asq.org.  Please include address, daytime phone number and e-mail address. Whenever possible, the e-mail addresses will be included with published letters. Due to space restrictions, Quality Progress will publish a selection of letters in the magazine. All letters will be published on QP Forum, or you can post your comment on QP Forum directly at www.asqnet.org. We reserve the right to edit letters for space and clarity.

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