Kudos for Louisville Slugger Article

The August 2001 issue is outstanding. I read the Louisville Slugger article twice (March Laree Jacques, "Big League Quality," p. 27). It really touched a basic value somewhere.


Article Discusses Often Overlooked Issue

The matter discussed in "How Do You Know the Change Worked?" (D. Lynn Kelly and Paul Morath, July 2001, p. 68) is important but is often overlooked or left unaddressed for lack of guidance. The authors cover this subject clearly, comprehensively and in a balanced way. The numerical example on p. 73 ("Analysis Example") helps round out the presentation and makes the case for using design of experiments realisticly.

However, I repeated the analysis of the published data in the example and discovered a possible error. My mean for the O4 group is 3.43 instead of 3.14 as reported. Also, the 2-tailed p-value in my analysis is higher (0.09) and not significant at the stated level (alpha 0.05), presumably because the difference I tested is smaller (4.28 - 3.43) than the one reported (4.28 - 3.14).

SAS Institute
Wayne, PA

Author's Response: Thanks to careful reader Mark Bailey. There was an error on the data set that was not caught during the proofreading stages. The last number in O4 was mistakenly presented as a 4 instead of a 2.

Textron Fastening Systems-Automotive
Sterling Heights, MI

Lessons About Six Sigma Implementation Too Basic

I looked forward to reading "Lessons Learned" (David H. Treichler and Ronald D. Carmichael, July 2001, p. 33) about the international implementation of Six Sigma. My wife and I are American quality professionals working in Europe and were hoping to glean some useful tidbits. Unfortunately, we were disappointed.

I didn't disagree with any of the 12 points. Rather, the lessons appeared somewhat basic and predictable. Even with a domestic presentation, considering the number of Spanish speaking employees in the United States, those 12 points should be the basis, in my opinion.

Therefore, I composed a few lessons learned working in Scandinavia and Europe that were not as intuitive and have made a difference in my ability to implement new methods.

1. If a translator is not available or is not well-versed in your topic, audience signals can be counterintuitive. If the audience members are completely silent or appear to be taking notes, it does not imply they understand the material. In fact, it probably means they are struggling with the translation. Consequently, I try to hold a question and answer session at the end of each topic session and work to draw out the questions. Small group follow-up can also help.

2. European supplier bases are typically not local. It is common for a French manufacturer to have suppliers from all over Europe. This has two impacts. First, the methods you teach in one country may not apply to a company's suppliers in other countries. Further, regional prejudices still run deep, making close supplier ties difficult. Second, the import and export laws differ in European Union and non-European Union countries, and these laws are many and complex. So supplier strategies that apply in the United States may not apply here.

3. Many Europeans see the United States as wasteful. They will not inherently accept American methods, which don't always apply. It is important to focus on justification of the method, rather than American examples, and to make sure the methods do not violate local laws.

4. The breadth of many Europeans' industry experience is less than the typical American's. Out of industry examples may not be meaningful.

My wife and I agree with the premise that quality is continually becoming a more international issue. I just believe some greater depth could be brought to the subject.

Powec AS
Drammen, Norway

Author's Response: The objective of our article was to generalize a set of basic lessons that would apply in most situations for practitioners, and Perreault acknowledges we achieved this objective. The chief lesson for practitioners of Six Sigma in international environments is our lesson number three: Consultants must be very flexible in approaching the workshop format and structure. Perreault alludes to this in each of his additional lessons without acknowledging it.

Our first lesson said workshops are most effective when conducted in the native speaker's language. It is more important for the participants than for the leader to understand nuance. Verifying and validating understanding come through application of Six Sigma and process and industry knowledge to evaluate the results of the work and the nature of the decision making process leading up to it. If you wait until the end of the sessions to hold a question and answer session, are you using your time resources effectively and achieving a flow to the Six Sigma process?

Perreault's second lesson is specific to industry types and locations. While his observation about the supply chain is accurate, it is not universal. Currently one of the authors of our article works for a small start-up company in the United States; however, the company's supply chain is global. Manufacturing is conducted in Israel and Mexico, and major components are sourced in Malaysia, China, Taiwan, Germany and Japan.

Perreault's third point ignores the process of Six Sigma as the tool the practitioner is bringing to the client's problem. If the focus is on the process, the source, whether in America or any other nation, is immaterial. In all the countries in which our team operated, while American humor was not always understood, our knowledge and expertise in Six Sigma application erased any doubts about the value of our workshops.

Finally, our team, particularly in Europe, observed that the industry specific experience of the participants generally exceeds that of most Americans because workers remain with a single firm or industry most of their lives. The movement to a European Union has broken down barriers to competition within Europe, which has caused many companies to re-evaluate their business models and cost structures. The added value of Six Sigma cross industry experience was often the key that got the Raytheon teams invited in.

Grapevine, TX

NIST's 100 Years Have Had Immense Impact

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is celebrating its 100th year. This small branch of the U.S. Department of Commerce has had an immense impact on people and organizations throughout the world.

We should honor this organization for its contributions, including achievements in physical measurements and standards developments, test methods and basic scientific and technical research. NIST has helped create an environment where our nation's businesses can thrive, here and abroad.

Especially important are the agency's contributions to the high-tech segment of the economy. An international ambassador and partner, NIST has worked closely with other agencies to revolutionize definitions of global standards and measurements.

In Six Sigma, measurement is the key to assessing progress in improving the quality of virtually everything an organization does. Reducing rejects and errors, cutting costs of poor quality, and designing products and services are possible because processes follow newly created industry standards to define, measure, analyze, improve and control the steps necessary to produce significant and continuing results.

Successful deployment of the Baldrige Award by NIST heavily influenced initiatives like Six Sigma. The launch of the award began a new era in improving products and services for customers, satisfying shareholders and making organizations world-class.

International research laboratories and NIST devised new standards for most of the metric system, in which the basic unit is the second. The agency's atomic fountain clock is the most accurate and reliable clock ever made because it is free from timing errors caused in traditional timekeeping by the earth's irregular movements in orbit.

NIST's work on measurement standards has enabled American companies to compete in tough global markets. With international trade barriers falling, NIST must continue working with its foreign counterparts to develop uniform standards that help promote growth for all kinds of businesses.

NIST is a national and international resource that has improved people's lives. It has helped people manage their businesses in safer, more predictable ways, and it has helped those businesses remain positioned for productive and profitable growth in a competitive world.

Juran Institute
Wilton, CT


In "The Game of Statistics" (Jay M. Bennett, August 2001, p. 43), the next to last sentence should have read, "While its relatively limited number of game situations makes baseball an ideal sport for the application of such a metric, others have applied a similar system to the analysis of football."

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