Bottled Tornado Provides Accurate Representation

M. Scott Stegall's article, "Running Like a Bottled Tornado" (January 2003, p. 45), was a lot of fun to read and presented a wonderful illustration of how quality can be orchestrated, especially in a smaller job shop manufacturing environment.

I am the quality director for rotational molding operations at two facilities. Our customer base and market niche are reflected in short production runs of conflicting process parameters. This does not allow us to dedicate resources in traditional ways to refine our techniques. Also, we do not have the depth of resources to fully participate in business structures such as ISO 9000, let alone achieve certification.

We, therefore, coordinate our efforts and depend on being a self-organizing operation, similar to that of the bottled tornado. Our people conduct their work in the various ways they see best. And, as in the examples used to tilt the water bottle, they demonstrate laissez-faire characteristics as well as those of the craftsman and bureaucrat.

This has worked in the past as long as everyone involved was a responsible participant. We have encountered two significant risks, however. One occurs when a player becomes apathetic and leaves the tornado bottle unattended, lying on its side. The other is when communications harmony is broken due to someone's intolerance of how others go about their business.

The sign on my desk reads, "Counter-Intuitive Cognizant."

Akro Plastics
Kent, OH

Six Sigma Is a False God At Motorola

Years ago when Six Sigma was a new thing, Motorola was getting awards for having just achieved Six Sigma (Debbie Phillips-Donaldson, "Six Sigma: A False God?" January 2003, p. 6).

At the same time, my company received thousands of Motorola transistors that were mismarked. The cases said they contained 2N2222A transistors when they really contained 2N2907As. This error cost us, not Motorola, tens of thousands of dollars in lost production.

The fact Motorola could claim to have Six Sigma while shipping thousands of defective parts pretty much set my mind on what Six Sigma would forever mean. Six Sigma means we can still ship junk and get awards for doing it!

The Designer III
Franklin, PA

It's Good To Link Worlds Of Business and Quality

I just wanted to thank Kimball Bullington for his article, "5S for Suppliers" (January 2003, p. 56). I like that the 5S method can be applied to something conceptual instead of physical.

We are implementing the 5S method in my department, and it is useful to learn of another vision of 5S implementation. The article gave me ideas of other ways we could complete our project. I sometimes wish there were more articles about lean manufacturing in Quality Progress, so I was happy to see this one.

I would like also to comment on the article "Toe the Line: No More WorldComs" (Donna M. Faltin and Frederick W. Faltin, January 2003, p. 29).

Even if Quality Progress is not an economics or news magazine, it is always interesting to link the world of business to quality, which touches many fields, including the economy, manufacturing, engineering, statistics and education.

Durand Glass Manufacturing
Millville, NJ

Editor's Note: If you're interested in lean, watch for more articles coming in the April issue.

January Issue Easy To Understand

The January 2003 issue was very informative. Sometimes I find some articles difficult to digest with all of the lingo floating around, especially those related to statistical methodology. However, most of the articles in this month's issue were a lot easier to understand. I commend you and the authors on a job well done.

Hyperion Catalysis International
Cambridge, MA

"15 Waste Scenarios" Is a Must Read

The timing of Gregory Shinn's article in the December 2002 issue was excellent ("15 Waste Scenarios," p. 67). Now is the time for all ASQ member units to begin planning for the new leadership year. Shinn's discussion of the 15 wastes is a must read for all leadership groups as we embark on our planning journey. I find these items to be an excellent self-assessment. Thank you for reminding us of these categories.

Chair, ASQ Quality Management Division
Tavares, FL

Women Are Closing The Salary Gap

In the last bullet item on p. 30 of the December 2002 issue (Pradip Mehta, "Salaries and Diversity"), the author concluded the gap between women's and men's salaries was not narrowing.

I see the opposite taking place in recent years. For example, in 1999, women made more than men did in 1990 (a 9-year gap); in 2000, women made more than men did in 1993 (a 7-year gap); in 2001, women made more than men did in 1997 (a 4-year gap); and in 2002, women made more than men did in 1999 (a 3-year gap).

Since 1998, men's salaries have increased from $58,400 to $68,100 (16.6%) while women's salaries have increased from $45,700 to $60,200 (31.7%). I conclude women are narrowing the gap, and if the recent trend continues, they will overtake men within the next couple years.

This brings to mind a favorite old saying I ran across, "Figures don't lie, but liars figure." Statistics are a wonderful tool if you want to prove a point--any point. It all depends on which point you want to prove.

Dal-Tile International

Statistician's Response: If you look at the male vs. female salary gap by year and regress the gap on the year, you will not find sufficient reason at any reasonable probability level to conclude the gap is narrowing. This is not meant to say the gap is not narrowing; this only means we do not have sufficient evidence in these data to indicate, with a low probability of error, the gap is narrowing.

There are those who will twist data and attempt to use statistics to prove any point they want, and there are those who will follow the scientific method. Fortunately, the choice is ours.

Kraft Foods Research-East
East Hanover, NJ

Contact 'QP'

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