Computer-Based Robust Engineering
Genichi Taguchi, Rajesh Jugulum and Shin Taguchi, ASQ Quality Press, 2005, 240 pp., $40 member, $50 list (book).
Robust engineering is a process for designing products whose performance is consistent across all anticipated usage conditions. This can be accomplished by reducing variation in performance resulting from usage conditions, deterioration, wear and product variation. Since this variation can only be addressed during the design phase, robust engineering is considered another tool in the design for Six Sigma toolbox as presented in Computer-Based Robust Engineering: Essentials for DFSS.
This book illustrates how computer simulations can be used in conjunction with Taguchi methods to determine optimum robust designs, which can then be confirmed through hardware experiments. The authors provide several applications for both hardware and software drawn from a diverse set of industries such as electronic components, software, automotive components, photographic film and electronic warfare systems. As the examples illustrate, the robust engineering approach is widely applicable.
This book is not for an entry level reader. To gain full benefit, the reader should have an understanding of Taguchi methods. The authors provide a review of matrix theory for those readers who may need additional background information.
The use of computer simulations in conjunction with robust engineering should be of interest to quality engineers, designers and anyone else pursuing improvement in the performance of their products and processes. The use of computer simulations provides a cost effective alternative to hardware experiments.
Getting Started In Six Sigma
Michael C. Thomsett, John Wiley & Sons, 2004, 213 pp., $19.95 (book).
The subtitle of Getting Started in Six Sigma: Comprehensive Coverage and a further explanation calling it a practical working guide aptly describe the scope and usefulness of this compact book. Thomsett begins by telling how the Six Sigma process is a quest for perfection but also incorporates the elusiveness of such a goal. Maximization of quality in a corporation and in its processes can, however, be achieved by seeking out imperfections and inefficiencies and addressing their elimination in an incremental but progressive manner.
Through lucid flowcharts and exposition, Thomsett explains clearly who participates in the Six Sigma process. He explains how to build the leadership team, identify the sponsor and choose an implementation leader, a coach and, finally, a team leader to direct the day-to-day actions to carry out the Six Sigma process.
Particularly valuable is the treatment of “think like a customer,” in which an empathetic approach reveals many of the shortcomings of organizations and processes. Many of the defects noted will be familiar to managers who have striven to enhance quality in their own organizations.
The book is effective in bringing the statistical concepts of Six Sigma from the realm of the academic to the real world of business. Managers and participants in organizations seeking to implement quality control programs will find this a practical working guide aiding greatly in their understanding of Six Sigma and in their application of its techniques to move toward quality as a goal. All levels of organizations can gain by using it to implement or improve their quality control processes.
William F. Foster
Six Sigma for Green Belts and Champions
Howard S. Gitlow and David M. Levine, Prentice Hall, 2005, 736 pp., $49.95 (book).
Six Sigma for Green Belts and Champions: Foundations, DMAIC, Tools, Cases and Certification serves as both a teaching aid and a reference for Six Sigma. Assuming the reader has no prior knowledge, Gitlow and Levine explain everything clearly and provide many practical examples to support the theoretical work.
The book was written specifically for Green Belts and Champions, although it would also be incredibly useful to project managers and others who want to use Six Sigma. There are very clear instructions for using Minitab and for constructing control charts. Each step is explained slowly and carefully, but most important of all, the reason for each step is explained. I was surprised to find design for experiments—which is often neglected as part of the Six Sigma package—is also covered and explained well.
Part of the book is strictly dedicated to the Six Sigma certification process at the University of Miami with sample questions, answers and a checklist to identify gaps in the reader’s Six Sigma knowledge. There are also two case studies that give a good overview on how to tackle a project, one based on a real-life case, the other on the use and improvement of paper helicopters.
Despite the weight of this 736 page book, it is now a regular part of my luggage. The combination of reference and readability makes it invaluable to anyone who wants to use Six Sigma as a practical tool of competitive advantage.
Six Sigma Beyond the Factory Floor
Ronald Snee and Roger Hoerl, Prentice Hall, 2004, 352 pp., $35.95 (book).
Six Sigma Beyond the Factory Floor: Deployment Strategies for Financial Services, Health Care and the Rest of the Real Economy is meant to take the methodology and principles of Six Sigma and apply them to what Snee and Hoerl call the rest of the real-world industries, such as healthcare, financial services, retail, education and nonprofit organizations. But just how far beyond the factory floor the authors have taken the subject is questionable.
Snee and Hoerl take the reader on a journey of how to set up a typical Six Sigma program similar to those used by manufacturing companies. The process is to obtain top management support, train Master Black Belts, Black Belts and Green Belts, select and assign the correct projects and, pending success, add profit to the bottom line.
The first third of the book teaches the reader about the emergence of the real economy. Although Snee and Hoerl state the real economy is different—because of more human involvement in other industries—the authors don’t make a strong case for the differences from manufacturing.
While the book does have project case studies taken from the authors’ own real-world applications of Six Sigma—mostly in finance—the studies are no more than examples to trigger a person’s thinking on real-world applications. There is not a lot of substance or guidance here.
The last portion deals with the statistical side of Six Sigma for the real world. There are some good points made on how to treat and analyze discrete data; however, this subject is not covered in-depth and has technical aspects that may be difficult for some to grasp. Other sources of information on this subject are cited if additional knowledge is required.
While the authors believe this book would be beneficial to real-world nonmanufacturing organizations, in my view, they have taken Six Sigma beyond the factory floor only rhetorically.
Dove Quality Consulting
Get It, Set It, Move It, Prove It
Mark Graham Brown, Productivity Press, 2004, 203 pp, $19.95 (book).
Get It, Set It, Move It, Prove It: 60 Ways To Get Real Results in Your Organization condenses the Baldrige award criteria into four simple, distinct categories as noted in the title. Get It covers developing leadership, vision and values, and their relationship to meeting customers’ needs. Set It is about setting goals and measuring performance, while Move It reveals hints on employee development and managing processes for consistency. Finally, Prove It encompasses the ways of showing that everything is working to optimize business results.
The book is divided into 60 short stories each with a summary and a few points or recommendations to try. I enjoyed the short passages because I could pick up the book, read a few I wanted to experiment with and come back to it at a later time to read more.
This book helps novices embarking on new efforts to improve efficiency and effectiveness in an organization by providing a heads-up on dead ends that could rob efforts and energy as well as drivers that could help avoid or push through obstacles. Experienced change makers may also be comforted in learning from others out in the field that have experienced the same issues and breakthroughs.
I was troubled, however, that Brown chose to denigrate other consultants and quality/organizational improvement systems instead of focusing strictly on the positive aspects of his theses. All in all, many of the points he makes are valid and helpful, if for no other reason than to remind the reader there is more than one way to skin the continuous improvement cat.
AT Wall Company
- Elementary Statistical Quality Control, John T. Burr, Marcel Dekker, 2005, 449 pp., $99.95 (book).
- The Manager’s Guide to Six Sigma in Healthcare: Practical Tips and Tools for Improvement, Robert Barry and Amy C. Smith, ASQ Quality Press, 2005, 272 pp., $20 member, $25 list (book).
- Axiomatic Quality: Integrating Axiomatic Design With Six Sigma, Reliability and Quality Engineering, Basem El-Haik, John Wiley & Sons, 2005, 312 pp., $89.95 (book).