Statistically speaking

I’m delighted Quality Progress continues to publish thoughts on statistical methods and engineering ("Proper Blending," June 2011). Ron Snee and Roger Hoerl are to be commended for collecting and consolidating thoughts on statistical engineering and working toward what they call a body of knowledge.

Table 1 in the article is a useful contrast between traditional applied statistics and statistical engineering. I wish to offer two additional perspectives on this table based on my more than two decades of industrial consulting experience.

The first is that there’s a link between the columns of Table 1. Application of traditional applied statistics is an important precursor to the successful tackling of more complex problems. Success in a complex problem always appears rooted in one or more problems related to applied statistics.

Without some exposure to traditional applied statistics, I find people struggle to attack the big, unsolved problems that Snee and Hoerl refer to as statistical engineering.

Second, Table 1 seems to be missing the dimension of "change management skills," which would be of low importance for applied statistics but essential for statistical engineering. This dimension includes the psychology behind motivation to change or to implement actions. Such psychological aspects could fit in the "need for sustainability" dimension of Table 1 but should be explained further in future articles.

Tony Aldridge
Christchurch, New Zealand

Differing opinion

Regarding the article "Organize How You Innovate" (June 2011), I agree with the idea that innovation is a process inasmuch as continuous improvement is a process: It uses the plan-do-study-act (PDSA) cycle. But I do not understand the need to differentiate between the two. They are points on the continuous spectrum of change separated by the degree of change.

It follows, then, that I also do not agree that the approach to innovation is fundamentally different than that taken in continuous improvement initiatives. Both should be using the PDSA cycle to solve customer problems better and better. This might involve new products such as smartphones, new incarnations such as ultraportable laptops or greater reliability in longer battery life.

It’s a distraction when we invent jargon and new categories to execute our organization’s fundamental mission: serving the customer’s wants and needs. And it adds to the confusion and burden created by these standards and regulations.

I was disappointed the author didn’t compare the ISO 9004:2009 standard to the innovation processes used by Toyota or Apple—the sustainable innovation giants of our time.

Shrikant Kalegaonkar
Austin, TX

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