Busted Play

Calls for a smarter electrical grid
regenerated after gridiron gaffe

While the NFL continues to lick its wounds and look for answers following the Super Bowl blackout in New Orleans last month, the embarrassing outage has renewed calls for the nation to invest in its electricity infrastructure.

"Power outages cost our country over $70 billion a year," said Richard Caperton, an energy expert at the Center for American Progress. "Anything that draws attention to that problem and helps motivate people to deal with it is helpful."1

About half of the Superdome in New Orleans went dark early in the second half of the championship game between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers on Feb. 3. An electrical device called a relay had been installed expressly to prevent a power outage, but it actually caused the blackout, the local electrical utility said. The device itself was not at fault, but the problem came in the way the relay was used.2

"I’m pleased that we were able to find the root cause," said Doug Thornton, an executive with SMG, the company that manages the Superdome for the state of Louisiana.3

This latest high-profile blackout, coupled with the recent prolonged outages in New York and New Jersey caused by Hurricane Sandy, has displayed to the world how vulnerable the United States can be. "The grid has all these parts where accidents can occur, and many accidents have the potential to create widespread problems," said Susan Tierney, co-author of a National Research Council report detailing the flaws in how the country gets its power.4

Even before these recent electrical fumbles, the nation’s electrical infrastructure wasn’t putting a lot of points on the board. The American Society of Civil Engineers graded the country’s energy infrastructure a D+ in a report card released three years ago. Furthermore, the United States’ "quality of electricity supply" is ranked 33rd globally by the World Economic Forum’s 2012-13 Global Competitiveness Report.5

In its own report, the National Research Council report also warned of a coordinated attack on the electric grid that could devastate the economy. The FBI has investigated the Super Bowl outage and ruled out cyberterrorism as a cause. 

"Almost every aspect of our economy is touched by electricity, from banking to hospitals to world markets," Tierney said. "The worst case scenario could be devastating."6

So what’s holding up upgrading and creating a smarter grid? Some say an unwillingness to invest by both the public and private sectors. Funds are needed for research and development, security systems and standardization of equipment to allow defective parts to quickly be swapped out.

A national smart grid could cost as much as $476 billion over the next 20 years, according to a 2011 study by the Electric Power Research Institute. Right now, however, money is being used in some areas of the country for repairing old electrical lines instead of being invested in new technologies.7

"There is [sic] a lot of uncertainty, a lot of stakeholders and some major concerns about return on investment," said Massound Amin, a University of Minnesota professor and an expert on the national electric grid. "Filling potholes and putting money into education is seen as a better investment than electric."8


  1. Catherine Hollander and Niraj Chokshi, "Super Bowl Blackout Could Energize a Debate on Power Grid," National Journal, Feb. 4, 2013, www.nationaljournal.com/domesticpolicy/super-bowl-blackout-could-energize-a-debate-on-power-grid-20130204.
  2. Associated Press, "Super Bowl Outage Traced to Fault in Device Intended to Prevent Problems," Feb. 8, 2013, www.ctvnews.ca/sports/super-bowl-outage-traced-to-fault-in-device-intended-to-prevent-problems-1.1148598#.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Andrew Rafferty, "Not Just a Super Bowl Problem: Blackouts Show Need for Smart Grid, Experts Say," NBC News, Feb. 8, 2013, http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/02/05/16843222-not-just-a-super-bowl-problem-blackouts-show-need-for-smart-grid-experts-say?lite.
  5. Hollander, "Super Bowl Blackout Could Energize a Debate on Power Grid," see reference 1.
  6. Rafferty, "Not Just a Super Bowl Problem: Blackouts Show Need for Smart Grid, Experts Say," see reference 3.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.


Date in Quality History

QP occasionally looks back on a person or event that made a difference in the history of quality.

March 18, 1891

Walter A. Shewhart, considered the father of statistical quality control, was born on this date in New Canton, IL.

As a statistician for Bell Laboratories, Shewhart began to focus on controlling processes in the mid-1920s, making quality relevant not only for the finished product but for the processes that created it.

Shewhart recognized that industrial processes yield data. For example, a process in which metal is cut into sheets yields certain measurements, such as each sheet’s length, height and weight.

Shewhart determined this data could be analyzed using statistical techniques to see whether a process is stable and in control, or if it is being affected by special causes that should be fixed. In doing so, Shewhart laid the foundation for control charts, a modern-day quality tool.

Shewhart’s concepts are referred to as statistical quality control. They differ from product orientation in that they make quality relevant not only for the finished product but also for the process that created it.

Shewhart wrote Statistical Method from the Viewpoint of Quality Control in 1939 and gained recognition in the statistical community. He also published numerous articles in professional journals, and many of his writings were held internally at Bell Laboratories.



2013 World Conference
Keynote Speakers Announced

Two prolific authors are among the keynote speakers who will address audiences at ASQ’s World Conference on Quality and Improvement (WCQI) May 6-8 in Indianapolis.

Daniel Pink has written New York Times best-selling books, as well as articles on business and technology for publications such as the Harvard Business Review and Fast Company. His latest book is To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others. Pink once served as chief speechwriter for then-Vice President Al Gore. He is scheduled to speak in the morning on Monday, May 6.

James Melton has been called a modern-day philosopher with insights on how people can achieve higher levels of personal and professional success. He provides leadership, management and future trends training for many top Fortune 500 companies and has authored several books. Public TV produced an eight-part series on his work titled "Reaching New Heights." Melton is scheduled to speak in the afternoon on Monday, May 6.

Jamais Cascio was selected by Foreign Policy magazine as one of the top 100 global thinkers and has had his work published by the Atlantic, the New York Times and Foreign Policy. The futurist also has written Hacking the Earth: Understanding the Consequences of Geoengineering. Cascio is scheduled to speak in the morning on Tuesday, May 7.

Sally Hogshead authored Radical Careering: 100 Truths to Jumpstart Your Job, Your Career, and Your Life, and Fascinate. She has spoken to organizations such as Intel, Cisco, Million Dollar Roundtable, General Electric and Intuit. Hogshead is scheduled to speak in the morning on Wednesday, May 8.

Conference Details

Visit http://wcqi.asq.org/index.html for more about each of the speakers scheduled to speak. At the website, you can also find details about the 100-plus conference sessions and a complete schedule of events, including the team excellence award process, training opportunities and the 16 different certification exams being offered during the three-day event.

Be aware that early bird pricing ends on March 14. ASQ members and nonmembers who register before then can save $100 on conference fees.

Award recipients honored

In addition to the speakers, workshops and learning sessions, 10 quality thought leaders will be honored with ASQ medals at this year’s conference. The recipients are:

  • Distinguished Service Medal: Charles Aubrey, Juran Institute, Boston, and Douglas C. Montgomery, Arizona State University’s School of Computing, Informatics and Decision Systems Engineering in Tempe.
  • Feigenbaum Medal: Austin S. Lin, Procter & Gamble, Avenel, N.J.
  • Freund Marquardt Medal: Gary L. Johnson, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (retired), Apex, N.C.
  • Hutchens Medal: Manu K. Vora, Business Excellence Inc., Naperville, IL.
  • Juran Medal: Paul H. O’Neill, 72nd secretary of the U.S. Treasury Department, Pittsburgh.
  • Lancaster Medal: Bertrand Jouslin de Noray, Neuvy Saint S�pulchre, France.
  • Shewhart Medal: Robert L. Mason, Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio.
  • Brumbaugh Award: S�ren Bisgaard (posthumously), Isenberg School of Management, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA, and Institute for Business and Industrial Statistics, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands.
  • Gryna Award: John R. Latham, Monfort Institute at the University of Northern Colorado, Greeley.

For more about the awards, visit www.asq.org/media-room/press-releases/2013/20130211-asq-medals-and-awards.html.

Research results unveiled

The conference also will feature the results of ASQ’s inaugural ASQ Global State of Quality Research, an assembly of data and case studies that aim to help organizations compare their quality processes, programs and resource to others within their industry, region and economic sectors. ASQ partnered with the American Productivity and Quality Center to conduct and manage the research and report.

Who’s Who in Q

NAME: Dean V. Neubauer.

RESIDENCE: Horseheads, NY.

EDUCATION: Master’s degree in statistics from the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in New York.

CURRENT JOB: Neubauer is an engineering fellow at Corning Inc. He is the 11th engineering fellow in the company’s 160-plus year history and the first person with a statistics background to be appointed to this position. Neubauer works primarily on problems in statistical, quality and process engineering.

INTRODUCTION TO QUALITY: His introduction to quality was a quality control course he took as an undergraduate in the statistics program at Iowa State University. He immediately fell in love with the field and knew that was the type of work he wanted to do. Neubauer was hired by Corning Glass Works (now Corning Inc.) in 1981 as a statistical engineer working in the corporate quality engineering department.

PREVIOUS QUALITY EXPERIENCE: Neubauer had interned at the U.S. Census Bureau in Washington, D.C., while pursuing his undergraduate statistics degree at Iowa State. He said it gave him a good perspective of government work. He has also worked as an adjunct professor teaching graduate statistics for RIT since 1992 and has taught 11 different courses in the program during that time.

ASQ ACTIVITIES: He is a past chair of ASQ’s Chemical and Process Industries Division and is scheduled to speak at the 2013 World Conference on Quality and Improvement on behalf of the Institute for Continual Quality Improvement.

OTHER ACTIVITIES: Neubauer is the current chair of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) E11 Committee on Quality and Statistics, and coordinator and occasional author of the DataPoints column in the ASTM International publication, Standardization News. In addition, he is the U.S. lead delegate to the Subcommittee 5 on acceptance sampling of the U.S. Technical Advisory Group to the ISO Technical Commitee 69 on statistical methods. Neubauer also serves on the editorial board of Quality Engineering, and is a book reviewer for Technometrics and the Journal of Quality Technology.

PUBLICATIONS: Co-author of Process Quality Control, fourth edition (ASQ Quality Press, 2005), and Acceptance Sampling in Quality Control, second edition (CRC Press, 2009), and editor of the Manual on Presentation of Data and Control Chart Analysis, eighth edition (ASTM, 2010).

RECENT AWARDS: In 2010, he received the ASTM Award of Merit, which earned him the title of ASTM fellow. In 2011, he received the Harold F. Dodge Award from ASTM E11 for his work in leadership to E11, for publication efforts and for conversion of several military acceptance sampling standards into ASTM format for preservation.

QUALITY QUOTE: Quality is not just something our customer demands, but what we should demand of ourselves.

Short Runs

THE APPLICATION PROCESS for this year’s Baldrige Award is now open. Visit www.nist.gov/baldrige/enter/how_to_apply.cfm for more information about the process and eligibility requirements.

THE SECOND MANUFACTURING Day has been scheduled for Oct. 4. Manufacturers, educational institutions and others are encouraged to host events that will highlight the importance of manufacturing to the nation’s economy and draw attention to the many rewarding high-skill jobs in manufacturing fields. For more information, visit www.mfgday.com.

THE ANSI-ASQ NATIONAL Accreditation Board/ACLASS now offers environmental laboratories the opportunity to become accredited to the NELAC Institute’s Volume 1, Management and Technical Requirements for Laboratories Performing Environmental Analysis, and to additional standards through a single accreditation process. For more information about the offering, visit www.aclasscorp.com/news/2013/01/aclass-accredits-environmental-labs-to-multiple-standards.aspx.

THE AMERICAN SOCIETY for Testing and Materials (ASTM) International has been accredited by the Standards Council of Canada (SCC). Accreditation signifies ASTM meets all requirements for consensus standards development set by SCC. These requirements mirror the principles of the World Trade Organization: transparency, openness, consensus and relevance. For more information, visit www.astmnewsroom.org/default.aspx?pageid=3010.

THE INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION for Standardization (ISO) has launched a new video that shows how international standards can help small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) be more competitive in global markets. ISO has also opened a new section on its website highlighting ISO publications aimed at helping SMEs benefit from standards. For more information about the initiative and to view the video, visit www.iso.org.

THE 2013 CORPORATE Sustainability Summit will be held April 24-25 in Novi, MI. The event will highlight information needed by organizations to move their sustainability efforts to the next level. For more information, visit the Automotive Industry Action Group’s website at www.aiag.org.


Survey: Half of Students Hesitate
to Take Risks in School

The vast majority of teens realize innovation is integral in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers, but nearly 50% said they are afraid to fail or are uncomfortable about taking risks to solve problems.

That’s according to a recent ASQ survey leading up to National Engineers Week last month. More than 500 American youth took the survey, conducted by Kelton Global.

Failing—and more importantly, trying again—is a pivotal skill in problem solving, said Cheryl Birdsong-Dyer, an ASQ member and professional process engineer.

"If one does not take risks, one risks not solving the problem," she said. "As educators, professionals and leaders, we need to reinforce to teens that every failure is an opportunity to learn and grow. Teaching teens that it is OK to take risks and sometimes fail will build their confidence and ultimately their knowledge base of science, technology, engineering and math."

According to survey results, most girls seem afraid to fail. When faced with a difficult problem to solve, only 11% of all students are happy because they enjoy solving problems. Nearly 60% of girls said they feel uncomfortable or afraid when facing a difficult problem in school. Only 34% of boys felt uncomfortable or afraid when asked to solve challenging schoolwork.

"We need to teach today’s students how to take risks and fail so they feel comfortable when faced with challenging work," said Paul Borawski, ASQ’s CEO. "If students are going to cure the next deadly disease, solve the energy crisis or end world hunger, they have to be prepared to fail and learn from those failures."

The survey also suggested students’ pressure to succeed might be driven by their parents: 81% of parents said they are uncomfortable if their child does not perform well in sports, extracurricular activities or social situations. Of those parents, 73% said they feel uncomfortable when their child gets bad grades.

For more results from the survey, visit www.asq.org/media-room/press-releases/2013/20130131-stem-careers-survey.html.

ASQ Journal Spotlight

Every month, QP highlights an open-access article from one of ASQ’s seven other journals.

This month, be sure to check out "The Design of GLR Control Charts for Monitoring the Process Mean and Variance," which appeared in January’s edition of Journal of Quality Technology (JQT).

In the article, authors Marion R. Reynolds Jr., Jianying Lou, Jaeheon Lee and Sai Wang explore generalized likelihood ratio (GLR) control charts for monitoring the mean and variance of a normally distributed process variable when the objective is to effectively detect small and large shifts in these parameters.

To access the article, click on the "Current Issue" link on JQT’s website: http://asq.org/pub/jqt. From there, you also can find a link to information about subscribing to the quarterly publication.

Word to the Wise

To educate newcomers and refresh practitioners and professionals, QP occasionally features a quality term and definition:

Vital few, useful many

A term Joseph M. Juran used to describe the Pareto principle, which he first defined in 1950. (The principle was used much earlier in economics and inventory control methods.) The principle suggests most effects come from relatively few causes; that is, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the possible causes.

The 20% of the possible causes are referred to as the "vital few;" the remaining causes are referred to as the "useful many." When Juran first defined this principle, he referred to the remaining causes as the "trivial many," but realizing that no problems are trivial in quality assurance, he changed it to "useful many." Also see "eighty-twenty (80-20)."


"Quality Glossary," Quality Progress, June 2007, p. 59.

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